Councillors' Attendance Statistics
Agenda and minutes
Environment and Sustainability Overview & Scrutiny Committee
Wednesday, 23 September 2009 7:00 pm
Venue: Clarendon Hall, York House, Richmond Road, Twickenham
Contact: Gary Lelliott; 020 8891 7275; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Warren 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.
Councillor Stanier declared a personal interest in agenda item 6. Allotment Strategy 2010-2015 by virtue of knowing one of the registered speakers. Councillor Stanier had not discussed the matter with them.
To consider and approve the minutes of the meetings held on 24 June 2009 and 22 July 2009 - attached.
· Minute 17 – to include apologies from Michael Gold.
· Minute 21.1, third pointer – delete “as people were then reluctant to leave it again”.
· Minute 21.6, second paragraph – Add an additional sentence “He stressed the need not only to take notice of the residents who had spoken at the meeting but to take account of the many residents who had made their views known through letters and comments on consultation forms”.
REPRESENTATIONS BY THE PUBLIC (IF ANY)
· Mr Michael Thierens
· Mr Dennis Leigh
· Ms Gina Ingram
· Mr Mike Warren
· Mr Malcolm Bell
EXECUTIVE DECISIONS CALLED IN (IF ANY)
There were no Executive Decisions called-in.
In June 2009 an allotment task group fed back to the Committee the findings of its study into the current management of allotments. Following this report, the Head of Parks and Open Spaces was tasked with writing a Draft Allotment Strategy, for consideration and comment by the Committee, and the public.
Upon receiving the comments any necessary amendments will be made and the strategy will be presented to Cabinet for formal adoption.
Report of the Head of Parks and Open Spaces attached.
The committee received the following representations:
Mr Michael Thierens – Cavendish House Allotments
The Cavendish House Allotments Committee was generally positive about the content of the draft strategy, with some reservations. Clarification was sought over who would be responsible for initiating plot termination procedures – the Council, or individual allotment committees?
Clarification on what constituted under-cultivated plots was welcomed, but information on whether plot holders could use their space to grow flowers was needed. When questioned, Mr Thierens advised the committee that some plots were entirely devoted to flower growing. In his opinion this should be stopped as it was contrary to the purpose of allotments which was “to feed the family”.
Mr Thierens was also concerned about making the allotments service self funding. Other facilities such as sports pitches were not required to be so and the same regime should apply to allotments.
Mr Dennis Leigh – Briar Road Allotments
Pointed out that the level of demand for plots was currently unknown because the waiting lists had been closed for some time. Furthermore, the plots that had been listed in the report were not accompanied with details of their sizes.
In his view the committee should have been presented with details of the allotment service’s costs as the review recommended that it became self financing. Mr Leigh said that the cost of leasing an allotment from the Council had been increasing at twice the rate of inflation for several years.
Mr Leigh felt that the committee should be presented with all of the facts before being asked to comment on any draft strategy.
[Councillor McLeod arrived]
Ms Gina Ingram – Priory Allotments
Ms Ingram thanked the Task Group and officers for looking at this issue.
The aim of an allotment was to allow people to grow their own food. If a plot was too small, it would not allow for this to be done in a sustainable fashion because rotation of crops had to be maintained in order to avoid the land becoming infected. 5 rods was the minimum workable plot size and instances where 1 rod plots were not considered to be sustainable.
When questioned, Ms Ingram advised the committee that offering smaller 1 or 2 rods plots as ‘starter plots’ would soon become unworkable as the land would become infected and produce no crops. This would apply equally to an enthusiastic newcomer given a smaller plot because they could damage the land by intensive cultivation. Ms Ingram suggested instead that a small group of people sharing a larger plot e.g. 5 people to share 5 rods might be a solution. The mentoring scheme for new plot holders would need to be managed well in order for people to get the most benefit from it.
The Chair invited comments and questions from the floor:
Mr Mike Warren – Hatherop Allotments
Mr Warren said that the recent regeneration of Hatherop Park meant that toilets were being installed for the public to use for free. The allotment holders were paying fees, yet were unable to have a toilet installed at the site. It was felt by some of the plot holders that Hatherop Park received less visitors than the allotments. The toilets at the pavilion in the park were too far away to use.
