The following question, received under Standing Order 34, was put to the Chairman of the Scrutiny Commission:
Question asked by Mrs Sharon Scott
'With reference to both the Leicestershire Strategic Plan and the Strategic Growth Plan please can the chairman confirm that the change in events arising from the COVID 19 emergency means that the plans will now need to be substantially revised because:
The COVID 19 emergency has
demonstrated that many people can work successfully from home. I have spoken to
partners in a number of professional firms
who say that their firms are now looking closely at whether to switch to more
home working in the future to save on rent and heating bills. This is likely to
result in more brownfield office sites becoming available in the City and
immediate environs of Leicester that can be repurposed for housing. This will
lessen the need for other areas of the County to take the over spill from the
2. The COVID
19 emergency is accelerating the move to online shopping. This is likely to
lead to more retail closures within the main shopping centres in the City which
can be repurposed for housing. This will also lessen the need for other areas
of the County to take the over spill from the City.
3. Spending that LCC has earmarked for strategic development areas such as the proposed Stoney Stanton SDA would be better spent on providing high quality broadband, particularly in South West Leicestershire where the service industries and the professions are big employers and since these are the employers who are likely to make more of their employees work from home in the future.”
Reply by the Chairman
A review of all the County Council’s key policies is likely to be undertaken as part of the County Council’s planned recovery from the pandemic, including the County Council’s Strategic Plan. In addition, the County Council, City Council and Leicestershire districts will also need to consider whether a review the Leicester and Leicestershire Strategic Growth Plan (SGP) is required.
With reference to points 1 and 2, COVID 19 has impacted working practices and travel and shopping patterns. Businesses will no doubt review whether any changes enforced through this unprecedented period become new established practices. Potential implications for the current Strategic Growth Plan and the County Council’s Strategic Plan will be considered prior to any review.
With reference to point 3, the County Council remains committed to supporting economic and housing growth in the County. Supporting large sustainable developments and the provision of high-quality superfast broadband are key elements of the County Council’s approach. As part of its work on recovery, and taking account of pressures on the public purse, market conditions and other societal changes post COVID19, the County Council will necessarily be reviewing its spending priorities.
Mrs Scott asked a supplementary question on the response to
points 1 and 2 of her original question to the effect that, would, as part of the review of the Strategic Plan
and the Strategic Growth Plan, there be a review of extra brownfield sites
arising in Leicester City and its immediate environs as a result of any
permanent changes in business and retail practices arising from the current
pandemic before a decision is taken to expand the urban area out into the
villages of South West Leicestershire. Mrs Scott said she was aware that Blaby
District Council was currently reviewing its local plan and was under pressure
to take the housing overspill from Leicester City into rural areas of South
West Leicestershire. As such, she asked
if Leicester City would be asked to reassess their needs, given the possibility
of more brownfield sites becoming available in the City before Blaby’s plan was
finalised, and whether priority would be given to utilising excess brownfield
sites that become available as a result of changed
business practices in preference to rural sites, including the County Council
At the invitation of the Chairman, the Assistant Chief Executive responded that, the Strategic Growth Plan (SGP), which seemed most relevant to Mrs Scott’s supplementary questions (as opposed to the County Council’s Strategic Plan), covered Leicester and Leicestershire and it would therefore be a matter for the SGP Partnership through the Members Advisory Group and its constituent authorities to decide whether or not to carry out a review of that Plan as a result of new evidence arising from the pandemic, and it would be for the Partnership to identify the scope of that review. Whilst the view of the Partnership could not be pre-empted it was fair to assume that any review would look at all new relevant evidence including the supply and demand of land for development including brownfield sites in the City and across the County.
Regarding the timing of such a review, this would be a matter for the Partnership through the Member Advisory group to determine.