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The parish council meeting agenda includes an item to discuss housing development and affordable housing proposals within the village.  The item is tabled as being confidential and notes that press and public will be excluded.  I enquired why this item is confidential and the Chair has told me "I think a confidential discussion amongst councillors should enable us to consider the extent to which the village can accommodate additional housing and the type it should be".
Is this appropriate?
by (270 points)

3 Answers

+4 votes
Best answer
No it is not appropriate. Exclusion of press and public can only be applied in accordance with Schedule 12 of the Local Govt Act 1972 for discussion of confidential or exempt items. Any exclusion must be ratified by a resolution and it can't be applied just because a Cllr thinks it would make their life easier because members of the public weren't present to scrutinise them. The Council are meant to provide a reason for the exclusion to be ratified. I can't see any justification for the discussion of a housing development and affordable housing proposals within the village to be deemed confidential, given the Parish Council can only contribute views to the Principal Authority.
by (35.4k points)
selected by
Many thanks, this is really helpful and reassuring.  The meeting was held shortly before you made your post(!) and despite debate as to whether it was valid to hold the discussion in private and my proposal to defer until next meeting and hold publicly (which was seconded by another councillor), the agenda item went ahead and the public (there was only one, probably because the item had been shown as confidential on the published agenda) were excluded.  It was stated that no decisions were to be made, however, all the councillors were encouraged to give their view on the various potential developments.  The next time the "public exclusion" question comes up (and I'm confident it will), I'll have more confidence to fight a bit harder!
–1 vote

Sometimes councillors do not understand their obligations in respect to planning and sometimes taking out of the public view is a way of not embarrassing new councillors. As long as no decision is made - it can be helpful to discuss applications informally.

This document may be helpful

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by (6.3k points)
+3 votes
Oh dear - why would the council feel it knows better than anyone else in the parish? It's not likely to have the necessary planning expertise amongst it's members to make such decisions.   I'm assuming the parish doesn't have a neighbourhood plan and has been caught off guard by the housing proposals?

It would be better for the council to consult the community about where the housing should go or, even better, prepare a neighbourhood plan to afford a little protection to areas where the community would least like to see any housing.
by (2.1k points)
edited by

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