Posted by: westlancashirerecord | November 1, 2016

Beacon Park Golf Course Landfill, Legal Or Not?

In 2011 the WLBC gave an Assistant Director the authority to conclude all necessary consents to develop the Beacon Park Golf Course. The Department For Communities And Local Government dclg issues specific advice in “Your council’s cabinet – going to its meetings, seeing how it works. A guide for local people”. It is specifically helpful with the inclusion of Annex A – Descriptions of Exempt Information.

Previous rules did not provide maximum transparency because an executive was only required to hold meetings in public in certain limited circumstances. A cabinet could largely choose which of its meetings should be held in public thus hindering effective local accountability and scrutiny. The rules required a meeting to be closed to the public in a circumstance that “If the presence of the public is likely to result in the council breaching a legal obligation to third parties about the keeping of confidential information”. Hence we had the pernicious “Commercial in Confidence” situation. And the descriptions of exempt information are set out in the Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972. Councils must comply with all the national rules.

In the case of Annex A it is specified that “Information is not exempt information if it relates to proposed development for which the local planning authority may grant itself planning permission pursuant to regulation 3 of the Town and Country Planning General Regulations 1992”.

There is now a presumption that these rules are based on openness, and as a matter of fact each council has its own rules for doing business – its constitution and standing orders- which must be in line with any national rules. In the case of West Lancashire Borough Council wlbclogo, at Constitution 4.2D: Scheme of Delegation to Director of Leisure and Wellbeing, is stated

“ 2. To produce and update all the Council’s Health and Safety Policies and procedures in the line with current legislation and best practice, in consultation with the relevant Portfolio Holder.

“6. To monitor and administer monthly payments in accordance with the terms of the golf management agreement for Beacon Golf Course.

“24. To enter into negotiations with the West Lancashire Community Leisure Trust and the Trust Partners Serco Operating Limited and, during negotiations with those bodies, engage consultants and obtain expert legal and financial advice as appropriate”.

WLBC Constitution 6; Access to Information Procedure Rules

Information is not exempt information if it relates to proposed development for which the local planning authority may grant itself planning permission pursuant to regulation 3 of the Town and Country Planning General Regulations 1992.

Cabinet Agenda 15 November 2011-Private and Confidential (c) Beacon Golf Course-Relevant Portfolio Holder Councillor D Westley; 4 Agenda Items “exempt from public access”.

BEACON GOLF COURSE
Councillor Fowler introduced the report of the Assistant Director Community Services which informed of DCT Leisure Ltd’s intention to relinquish its lease of Beacon Park Golf Course and provide options for the future of the facility. In reaching the decision below, Cabinet considered the details set out in the report before it and accepted the reasons contained in it.

RESOLVED: A. That the Assistant Director Community Services, in consultation with the Leader and relevant portfolio holder, be authorised to develop and implement proposals for the long term operation of the Beacon Park Golf Course and negotiate and conclude all arrangements (to include the obtaining of all necessary consents, providing for all requisite notices and the entering into all necessary licences, leases and agreements/documentation) to give effect to that proposal.

B. That in addition to the delegation at A. above the Assistant Director Community Services, in consultation with the Leader and relevant portfolio holder, be authorised to develop and implement proposals for the interim operation of the Beacon Park Golf Course and negotiate and conclude all arrangements (to include the obtaining of all necessary consents, providing for all requisite notices and the entering into all necessary licences, leases and agreements/documentation) to give effect to that proposal.

C. That there be an exemption from the requirement to seek quotations/tenders (Contract Procedure Rules 6 and 7) to allow the arrangements to be put in place in accordance with A. and/or B. above for the reasons set out in the report.

D. That call in is not appropriate for this item as the matter is one requiring urgent action. It being noted that the matter is being referred to the next meeting of Council on 14 December 2011.
Beacon Park Golf Course Final JN TB Nov 11.doc Report Exempt Login to View
Beacon Park Golf Course Plan Appendix 1.doc Appendix Exempt Login to View
Beacon Park Golf Course EIA Appendix 2.doc Appendix Exempt Login to View
CovReportBeacon Park golf Course (2) JN final.doc Supporting Paper Exempt Login to View

But there is a serious possibility that under parliamentary scrutiny made known in the 1992 Regulations after complaints that local authorities could not act impartially when they were judge and jury in their own cause, it may have been unlawful for WLBC to make these decisions as it did. As stated above the then Assistant Director Community Services “be authorised to develop and implement proposals for the interim operation of the Beacon Park Golf Course and negotiate and conclude all arrangements (to include the obtaining of all necessary consents).

Proposals, revised to take account of consultation responses, were implemented through section 316 of the Planning and Compensation Act 1991 and the 1992 regulations made under that section. To quote a minister in Parliament “The general principle underlying the 1992 regulations is that local planning authorities must make planning applications in the same way as any other person, and must apply for planning permission. Except in special circumstances, they must follow the same procedures as would apply to applications made by anyone else. County and district councils may grant themselves planning permission for their own development on land in which they have an interest, but that ability is subject to several important safeguards. For example, the proposals must be advertised and decided in public by a committee that is not responsible for land management. The public cannot be excluded from committee meetings at which local authority development proposals are discussed – as my hon. Friend suggested, that could have had an influence on some recent decisions”. [Press and public were excluded by WLBC when this Beacon Park Golf Development was discussed and decided]

“To avoid a conflict of interest, applications may not be determined by a committee or officer responsible for the management of the land concerned. Local authority development proposals or development on its land must also be notified to the Secretary of State if it is not in accordance with the provisions of the development plan in force in the area, so that he can consider whether to call in the application for his own determination…Unitary authorities can grant planning permission for their own development on land in which they have an interest, or for development by others on their land, but they are subject to the same safeguards of accountability and publicity”. To be precise, a senior WLBC officer HAS determined applications and decisions and was subject to the same safeguards of accountability and publicity.

You may find that notwithstanding anything in section 101 of the Local Government Act 1972 (arrangements for the discharge of functions by local authorities) no application for planning permission for development to which regulation 3 applies may be determined (a) by a committee or sub-committee of the interested planning authority concerned if that committee or sub-committee is responsible (wholly or partly) for the management of any land or buildings to which the application relates; or (b) by an officer of the interested planning authority concerned if his responsibilities include any aspect of the management of any land or buildings to which the application relates. Was the Beacon Park Golf Course development 004 ultra vires?


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