Councillors' Attendance Statistics
Agenda and minutes
Environment and Sustainability Overview & Scrutiny Committee
Wednesday, 24 June 2009 7:00 pm
Venue: Sheen Lane Centre, Sheen Lane, East Sheen.
Contact: Gary Lelliott; 020 8891 7275; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Apologies for absence were received from Michael Gold and Tony Goodall.
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.
There were no declarations of interest.
To consider and approve the minutes of the meeting held on 23 April 2009 attached.
The minutes of the meeting held on 24 April 2009 be received and approved, subject to the following amendments, and the Chair be authorised to sign them:
· Item 6 - PARKING CHARGES (REVIEW FOLLOWING PUBLIC CONSULATION)
Amend the fourth sentence in Councillor Khosa’s statement to read “The Task Group asked officers to carefully monitor the impact of the free parking in Borough car parks (where applicable) on the forthcoming Bank Holiday in order to ensure that it had resulted in a positive impact on businesses”
· Item 6 - PARKING CHARGES (REVIEW FOLLOWING PUBLIC CONSULATION)
Add an additional bullet point at the end of the item, before the resolution that reads “The underlying principle of the scheme was that the polluter pays”.
REPRESENTATIONS BY THE PUBLIC
· Mr John Coates
· Mr Byron Criddle
· Mr David Gray
· Mr Dennis Leigh
· Mr Keith Norton
EXECUTIVE DECISIONS CALLED IN
There were no Executive Decisions called-in.
This report provides further information, relevant to Environment, which is included in the Quarterly Performance Report (4th Quarter 2008-09). The full council-wide report includes :
· Areas for Improvement
· Progress with projects
· Performance Indicators
Report of the Director of Environment attached.
Following questions/comments from members of the Committee, the meeting was advised that:
· There were two figures in tables for major planning applications, one referred to the quarter period and the other the yearly period. For the first period of this year the figure to process major applications were lower than the target, however, it was still anticipated that the ‘year end’ figure would be met.
· The targets seemed to measure satisfaction from a developer’s perspective, but not from a resident’s.
· Some of the targets were set nationally and some were set by the Council.
· Officers would report back on whether the national figures relating to carbon reduction contained in the report would now replace the local ones set in the previous year.
· The level of confidence that could be placed on the term “unconfirmed” in measure NI193 was fairly high. Officers were confident that it was as accurate as possible.
· The nature of the upheld Stage 2 complaint was unknown, although Councillors would be advised of this by officers should it not be confidential.
· The Council tried to learn all it could from both upheld complaints and ones that were dismissed.
· The indicator that measured the conditions of footways in last year’s report was removed as it was a local indicator which was misleading. It only took account of stretches of pathway with a substantial level of footfall.
RESOLVED that the report be noted.
An allotment task group was set up to look at the current management of allotments and to make recomendations.The Task Group Membership was: Cllr Cardy (Chair), Cllr Hodgins, Cllr Mumford and Cllr Warren. The Task group established the following terms of reference:
· To hear evidence from interested and relevant parties
· To scrutinise the draft allotment strategy and make recommendations, as appropriate, to improve the service
· To look specifically at how the Council can respond to the current high level of demand for allotments.
Report of the Head of Parks and Open Spaces attached.
Allotments Task Group report attached.
The Chair reminded the meeting that a review of the Council’s Allotment Strategy was shortly to be undertaken, and that the recommendations made by the Task Group, and the feedback from the present meeting, would be taken into account in that review. The review was expected to be completed in the autumn and would be brought before the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
Councillor Cardy, Chair of the Task Group, introduced the item by thanking those members and officers involved in the Task Group.
Lots of views had been given and some of these had been incorporated into the Task Group’s report. Councillor Cardy assured allotment users that their plot would not be taken away should they go on holiday. The report was only recommending taking away plots that were subject to long-term neglect.
There was a shortage of plots and the aim was to have as many of the available ones as possible cultivated.
The Committee heard representations from members of the public who raised the following points:
· Mr John Coates
Had reservations about the effectiveness of dividing plots. As waiting lists had been closed, there was now an unknown demand for plots. Most plots were now 5 rods in size, which was the result of halving 10 rod plots some years ago. There should not be a set of rigid polices, but instead a set of guidelines that could be tailored to specific sites around the borough. Some plants required more space in which to grow than what was being offered. It was not fair to give those on waiting lists an instantly smaller plot. Those on waiting lists should be able to see where they were on the list, who was above them and who was expected to get plots after them via publicly available documents.
o Following questions from the Committee Mr Coates informed the meeting that he did not feel dividing plots was the answer, as the level of demand was not known. Some people would be willing to wait longer for larger plots. Allotments should be able to operate internal waiting lists where those who have had plots for a period of time have an opportunity to upgrade to a larger plot size.
· Mr Byron Criddle
Had concerns over the long-term effectiveness of dividing plots. Smaller plots do not necessarily work well with normal horticultural practices. Crop rotation was an essential part of growing and harvesting produce and smaller, more narrow plots would make this impossible. It would also mean that harvesting meaningful amounts of food became more difficult.
· Mr Dennis Leigh
It was a legal requirement to supply plots to those who wanted them. The level of demand was unknown as the waiting lists had long since been closed. More consideration should be given to how far people were willing to travel to their plot. How many more plots would re-opening the Mereway site provide?
· Mr Keith Norton
Wanted to know how plot splitting came about. Felt that the bonfires recommendation was a “red herring”. Many of the recommendations such as probation periods and rules on large under cultivated plots were not based on any evidence. Should not threaten elderly people, or those suffering through illness with eviction from their plots. There should just be more fair sized plots instead of just dividing the ones that were already there. There were no suggestions of costs in the report. Would like the possibility of sharing land amongst organisations to be pursued, as this would enable their members to use plots collectively.
