At today’s full council meeting of a cross-party group of councillors will move amendments to ensure the priorities of Lancaster City Council and many people across the district are reflected in the agreement between the City Council and County Council (if it is passed):
- to support both councils in their shared priority of protecting the environment and achieving net carbon zero by 2030
- to support local businesses and jobs through the delivery of this project, building community wealth
- to develop a joined-up & shared consultation plan so residents have greater access to information and can see how the project partners are responding to their questions and concerns
- reduce Lancaster City Council’s financial risk
We will also seek to structure this debate to maximise public discussion.
Leader of Lancaster Labour Group, Cllr Dr Erica Lewis said, “The collaboration agreement as currently negotiated stands silent on the key issues facing our district: the need to address the climate emergency; to build community wealth; and to ensure our residents are meaningfully engaged in the South Lancaster project. We have raised this concern with Lancashire County Council and hope for a positive response.
Leader of the Independent Group, Cllr Merv Evans said, “There is a real need for more homes across the district. As councillors, we work with many residents who are experiencing housing need. We know developers do not always want to build the homes we need because they are often not the most profitable homes to build. This means we need to use all possible powers to ensure decent homes are built where we need them. Taking a planned approach to development such as is intended in South Lancaster will give the council the most control possible.
Cllr Dr Erica Lewis said, “Not only do we believe these amendments will strengthen the process, but we also believe the structure of the amendments will allow much of tonight’s meeting to take place in public, with only the finance amendment needing to be a discussion in private.
We have listened carefully to the concerns being raised by residents and local organisations and believe that these amendments will ensure that if the project gets approval this evening, it also helps to meet the priorities of the district.
We have also worked with officers to ensure that tonight’s meeting will be broadcast and the link can be accessed via https://tinyurl.com/210825Council. The public report that we also worked to secure for residents can be found at https://tinyurl.com/210825HIFReport.
We hope other groups will work with us to maximise the public elements of this debate.
Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 allows for the press and public to be excluded from council meetings for a range of reasons. The reason given for officers advice for this evening is found in paragraph 3 of schedule 12A of the Act “information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information).”
While accepting this advice from officers and recognising the risk to the project and to residents if details are released that make it harder to secure best value quotes for infrastructure work or to facilitate developers being able to game viability processes, we also think it is important that local residents and organisations can hear the debate and be confident that councillors have engaged strongly with the material presented in the reports, the needs of our residents and the issues raised by local residents and organisations.
Therefore, we have been looking for a way to maximise the amount of debate held in public and minimise the risk doing so may have. Our amendments tonight are intended to create an opportunity for councillors to debate non-confidential matters of broad interest in public, and to create an opportunity for councillors to debate confidential financial information.