Mr Malcolm Bell – Walnut Tree Allotments
He considered10 rod plots too large for most plot holders. 25% of a plot should be allowed for growing flowers, while the rest should be used for growing produce.
There were some very enthusiastic people wanting plots, but they were being discouraged by waiting lists and a general lack of facilities such as parking or water. The facilities being offered at some sites needed to be closely inspected to ensure that they were meeting needs e.g. that water pipes were not leaking. It would also be useful for allotment holders to occasionally be able to speak with the officer in charge of the service.
The Cabinet Member for Environment and the Head of Parks and Open Spaces
Before responding the Cabinet Member thanked the Committee and public for their views and feedback. He confirmed that the allotments service was experiencing problems of supply and demand. Although the number of people requesting plots was unknown, it was clear that there was an excess of demand over supply and it was right to try and increase provision wherever possible.
Although the Council was obliged to provide plots, that obligation did not extend to providing plots on demand.
A key aim was to reduce the number of under-cultivated plots. This could be done via a number of means such as offering plot holders a phased retirement scheme and smaller plots. Smaller plots would also be welcomed by newcomers. Soil contamination, which was a concern brought about by reducing plot sizes, could be dealt with through the assistance of experienced plot holders, some of whom had a lot of knowledge.
The Council had yet to decide how much the cost of a plot should rise by. It was not intended that the allotment service should become self funding in one fell swoop, but a modest increase would help to improve the service.
Interest in taking on allotments was currently high, and it was important to note that the Council was not looking to make a profit from its allotment service.
Hatherop Park was visited by a good number of people and a suggestion of placing a gate in the dividing fence between Hatherop Park and the allotments had been received in order to improve access to the facilities in Hatherop Park for users of the allotments.
It was important to note that allotments were closed spaces, which meant that they differed from parks which were open spaces and therefore warranted toilet facilities.
The issue of what constituted under-cultivation and whether flowers were included in this heading would be looked at.
Following questions from members of the committee, the meeting was advised that:
· the waiting lists would reopen;
· the estimated shortfall for the allotments service was in the region of £50-60k;
· a detailed budget breakdown would be sent to committee members;
· the quarterly allotments forum could be attended by members of the public and councillors;
· the termination procedure would only be initiated as a last resort, although it was noted that the initial letter to a plot holder should be sympathetic to potential personal circumstances;
· the option of taking away part of someone’s plot would be looked if the plotholder was only able to cultivate a small section of the plot;
· residents would be able to move from a smaller plot by joining the waiting list for a larger plot, should this be something they wish to do;
· if someone refused the offer of a plot more than twice, they would be taken off of the waiting list;
· sites that had problems with anti-social behaviour could work with their Safer Neighbourhood Team;
· the Parks and Open Spaces department was in possession of a mobile CCTV camera, which was currently being used at an allotment site for the first time. It could be deployed to enable the police and Council to tackle persistent cases of crime such as theft or vandalism;
· there were equality issues associated with taking plots away from out of borough users;
· historically the demand for plots went in cycles. Allotments were currently fashionable because of several high profile campaigns, television shows and the recession;
· officers felt that there was enough land within the borough to expand supply without it becoming necessary to go and purchase addition land at great cost;
· most offers made to people on the waiting list were for 5 rod plots, so it wouldn’t necessarily mean it was unreasonable for someone to refuse a smaller 2 rod plot;
· the bi-annual survey would be a simple short survey which aimed to establish people’s satisfaction with the allotments service. It would also inform future decision making and dictate how the service adapts to meet the needs of customers;
· there were instances where some people had been sharing a plot with someone else, without the Council’s knowledge. This then made it difficult to establish how this was being done well, although it was noted that the Council would not mediate should a disagreement occur.
Members of the Committee expressed the following views:
· Some members had concerns over whether these measures would help the service meet the demand for plots.
· There should be flexible devolvement to allotment committees to enable them to take on what they wished.
· Would like more clarification on who could terminate someone’s tenure of a plot. Could this responsibility not be delegated to someone else?
· The phased retirement scheme could also offer people the opportunity to care for the communal areas of sites.
