Councillors' Attendance Statistics
Agenda and minutes
Environment, Sustainability and Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Thursday, 24 March 2011 7:00 pm
Venue: Salon - York House. View directions
Contact: Jessica Vine; 020 8891 7078; Email: email@example.com
Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Acton. Councillor Jaeger attended as his substitute.
Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Stockley. Councillor Mathias attended as her substitute.
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
In accordance with the Members’ Code of Conduct, Members are requested to declare any interests orally at the start of the meeting and again immediately before consideration of the matter. Members are reminded to specify the agenda item number to which it refers and whether the interest is of a personal or prejudicial nature.
Members are also reminded of the requirements of Section 106 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 that they should declare and not vote on specified matters if they are two months or more in arrears with their Council Tax payments.
Mr Bell declared a personal interest in item 4 (Installation of Broadband Boxes) by virtue of the fact that he was an employee of BT.
To consider and approve the minutes of the extraordinary meeting held on 11 January 2011 and the minutes of the meeting held on 26 January 2011 attached.
It was RESOLVED:
1. That the minutes of the extraordinary meeting held on 11 January 2011 be received and approved and the Chairman be authorised to sign them, subject to the following amendment:
Minute 33 – Changes to Parking Charges (page 3 of the minutes)
Amend to read: “The Director of Environment […] added there was an element of pre-disposition, but that this was very different from being pre-determined.”
2. That the minutes of the meeting held on 26 January 2011 be received and approved and the Chairman be authorised to sign them, subject to the following clarification:
Minute 39 – Community Safety Partnership Plan (page 9 of the minutes)
“NHS Richmond was working on a new drugs strategy and it was more appropriate for the recommendations of the Drugs Misuse Task Group to feed into this rather than the Community Safety Partnership Plan.”
It was noted that the Drugs Misuse Task Group recommendation could feed into the Community Safety Partnership Plan.
[In relation to item 38A – ‘Review of Charges for 2011/12 (Environment Directorate)’ it was noted that the Committee’s request had had been adhered to and that there would not be an interment charge for resident children aged 1 to 5.]
INSTALLATION OF BROADBAND BOXES (PRESENTATION BY BT OPENREACH)
To receive a presentation on the installation of broadband boxes in the borough as part of BT Openreach’s Next Generation Access upgrade.
Introduction by Assistant Director of Environment:
The Assistant Director of Environment (Development and Street Scene) explained the context of the item appearing before the Committee and highlighted the following points:
(i) Street furniture was normally installed as permitted development, meaning that utility companies did not require the permission of the Council to install new equipment. However, in Conservation Areas the regulations required an application to be submitted to the Council (as the local Planning Authority).
(ii) The Council had been involved in initial discussions with BT on the installation of 81 broadband cabinets within conservation areas. BT had submitted applications for these sites. Of these applications the Council was rejecting 77.
(iii) Prior to a decision being reached on the applications, some cabinets had been installed in conservation areas without receiving the appropriate permission. Cabinets had been installed at locations which the Council officers had previously indicated would be unsuitable.
BT Openreach presentation:
The Committee heard a presentation on behalf of BT Openreach, which was delivered by Mr Adrian Paice (NGA Project Manager, BT Openreach); Mr William Osborne (on behalf of the agents, Harlequin Ltd.); Mr Giles Ellerton (BT business partner) and Mr Dave Jackson (BT Openreach South East). In describing their roles to the Committee it was explained that BT Openreach provided infrastructure networks for many different broadband companies and was a separate organisation from BT. The Committee was provided with the following information:
(i) BT Openreach was implementing a programme of high speed broadband delivery across Britain to meet the requirements of homes and businesses for faster internet connections. It was planned that by 2012 at least 80% of all homes and business in London would be able to access super-fast broadband, which was currently already available in Merton, Ealing and North East London.
(ii) In order to provider faster internet connections BT Openreach was upgrading existing infrastructure and installing broadband cabinets. It was necessary to place new cabinets on the street to reduce the distance that the broadband signal had to travel to each home or business. Fibre connections could be provided between the cabinets and the telephone exchanges without necessitating disruptive street works. However, the new cabinets had to be located within 50m of the old cabinets in order to achieve this. The limited radius available had caused some problems when seeking a suitable location for the new cabinet.
(iii) The new cabinet was larger than older style cabinets in order to provide ample power and to provide space for the cables and an internal cooling fan. The location of each cabinet was often pre-determined by the location of the power cables and utility infrastructure below the street. It was also necessary to locate the cabinet on pavement areas where pedestrian safety was not jeopardised. Consultation with those in the immediate vicinity of proposed cabinets was carried out as far as possible but it was also important to consider the requirements of the wider community.