· Mr David Gray
People use plots to escape the pressures of life. Allotments should be for leisure purposes.
The Chair of the Committee invited questions and comments from the floor:
· Decisions on what to do with unused or under cultivated plots should be taken openly and fairly.
· The visual appearance of some plots does not necessarily mean they are not well used.
· People’s circumstances should always be taken into account.
· People should be able to share plots if they wish.
· Some plots in the west of the Borough have historically been left vacant, while there have always been waiting lists in the east of the Borough,
· In order to get an idea of demand, there is a need now to canvass people on whether they would like a plot.
· It was not easy for allotment committees to manage sites as the rules and regulations were old and on many occasions were no longer applicable.
· Making more plots available would increase the workload for both allotment committees and the local authority.
· There needed to be a good flow of information between the Council and allotment committees.
· Some sites had tried introducing long-term compost heaps, but there had been issues with people dumping waste on them as well as trying to compost inappropriate items.
· The “easing into retirement” proposals may not work if some of the people already being helped were using smaller plots and were still struggling to maintain them.
· The Task Group was thanked for its work.
The Head of Parks and Open Spaces made the following comments:
· The allotments service had recently transferred from the facilities management team to the well respected parks department at the Council.
· Thanks should be extended to the Committee for looking at this issue as it had opened a valuable dialogue between interested parties.
· A new full-time appointment was to be made to manage the allotments service in the borough.
· There was a need to define what “under cultivated” meant.
Following questions from members of the Committee, the meeting was advised that:
· There was a list of all allotment associations.
· Digital mapping of allotments was currently underway.
· It was planned to carry out an allotments satisfaction survey.
· The Cabinet Member for Environment would be looking at whether large developers could be asked to contribute to the cost of providing more allotments when the Local Development Framework was reviewed.
· The Council would investigate whether it was possible to provide any more space for allotments.
Members of the Committee expressed the following views:
· James Page
If new areas of land became available, these should be considered as potential sites before plots were divided.
· Councillor Stanier
Officers should concentrate on computerising waiting lists for allotments with a view to continuing to add names to them. Should look at converting areas of open land, such as community gardens, into allotments.
· Councillor Seymour
Should open waiting lists, particularly in light of the fact that there is a legal requirement placed upon councils to provide plots to anyone who wished to have one. A clear set of rules for the operation of allotment sites should be produced as a priority; these should then be applied on a case-by-case basis. Plots of less than 5 rods in size were unworkable.
· Councillor Head
Allotment holders should be consulted when considering a draft set of rules for the management of sites. These should then offer a degree of flexibility so they can be tailored to specific sites.
· Councillor Mumford
One size does not fit all. Did not feel that large 10 rod plots should be handed to people who had never maintained a plot before. The minimum plot size should be left to the individual to decide as some people have been left happy with plots of only 1 rod in size. There was a need for fairness when considering evicting people from their tenure. The phased retirement proposals should be offered to allotment holders on a voluntary basis.
· Councillor Warren
Waiting lists should be re-opened in order to gain an idea of the true demand for plots. An annual update of information on plot holders should be carried out via e-mail. Should try to avoid dividing plots. There should be a right of appeal on warning letters.
· Councillor Fleming
A record of what people want from their allotments should be compiled and the Council should seek out new areas in which to place allotments.
· Councillor Cardy
Emphasised that the Task Group was only proposing the division of “larger plots”. The strategy should not be entirely reliant on the division of larger plots, but should form part of a range of measures. Looking at re-commissioning disused plots, although it would prove controversial to do so at the Mereway site as this was now an area for wildlife. The Mereway site also had long-term issues with security. The possibility of providing more fruit producing bushes/trees in parks was being looked at. The possibility of land sharing was seen as a good idea, but it was felt that it would not be appropriate for the Council to be left as an intermediary in these issues. Should check the levels of satisfaction amongst holders of 1 rod plots.
1. The following recommendations be submitted to officers as part of the Allotments Strategy:
§ Excess demand for plots should be met by introducing new sites wherever possible.
§ Waiting lists should be re-opened.
§ Advice should be taken on what the minimum workable size of a plot is.
§ There should be a clear set of rules available to both the Council and allotment committees, which could be applied on a case-by-case basis.
§ The “easing into retirement” scheme should be entirely voluntary.
§ There should be consultation when considering the new set of rules/guidelines.
§ There should be a database which detailed what individuals want from their own plots.
§ People on waiting lists should be kept updated when their position in the queue changes.
§ The possibility of providing an obligation to developers to contribute to the cost of introducing new plots should be investigated when the new Local Development Framework was being drafted.
2. That the Task Group report be noted, subject to the comments above.
This report gives details of the proposed work programme for the municipal year 2009/10.
Report of the Senior Democratic Services Officer attached.
· Waste Collection Services – review after operation be extended to include information on ways in which the Council could reduce the number of bonfires being held.
· That a report be received on the services available to residents suffering from various forms of noise pollution.
· That a potential Task Group which looked at the benefits of licensing bicycles in the Borough to encourage accountability amongst cyclists be investigated.
· That an item entitled “Place Survey – Local Implementation Plan” be received at the September meeting.
· That an item relating to “Thames Estuary 2100” be added when consultation had started, with the view to the Committee submitting a response.
· That an update on the new incinerator at Colnbrook be received, along with an update on any guidance being issued. This item to be combined with the item on Waste Collection Services.
· That a report for information be received, which gave details on what work was taking place to encourage schools and businesses to introduce travel plans.