Councillors go into secret session at Milton Keynes Council to discuss legal advice over Plan:MK ’emergency’

Councillors went into an “emergency” secret session to discuss legal advice they have received following a shock decision by a planning inspector.

Monday, 14th October 2019, 12:21 pm
The Plan:MK document image

Milton Keynes Council is reeling after a Government inspector decided that the planning department cannot show that it has enough land to be able to supply five years’ worth of housing growth.Councillors and their officers fear that the inspector’s decision to allow a developer’s appeal over a planning application in Hanslope has blown the doors off its local plan, Plan:MK, which only came into force in March this year.Not having a five-year land supply opens up the possibility that the council will be unable to stop unwanted and unplanned housing development by “tilting” decisions in favour of developers. A similar situation in Bedford Borough is causing planners there significant problems in defending the countryside.

Milton Keynes Council received legal advice on Tuesday, which they decided to treat as an emergency item on Thursday.

Development Control Committee chairman, Cllr John Bint (Cons, Broughton), told Thursday’s committee meeting that the item is urgent “by way of a planning inspector’s decision which puts into question whether the council can demonstrate a five-year housing land supply.

“Officers have sought legal opinion on the matter which was received on Tuesday. I propose that we treat the matter as a confidential item due to the necessity to safeguard the legal advice, which we trust will assist in challenging the decision.

“Therefore I propose that the public and press be excluded in order that we can consider the item.”

The move was objected to by the Local Democracy Reporter who said from the public gallery that the item was not published in advance in print or on the council’s website.

But Cllr Bint said: “We are dealing with an emergency item which wasn’t on the agenda and therefore couldn’t have been publicised as having the potential to exclude the press and public.

“We are dealing with an emergency item which I have had to rule is sensible and permissible to debate because of the urgency of the situation, and as part of that I am advised that if you have an emergency item, the only way you could preserve the legal privilege of that is to have this motion.

“I accept the fact that it is unusual, however, I have double-checked and we are confident that it is absolutely correct to exclude the press and public from the emergency item, with no more notice than has been the case on this occasion, because it is an emergency item.”

On Friday, a council spokesperson said no further light could be shed on the subject until further legal advice is sought about what information could be released.