(iv) Harlequin Ltd., liaised with local planning authorities on behalf of BT Openreach to submit applications for cabinets within conservation areas. These were ‘Prior Approval applications’ meaning that if the planning authority raised no objection within 56 days of the application being submitted then the cabinet would have deemed consent. Harlequin had submitted details of the locations and scale drawings for each cabinet to the Council’s Highways and Planning Departments and had visited the proposed sites with Highways officers.
(v) The size of the project and the large volume of applications had meant that some anomalies had occurred following the consultation process. BT Openreach apologised for any breakdown in communication which may have occurred at particular sites. Though BT Openreach and their agents had been working with the Council’s officers on the details of specific locations some of the changes agreed on had not been captured and there had been a lack of communication with some contractors. This was now being addressed: certain cabinets were being relocated and the communication system would be ameliorated in response to these problems.
Questions from Committee Members:
In response to the Committee’s questions, the following information was provided by the representatives of BT Opereach, Harlequin Ltd and by the Council’s Officers:
(i) BT Openreach estimated that Planning Authorities would sometimes refuse applications for cabinets due to the limited timeframe and scope within which an application could be considered. A refusal meant that the authority would be able to have input into the location of the cabinet and discussion could continue.
(ii) The local planning authority could only refuse cabinets on the grounds of design or siting. The design of the cabinets was not negotiable as a standard design was used across the country. Within Conservation Areas, the proposed siting of a cabinet was evaluated by the Council’s Conservation Officer who examined whether the cabinet would be harmful to the setting. The applicant had a right of appeal if they disagreed with the decision (though no appeals had been lodged by BT Openreach for locations in London so far).
(iii) BT Openreach had not previously been aware of the high percentage of existing applications which were being refused and would discuss this with the Council’s officers after the meeting.
(iv) It was necessary to retain one cabinet whilst installing the second in order to continue providing standard and super-fast broadband to all properties whilst both services were in use. If both functions were combined this would necessitate installing a larger model cabinet which would take up more space on the pavement than the model currently being installed. It was hoped that in future if the demand for super-fast broadband increased, technology would be developed to allow a greater number of homes to be supplied by one cabinet.
(v) The cabinets did not need to be installed on public property but it would be more difficult to install them on private property due to planning regulations and the fact that the cabinet needed to connect with cables under the pavement. It would also need to be easily accessible to BT Openreach’s engineers.
(vi) BT Openreach assured the Committee that any cabinets that had been installed without permission would be relocated (where the Development Control Officer indicated that a retrospective planning application would be refused). BT Openreach would also provide the Council with further information about why each location had been chosen. BT Openreach’s communication process with its contractors was being improved and a number of quality checks had been introduced to ensure that work was carried out in a timely manner and that pavements were not damaged by works.
The Chairman suggested that it would be useful for BT Openreach, Harlequin Ltd. and the Council’s Planning and Highways officers to hold further discussions on the current cabinet applications as it was apparent that the consultation process had met with some problems thus far and communication issues had arisen. A meeting would allow for feedback to be given on why a large percentage of applications had been rejected.
The Chairman thanked Mr Paice, Mr Osborne, Mr Ellerton and Mr Jackson for attending on behalf of BT Openreach and Harlequin Ltd. and for providing responses to the Committee’s questions.
It was RESOLVED:
That representatives of BT Openreach and senior council officers representing Highways and Development Control departments be recommended to hold a meeting at the beginning of the week commencing 28 March 2011, in order to discuss the current applications for cabinets and reasons for refusal; the process to be used for future cabinet applications and the processes for installation and maintenance of cabinets.
The Drug Misuse Scrutiny Task Group was set up by the Environment, Sustainability and Community OSC on the 23 June 2010.
The Committee is requested to comment on the report, the recommendations (as set out on page 5 of the report) and to determine how it wishes to monitor the recommendations.
Report of the Drug Misuse Scrutiny Task Group attached.
Introduction by Task Group Chair:
The report was introduced by Councillor Jaeger, the Chair of the Drug Misuse Scrutiny Task Group. She explained the reasons why the Task Group had been established and the work that had been carried out. She outlined the following points:
(i) The Task Group had been established amid concerns that future drug treatment programmes may be negatively impacted due to budget reductions and the removal of national targets.
(ii) The Task Group had been concerned about the link between drug addiction and crime and this had formed a significant part of their research.
(iii) It was noted that in Richmond borough the abuse of highly addictive class A drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine was not so prominent but misuse of drugs was still an issue of concern. The affluent character of the borough meant that there was a higher percentage of recreational drug users.
(iv) The Task Group welcomed the news that ‘Test on Arrest’ would shortly be introduced in Richmond borough. This meant that problematic users could be identified and provided with treatment. It was suggested that Scrutiny could monitor the effectiveness of the policy in future.
