Agenda item

Public participation

Council Procedure Rules Section 6. Members of the public who live or work in the district may put questions or make statements on items on the agenda to members of the Cabinet or any committee.


(Note: The maximum time to be set aside for this item is 30 minutes, but if all questions/statements are dealt with sooner, or if there are no questions/statements, the Council will proceed to the next business.)


Each person may ask one question or make one statement only. A total of five minutes will be allowed for the question to be put and answered or the statement made. If a question is raised, one supplementary question will be allowed provided that it arises directly from the reply and the overall time limit of five minutes is not exceeded (subject to the Chair’s discretion).


The member to whom the question is directed may refer it to another member or may choose to give a written response. If a statement is made, then the Chair may allow the Leader of the Council, or other member to whom they refer the matter, a right of reply.


The Constitution allows that a person who wishes to speak must register by no later than midday Friday 15 December 2023.


See section 6.8 of the Council Procedure Rules of the Constitution regarding the scope of questions/statements that may be asked/made.


Prior to the commencement of this item, the Chair welcomed the members of the public sitting in the public gallery. He explained the rationale for the recent changes made to the rules regarding public participation, as set out in the Council Procedure Rules in Part 4 of the Constitution. 


The Chair then invited the following members of the public to speak under this agenda item:


1. Jo Owen, a resident in the district, asked a question in connection with an incident where the Council had been subject to a bank mandate fraud which had resulted in a loss of £52,000 to the Council and how the Council was intending to re-coup the loss so that it did not fall to local residents by raising the level of council tax.


In response, Councillor Diane Hind, Portfolio Holder for Resources, stated that the recent fraud was a reminder to us all that we must remain vigilant to the threat of such sophisticated fraudsters. As a result of the fraud, the Council’s processes had been reviewed and strengthened.


The level of council tax had already been fixed for this year (2023 to 2024) and provision had been made in the forecast for this year’s budget to address the pressure created by the fraud, which was an isolated incident. The level of council tax for next year (2024 to 2025) would be debated by Council in February 2024. Council tax accounted for around a fifth of the Council’s total income budget and would continue to be an important local income stream to support the delivery of much valued local services. 


2. Terry Charles, a resident in the district made a statement in connection with the sometimes limiting time allowance of five minutes allocated to public speakers during the Council agenda item ‘public participation’. He continued to speak on issues relating to members’ engagement with the public at Council meetings in general.


In response, Councillor Gerald Kelly, Portfolio Holder for Governance and Regulatory, stated that the Chair could exercise their discretion to alter the length of time each registered speaker had within the overall 30 minute time period allocated to the ‘public participation’ agenda item.


The current Chair was fully supportive of allowing sufficient time for a question or statement to be put and this approach was supported by the current Vice Chair, Leader of the Council and Group Leaders. If, however, several people had registered to speak then the Chair would try and ensure that each person was given a fair time allocation in which to put their question or statement in order to facilitate all speakers within the overall 30 minute time period. 


3. In the absence of Melanie Soanes, a resident of Moreton Hall, Bury St Edmunds and Chair of the Moreton Hall Residents’ Association, who was unable to attend the meeting, Councillor Birgitte Mager, one of the ward members for Moreton Hall read out a statement on Ms Soanes’ behalf.


The statement was in connection with the perceived lack of lorry park facilities to accommodate the extensive increase in HGVs accessing the site at Suffolk Business Park, Bury St Edmunds. Concern was also expressed regarding the adverse impact caused by the amount of logistics and freight lorries accessing the Park via the residential area.


In response, Councillor Indy Wijenayaka, Portfolio Holder for Growth, explained that provision was made for lorry parking at Rougham Hill, which was within proximity of Suffolk Business Park and the A14. The Council had previously supported a Councillor Call for Action for Suffolk County Council (SCC), as Highways Authority to address the issues of HGVs travelling through the residential areas of Moreton Hall. Engagement with SCC would continue to be made regarding progress on this matter.


Engagement had also been held with SCC as Highways Authority to explore the need and demand for lorry park provision throughout the development of West Suffolk Council’s new Local Plan. No additional need had been identified as yet, with two operational truck stops at nearby Rougham Hill and Risby, with further provision at Saxham Business Park which had not yet been implemented.


4. Richard Gee, Director of Sansovino Developments Limited, made a statement in connection with the West Suffolk Local Plan (Regulation 19) document.


Sansovino owned the 60 hectare Hatchfield Farm site in Newmarket. Mr Gee expressed concern that a further phase of mixed use development at Hatchfield Farm, as put forward in the Regulation 18 Draft Local Plan, had now been omitted. He considered the site offered a sustainable pattern of land uses to support future growth in Newmarket and West Suffolk.


Mr Gee explained that the document inaccurately stated that Hatchfield Farm ‘has a planning permission but development has not yet commenced….’ and that he considered Hatchfield Farm was one of Newmarket’s and West Suffolk’s leading development sites for a number of reasons provided in his statement.


He urged Council to re-introduce the second phase allocation at Hatchfield Farm into the Regulation 19 submission version of the Local Plan.


In response, Councillor Jim Thorndyke, Portfolio Holder for Planning, thanked Mr Gee for his statement, acknowledging the inaccuracy stating that the Local Plan had evolved over time and subject to approval when this agenda item was reached later this evening, this element would be corrected prior to consultation. 


No further questions were asked or statements made. The Chair concluded this item and invited the members of the public present to remain in the meeting to observe the following agenda items should they wish to do so.