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Harlow Alliance Party express concern over land sales

News / Sat 12th Dec 2020 at 02:47pm

Nicholas Taylor to Councillor Mike Danvers (Portfolio Holder for Resources):

I understand that the policy and procedures used in respect of the sale of council owned land dating back to 1996 are to be reviewed and revised in 2021. Current procedures do not require officers to consult with residents living nearby before a decision is made to sell land and such a decision is left up to officer discretion, subject to a number of criteria.

It is clear that a land sale can have a detrimental effect on neighbouring properties and their occupants and a decision to sell without neighbouring residents and member involvement lacks any kind of transparency.

Will you give an undertaking that the review in the spring of 2021 will include the need for written consultation to take place with neighbours living in the vicinity of all proposed land sales and that councillors are involved when the council make a final decision on whether to proceed with a sale?

Reply from Councillor Mike Danvers (Portfolio Holder for Resources):

The Council’s existing policy makes provision for Officers to decide whether public consultation in an area is appropriate. Historically, where such consultation has been deemed necessary, Officers have carried out neighbour consultation and considered any representations as part of its decision making process.

The criteria to facilitate a land sale is comprehensive, with much of specifically designed to provide a level of protection against disruption to the amenity of surrounding residents. Additionally, where planning consent for a change of use of land is required (which is applicable in the vast majority of cases), consultation will happen as a matter of course under the planning process.

Whether the emerging land sale policy will provide for mandatory written public consultation in all instances will need to be assessed having regard to the overall terms of revised policy. If the emerging land sale criteria are considered to afford sufficient protection to neighbouring properties, it may not be an appropriate to consult in every case, particularly where public consultation is already required under the planning process.

Therefore, I cannot at this stage provide a firm undertaking that the emerging policy will provide for consultation or that Councillors will be involved in the final decision in all cases. However, I will advise Officers who are leading on the preparation of the new policy to consider the position on these points carefully and to provide clear recommendations to Members on the most appropriate approach.

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Comments

Nicholas Taylor

The response to my question shows there is a lack of leadership at Harlow Council. Councillors should be making policy and officers should be directed to consult with neighbours in all cases and the final decision to sell or not should rest with councillors. This should not be left to the planning stage, by which time an applicant may well have spent a considerable sum in employing an architect and agent. A decision on whether land should be sold is not a matter which should be dealt at the time of a planning application. Ward councillors will in particular have a good understanding on the effect a land sale can have on neighbours and need to have an input at an early stage.

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1 Comment for Harlow Alliance Party express concern over land sales:

tenpin
2020-12-12 19:53:12

The response to my question shows there is a lack of leadership at Harlow Council. Councillors should be making policy and officers should be directed to consult with neighbours in all cases and the final decision to sell or not should rest with councillors. This should not be left to the planning stage, by which time an applicant may well have spent a considerable sum in employing an architect and agent. A decision on whether land should be sold is not a matter which should be dealt at the time of a planning application. Ward councillors will in particular have a good understanding on the effect a land sale can have on neighbours and need to have an input at an early stage.

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