(v) The Task Group’s work covered issues of how drugs misuse affected the borough’s health and how young people were affected (for example it was found that early intervention was very important in addressing drugs problems). For these reasons the Task Group had consisted of members from the Health, Housing and Adult Services O&S Committee and from the Education and Children’s Services O&S Committee as well as from the Environment, Sustainability and Community O&S Committee.
(vi) The Task Group had been supported in their work by Dagmar Zeuner, Director of Public Health, Christian Scade, Senior Scrutiny Officer, and Natasha Allen, Community Safety Manager. The Community Safety team would be tasked with progressing much of the group’s recommendations.
The Chairman thanked the Task Group members and the officers for their work. He invited the Committee to ask questions on the report.
Questions from Committee Members:
In response to the Committee’s questions, the following information was provided:
(i) Though the Task Group had focused on the misuse of illegal drugs they were aware that prescription drugs, legal highs and alcohol also caused serious problems of addiction and it would be useful to have a single strategy for all of these issues. It was important to examine the causes for all types of addiction, but the group had particularly wanted to investigate illicit substance misuse which was often more difficult to record.
(ii) Once data had been collected about drugs misuse it was important to consider how best to use this information. Health Service practitioners needed to be aware of the issues in order to encourage patients to come forward and discuss problems in a confidential manner.
(iii) It was hoped that users themselves would become more aware of the health issues associated with the misuse of drugs, for example the increased risk of heart attack. The Task Group had also looked at issues surrounding the use of methadone and practices used to help people back into society following prolonged periods of drug use.
(iv) It was hoped that the Test on Arrest policy would allow for better knowledge of and treatments for drug users. It was explained that Test on Arrest policies were used to identify and provide support for drug users and were not a means of penalising users nor a means to convict recreational drug users. Test on Arrest was already employed successfully in 23 other London boroughs. The policy was currently being introduced in Richmond and it was recommended that Scrutiny review its effectiveness after six months.
(v) The Task Group was concerned that changes to the housing benefit system would have a particularly negative impact on drug users due to an increase in living costs and the fact that individuals were expected to share accommodation until the age of 35.
(vi) In relation to the Task Group’s recommendation numbered 15, it was explained that the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) had produced guidance specifically for schools on which training and education programmes were most effective for pupils. There was evidence that educating children about cigarettes and drugs misuse worked best as part of a Personal Health and Social Education (PHSE) class rather than as a separate and singular lesson.
The Committee noted that recommendation 16 could include misuse of prescription drugs, though it was felt that it was not necessary to alter the wording of the recommendation or the strategy to highlight specific substances.
It was noted that the Committee would monitor and review the progress of the Task Group recommendations following a six month period, once the recommendations had been made to Cabinet and to the Community Safety Partnership.
The Committee reiterated its thanks to the Task Group for its work.
It was RESOLVED:
That the Drug Misuse Scrutiny Task Group recommendations 1a to 17, as set out within the Final Task Group Report, be agreed.
The Committee is asked to consider the report of the Head of Finance and Customer Services, which provides details of the performance of the Environment Directorate, in relation to projects and indicators that monitor the council priorities for the period October to December 2010.
The Head of Finance and Performance introduced the report. She explained that the areas currently identified as underperforming related to the number of parks with Green Flag status; the number of people and children killed and seriously injured in road traffic accidents; and the processing of major planning applications.
The Head of Finance and Performance and the Assistant Directors presented further details relating to the report and in response to members’ questions:
(i) The Council would need to wait till the following year to reapply for Green Flag status for Kew Green. The Council needed to build upon engagement and community activity at Kew Green in order to obtain the award. The Assistant Director of Environment would send further details of the Green Flag criteria to the ward councillors.
(ii) The Council only processed a small amount of Major Planning Applications each year and this meant that if one or two were not processed within the target deadline then the service was flagged as underperforming. This was not currently viewed as a specific concern.
(iii) The road traffic accident underperformance was a concern for the Council. One location had been identified as an accident hotspot (at the junction of Upper Richmond Road and Rocks Lane). It was hoped that a change in traffic light sequencing would address this to an extent. TfL, who were responsible for the traffic lights, were investigating the location and the Assistant Director (Highways and Transport) had also visited the site. It was explained that ‘serious injury’ included any injury which involved being taken to hospital. It was anticipated that the number of serious injuries would be significantly reduced by the time of the next performance report.
It was RESOLVED:
That the report be noted.
The Committee is asked to consider a report of the Director of Environment which provides information on the Council’s Uplift Strategy.