· GIS mapping may be problematic because of various existing pathways. Allocation of the pathways to particular plots could be problematical especially if this allocation meant some people might need to pay more.
· Shading and soil contamination should be taken into account when dividing larger plots.
· Money for the purchase of additional land for allotments could be gained by obtaining money from developers of larger sites.
· More investigation should take place in order to establish whether plots could be handed out by distance from a site, much in the same way as school places are allocated.
The Committee looked at each recommendation contained in the allotment strategy and provided the following comments:
· Recommendation 1 – some flexibility was required in the operation of a quarterly forum.
· Recommendation 2 – this recommendation should include consulting an expert in the field in order to determine the absolute minimum plot size.
· Recommendation 3 – any amendment to the garden rules should be carried out in consultation with the Cabinet Member and the Environment and Sustainability Overview & Scrutiny Committee.
· Recommendation 4 – the revised termination procedure should be made as sympathetic as possible to the situation of individual plot holders.
· Recommendation 5 – nothing to add.
· Recommendation 6 – nothing to add.
· Recommendation 7 – nothing to add.
· Recommendation 8 – nothing to add.
· Recommendation 9 – this should include an allowance for plot holders who wanted to transfer to a different sized plot.
· Recommendation 10 – nothing to add.
· Recommendation 11 – nothing to add.
· Recommendation 12 – nothing to add.
· Recommendation 13 – plot mapping should take place in conjunction with allotment committees.
· Recommendation 14 – the Overview and Scrutiny committee should be involved in the formulation of a new finance process for allotments. The reference to making the allotments service self financing within 5 years should be deleted.
· Recommendation 15 – nothing to add.
The committee also asked that the following additional obligation be considered:
RESOLVED that the draft allotment strategy be noted, subject to the committee’s comments.
This report provides details, via the accompanying Cabinet Report, on transport schemes being submitted by the Borough to Transport for London (TfL) for funding in 2010-11.
Report of the Assistant Director for Environment attached.
[Councillor McLeod was not present during consideration of this item]
The meeting was given details of what the Local Implementation Plan was and how it had changed when compared to previous years. It was advantageous in that the Council would now know how much money it would have to spend, with no need to place bids. The level of funding was down on the previous year. Councillors had been involved in the formation of the plan.
The bus lane replacement on Kew Road included works on improving the traffic flow for buses and improving the environment for pedestrians.
The demand for a puffin crossing outside Richmond Station had come from both businesses and members. The puffin crossing also enabled a greater control of traffic flow. Councillor Mumford suggested that officers await the findings of the Road Safety in Residential Areas Task Group. Officers agreed to provide the committee with accident data for this location.
There was a 20mph zone being introduced in the Richmond Town Centre scheme and should requirements dictate this, money could be moved between schemes. It was officers opinions that the Task Group would suggest lower cost schemes so it was not, at this moment, necessary to set money aside.
Officers were confident that planned schemes would be completed because they knew how much money the Council would be receiving.
One-way street cycling schemes were under review and it was suggested that some money be spent on reviewing junctions that were regularly causing problems.
The maintenance of the Legible London signage was part of the contract and was not a cost that needed to be factored into the budget.
The preferred option for Richmond Town Centre was subject to extensive modelling and having a puffin crossing enabled linking to the traffic lights at the junction of Church Road.
The main driver for the Richmond Town Centre works was to make the area more pleasant for pedestrians and improve the general appearance of the area.
The Council would be working with Network Rail should work become necessary on the railway bridge at Barnes Station. This would be with the aim of reducing disruption for motorists and residents.
Councillor Mumford suggested that Richmond upon Thames needed many more 20mph zones as it was behind many other London boroughs in terms of the numbers of zones in place. He also added that there should be consultation which took account of pedestrians’ views.
RESOLVED that the report be noted, subject to the committee’s comments.
This report gives details of the proposed work programme for the municipal year 2009/10 and seeks to confirm the membership of the Road Safety in Residential Areas Task Group.
Report of the Senior Democratic Services Officer attached.
RESOLVED that the work programme be updated to include an information report on the Civic Campus energy supply works.