Agenda and minutes

Regeneration Scrutiny Panel - Wednesday 6th December, 2023 10.00 am

Venue: Mandela Room

Contact: Susan Lightwing 

No. Item


Welcome and Evacuation Procedure


The Chair welcomed all present to meeting and read out the Building Evacuation Procedure.


Declarations of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest.


There were no declarations of interest received at this point in the meeting.


Minutes - Regeneration Scrutiny Panel - 1 November 2023 pdf icon PDF 134 KB


The minutes of the Regeneration Scrutiny Panel meeting held on 1 November 2023  were submitted and approved as a correct record.



Planning Capacity - Scrutiny Review

A representative from the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) will be attendance to provide information in relation to the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Act 2023 to assist the Panel with the current scrutiny investigation into Planning Capacity.


Recommendation: for the Panel to receive and note the information provided.


Richard Blyth,  Head of Policy Practice and Research at the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) attended the meeting virtually and gave a presentation in relation to the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Act 2023 to assist the Panel with the current scrutiny investigation into Planning Capacity.  Information was also provided in relation to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and Local Plan-making.


The Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill


The Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill was published in May 2022 and received Royal Assent in October 2023.  Whilst a number of amendments were proposed during the Bill’s journey through Parliament, very few were conceded. 


In addition to the impact of this new Act, it was highlighted that the Environment Act 2021 had also brought challenges to the planning system through the introduction of biodiversity net gain, which would be active from next month.


The Panel’s attention was drawn to the following elements of the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Act 2023:


           The Act brought in a requirement to prepare Environmental Outcomes Reports (EORs)  which would replace the existing Strategic Impact Assessments (SIAs) and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) and would be more streamlined.  Environmental Assessments were currently quite broad and could include issues such as social and economic impact.  However the EORs would be limited to environmental outcomes set by government ministers.  This would be quite a change for planning applications and local plans.


           The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and much of the Section 106 payments system would be replaced with a new national infrastructure levy. Where and how infrastructure spending was allocated would be determined by local infrastructure delivery strategies.


           New Street Vote powers, would allow residents on a street to bring forward proposals to extend or redevelop their properties in line with their design preferences.  So long as development rules and other statutory requirements were met, a referendum of residents would then be held to determine whether planning permission should be granted.   It was unclear whether this would be permitted in conservation areas and likely that pilot schemes would be introduced in the first instance.


           National Development Management Policies (NDMPs) would be introduced which would, in future, have priority over Local Plans. 


           There were proposals for two tier Council areas in England to co-operate more in planning terms which would be useful for the development of Local Plans.


On behalf of the UK planners, the RPTI had proposed an amendment to the Bill to bring in legislation that would allow Planning Committees to be held virtually.  The temporary measure introduced during the Covid-19 Pandemic had been useful and enabled a greater variety of people to be involved in planning.  Unfortunately the amendment had not been enacted.


The RPTI also wanted to strengthen the provision for climate action in the Bill and had supported a campaign to make it legally binding to build healthy homes.



National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)


The Government had also proposed changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).  The NPPF was a statement of policy rather  ...  view the full minutes text for item 23/32


Middlesbrough Council Website

Officers from Planning Services will provide an update on a review of the Council’s website content in relation to Planning and Development.


Recommendation: for the Panel to receive and note the information provided.


The Development Control Manager provided an update on a review of the Council’s website content in relation to Planning and Development.  A recent review by the Planning Advisory Service (PAS) had highlighted the following areas for improvement:


           Focus on reducing officer time spent on general enquiries and promoting the information available to applicants and the public.


           Planning had a poor web presence, with many enquiries being handled by the technical team and other officers, which could easily be avoided with direction to an accessible website.


           Updates needed to reduce time spent on queries and complaints. This included highlighting the importance of the following sections:


-           The standard of applications required.

-           Local validation list.

-           Protocol for resubmitting invalid applications or amending validated applications.

-           Clearer sign-posting to Planning Portal for advice.

-           Availability of the pre-application service.


The pre-application service had previously been free but charges had been introduced earlier this year.  The number of requests for advice had subsequently reduced.


If the information provided on the website was user friendly, applicants would not need to take up officer time and be confident that they had a suitable scheme to submit.


Members were shown several screenshots of the current planning and development web pages which followed the corporate layout.   There were 19 elements within the planning policy remit and currently none stood out as having more importance than other, whereas some of the information was secondary.


The PAS had identified some other local authorities’ website that they considered best practice examples.  Officers had reviewed those websites and was currently working with the Digital Team to create an improve Middlesbrough version.  Guidance had been taken in relation to cultural diversity and whether there were any issues with language.


Members viewed some screenshots of other local authorities’ websites.  The use of images on some of the websites to help promote information was also noted.


The key areas of planning were: Planning Policy, Development Control, Planning Enforcement and Conservation.  The aim was to get the website information in a workable format so that applicants could submit forms online. 


It was hoped that the website development would take approximately six months to complete and then the new format would be tested.  The Council had previously used a focus group comprising 80 residents to carry out testing.  There was a development area on the website that could be used to test on. 


A suggestion was made that Councillors could receive training on the new website in order to be able to better assist residents.


The new website would be mobile friendly.  It was noted that 85% of users of the Council’s website used mobile devices to access it.


With regard to Artificial Intelligence (AI), whilst could be used to provide information, sometimes there were different responses to the same question in planning matters.  Further development would be needed to provide Officers with confidence in this technology.


AGREED that the information provided was received and noted.


Overview and Scrutiny Board Update

The Chair will provide a verbal update on matters considered at the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Board held on 15 November 2023.


The Chair provided a verbal update on the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Board meeting held on 15 November 2023.


The Executive Member for Finance and Governance was in attendance and provided information in relation to the Council’s current financial position.


Date and TIme of Next Meeting

The next meeting of the Regeneration Scrutiny Panel is scheduled to take place on Wednesday 17 January 2024 at 10.00 am.


The next meeting of the Regeneration Scrutiny Panel was scheduled to take place at 10 am on Wednesday 17 January 2024.


Any other urgent items which in the opinion of the Chair, may be considered.