The report was introduced by the Assistant Director of Environment (Property, Parks and Sustainability) and the Strategic Cabinet Member for Environment and Planning, who explained the key aspects of the Council’s uplift scheme, and emphasised that the scheme would be tailored to each community. The Uplift scheme would also be informed by the results of the All in One consultation. It was explained that the uplift projects would be phased with the first work to be carried out in Hampton North in relation to the Children’s Centre. The street scene in the centre of Whitton was also identified as an early priority for the scheme.
In response to questions, the following information was provided:
(i) The Council was providing a financial contribution to the scheme, including an initial figure of £150,000 for surveys and feasibility work. However, it was also envisaged that other sources of funding could be identified. It was hoped that local partners such as housing associations and the RFU may be able to contribute to the scheme. In some areas the scheme could be self-funding depending on the land available.
(ii) The scheme would involve a comprehensive uplift for each of the five identified areas and would not focus solely on one aspect such as retail, housing or pavements, though all of these factors could be considered. It would also be useful to look at the evening economy in areas such as Whitton and to encourage a variety of businesses. Consultation would take place on the planning designation of town centre properties to seek to expand the primary shop frontage.
(iii) Consultation would take place in all uplift areas and ward councillors were welcome to join steering groups once established.
Committee Members welcomed the news of extra funding for the five uplift areas. Members noted the early stage of the project and requested that further details and plans for the five areas be tabled at a future Scrutiny meeting.
It was RESOLVED:
1. That the report be noted.
2. That an update on the general progress of the Uplift Strategy be received at the Committee in early 2012, before being reported to Cabinet.
The Committee is asked to consider a report of the Strategic Cabinet Member for Environment and Planning, summarising the current position in respect of waste and recycling and how these are evolving.
The report was introduced by the Assistant Director (Development and Street Scene) and the Head of Street Scene. The Assistant Director explained that following the Waste and Recycling Service report which had been received by the Committee in September 2010, there had been further improvements to the service agreed at Cabinet in January 2011 which included the streamlining of household recycling services to a simple twin stream and the rationalisation of bring sites. At the Cabinet meeting of 23 March 2011 a grant had been accepted from the London Waste and Recycling Board to implement the flats recycling improvement programme.
In response to members’ questions the following information was provided:
(i) Bring sites which were under-used were being removed. In place of this service residents in flats were being encouraged to make use of the flats recycling scheme which was expanding and was a more efficient use of resources.
(ii) In relation to bring-banks attracting fly-tipping, it was explained that clearer labelling of banks would address the problem to an extent. However, enforcement officers would be watchful for fly-tippers at bring sites and the Council had the power to prosecute offenders.
(iii) The Council had trialled giving free food waste bin liners to residents in an attempt to encourage food waste recycling. However, the food waste recycling rate had not significantly increased and the trial was not cost effective so had not been continued. In place of this trial the Council would target its communication about food recycling to areas of the borough where uptake of the scheme was lowest.
(iv) School children were being educated about the importance of recycling via the Wastebusters website and via waste audits which were carried out in homes and at educational facilities.
(v) The level of residual waste had recently declined so that the average household residual waste was now estimated to be slightly below the 551 kilos target for the year.
The Committee were interested to hear that there had been a reduction in the weights of packaging materials used by manufacturers and retailers and requested further details of this.
It was RESOLVED:
That the content of the report and the award of a grant from the London Waste and Recycling Board to implement the flats recycling improvement programme be noted.
ROAD SAFETY 20MPH SCRUTINY TASK GROUP
The Committee will receive a verbal update from the Director of Environment on the recommendations of the Road Safety 20mph Scrutiny Task Group.
The Committee received a brief verbal update on the recommendations of the Road Safety 20mph Scrutiny Task Group from the Assistant Director (Highways and Transport). It was explained that it had not been possible to implement all of the recommendations due to the current economic context of financial constraints.
In response to questions it was explained that:
(i) A number of possible locations for 20mph zones had been identified as suitable but it had not been possible to take further action at this stage.
(ii) The Highways Prioritisation report which had been taken to Cabinet on 23 March 2011 had not explicitly mentioned the introduction of 20mph zones but the emphasis of the report had been on the importance of meeting the needs of the community.
It was noted that the self policing nature of 20mph zones would represent an obstacle to the introduction of the scheme as funds would need to be found for speed humps and signage.
Some members of the Committee expressed a desire to receive further information about the relation between the Road Safety 20mph task group recommendations and the Highways Prioritisation programme.
It was RESOLVED:
That the update be noted.
This report gives details of the proposed work programme for the next municipal year 2011/12.
It was RESOLVED:
1. That the Committee receives a substantive report on the Climate Change Strategy at the next meeting.
2. The following items be included as suggestions for the 2011-12 Work Programme:
(i) The results of the All in One survey and the implications for the Environment Directorate.
(ii) The issue of mobile phone masts in the borough.
(iii) Neighbourhood Planning and the Localism Bill.