At a time when Herefordshire Council instructed all parishes that they were not permitted to consult on their own parish “Neighbourhood Development Plans” during the run up to the local elections, Herefordshire Council are running a consultation on over 65 major changes to their own Local Plan for the whole of Herefordshire.
However, all parishes in Herefordshire this week have been sent a surprise email from Councillor Tony Johnson as Leader of Herefordshire Council , on behalf of himself and all his Cabinet, with an attached letter from him to the Planning Inspector. This attached letter (see Johnson to Mrs R Fallon re. Herefordshire Core Strategy – 10042015 ref Main Modifications) seems to be the Cabinet modifying their own modifications to the Local Plan for the County. This letter has not been communicated to any ward councillors on Herefordshire Council just parish clerks, Cabinet members and the Assistant Director, Andrew Ashcroft.
The letter from Councillor Johnson indicates that the Cabinet do not agree with the Main Modifications their own administration prepared when allocating housing to rural areas. But surely the Cabinet member responsible for the Local Plan saw and agreed all the changes before it went out for a 6 week consultation?
It seems surprising that Councillor Johnson decided to make this disagreement with his own administration public, circulating it to all parishes, when all he needed to do was to make the written submission to the Planning Inspector via the Programme Officer working out of the Council’s own Plough Lane offices.
Councillor Johnson seems concerned to make it publicly clear that the Cabinet do not agree with Herefordshire Council’s amended allocation of an average housing growth of 60% to certain villages in Herefordshire. Why was the consultation on the Main Modifications permitted to go out to the public if the Cabinet, including the Cabinet Member Councillor Phillip Price who has responsibility for the Local Plan, disagree with what has been sent out and now want their modifications to be modified?
The change to the rural housing allocation recommended in the Main Modifications is very unpalatable to the electorate in many rural parishes, particularly in the run up to the elections. However, the email and its attachment cannot be a political letter as Councillor Johnson would be very aware that he has sent this letter out on Herefordshire Council headed paper in the period that is called “purdah” when public resources cannot be used to benefit political parties.