Agenda and minutes

Strategic Planning & Environment Overview & Scrutiny
Tuesday, 21st November, 2017 7.30 pm

Venue: Conference Room 2 - The Forum. View directions

Contact: Katie Mogan  Member Support

Items
No. Item

144.

Minutes

To agree the minutes of the previous meeting.

Minutes:

The minutes of the Strategic Planning and Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 10 October 2017 were confirmed by the members present and signed by the Chairman.

 

145.

Apologies for Absence

To receive any apologies for absence.

Minutes:

Apologies were received from Councillors S Hearn, Hicks and Matthews.

 

146.

Declarations of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

 

147.

Public Participation

Minutes:

There was no public participation.

 

148.

Consideration of any matter referred to the Committee in relation to Call-In

Minutes:

None.

149.

Fly tipping

A presentation will be given by Duncan Jones, Partnership Development Manager at Hertfordshire Waste Partnership

Minutes:

D Jones, Partnership Development Manager – Hertfordshire Waste Partnership gave a presentation to members regarding fly-tipping in Hertfordshire. The main points of the presentation were as follows:

  • In 2016/17, there were 15,216 recorded incidents of fly-tipping across Hertfordshire which cost £1.1 million.
  • The Hertfordshire Fly Tipping Group have been working closely with the Police and Crime Commissioner and have been able to access the nuisance fund which is worth £100,000 per annum. In 2016/17, the Hertfordshire Fly Tipping Group received £82,266 of this money and £50,000 in 2017/18.
  • The group found that there was little publicity about enforcement action and this has now been included on the work programme.
  • Small fines in the Magistrates Court are not acting as a deterrent so the group have produced a report for the Magistrates Association to explain the costs of fly tipping on local authorities.
  • A common definition of fly tipping has been agreed so cases can now be compared like for like across the county.
  • 60% of fly tipping in Hertfordshire is domestic in nature
  • In 2016/17, there were 36 prosecutions and 31 Fixed Penalty Notices. In 2017/18 so far, there have been 18 prosecutions and 64 Fixed Penalty Notices. Before the Fixed Penalty Notices, all cases had to go to court.

Councillor Timmis said in her ward, fly tipping has become endemic. It is a largely rural area so it is hard to catch the offenders. The fines are not enough to deter fly tippers and £300 could buy you skip. She said she had spoken to farmers who are fed up of fly tipping on their land, it costs them £1000 each time to clear it up. Councillor Timmis felt that not enough was being done and a Keep Britain Tidy survey found that 40% didn’t think fly tipping was a crime and 11% had admitted they had done it.

D Jones said he agreed that catching the offenders was the most difficult part. Currently, offenders feel the risk is worth it but the punishments are changing. CCTV cameras can now be mobile and wildlife cameras have been used but they have to be in the right place at the right time to catch fly tippers. In 2014, new sentencing guidelines were introduced for environmental issues and the group are working with local authorities to ensure they properly document the costs of fly tipping. In relation to farmers, it has been an on going debate but there is not an easy solution.

Councillor Timmis said that most of the fly tipping is from builders coming up from London. If there is evidence of the source and the homeowner has paid for removal then the onus should be on them.

D Jones said that residents have a duty of care to dispose of their waste legally. They can be fined or sent to prison but this is not commonly known. The Environment Agency have a website where waste removal licences can be checked.

Councillor Birnie asked about the fines and if  ...  view the full minutes text for item 149.

150.

Budget Monitoring Q2 pdf icon PDF 120 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

D Skinner introduced the item to members and ran through the main highlights of the report:

  • In paragraph 3.4, the forecast for Investment Income is showing a deficit of £115k. However, since the report was written, the Bank of England raised interest rates so this will be updated for the next quarter and will have a positive impact on the Medium Term Financial Strategy.
  • The report mainly contains a continuation of areas explored in previous quarters.
  • There are still vacancies in Building Control and these are being filled by agency staff.
  • A pressure of £75k has arisen in Strategic Planning and Regeneration from initial feasibility work on the proposed conversion of The Bury into a museum and this cannot be treated as capital expenditure.
  • There is an overachievement in income with planning fees which has picked up after the uncertainty caused by Brexit. This will need to be monitored in the future.
  • There is also an overachievement in income from the Alternative Financial Model and reflects the good work undertaken by the department.

Councillor Riddick referred to paragraph 4.3 and asked if the increase in planning fee income was due to the scale of applications or the volume.

J Doe said it was the scale and there have been a large number of major applications submitted recently.

Councillor Barrett referred to the decrease in commercial waste income and asked if it was a current trend.

D Skinner said this decrease was not over one quarter. Measures have been taken to review and optimise the round structure to ensure that collection is taking place in the most effective way.

Outcome

Councillor Anderson thanked D Skinner for all his hard work on the committee. The Strategic Planning and Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee approved the report.

 

151.

Environmental Services Q2 Performance Report pdf icon PDF 166 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

C Thorpe introduced the report to members and ran through the highlights and key achievements.

  • Environmental awareness has had a very busy quarter with new initiatives. The Love Parks campaign was more successful than expected.
  • The Community Champion awards were held at The Marchmont Arms and awards were given to individuals and local groups.
  • The department’s bid for help tackling fly tipping was successful and information leaflets will be distributed raising key messages.
  • A lead gardener for the Water Gardens is now in post and the Tree and Woodlands Officer post has been filled.
  • Members asked for analysis on reasons for sickness day and the report shows the majority of them are gastrointestinal which is to be expected as staff work in crews of 3-7 and any illness will spread quickly. Musculoskeletal issues are second on the list. Incidences of mental health absence have increased but these mean staff are often off for a longer period of time.
  • Number of accidents in this quarter are included in the report, there were 19 vehicle accidents but these were mostly knocking off wing mirrors which is to be expected when crews are visiting every road in the borough.
  • Regarding the performance indicators, the department is over target on collections which is impressive as they collect 1.2 million bins in each quarter.

Councillor C Wyatt-Lowe complimented C Thorpe and his team on the Water Gardens. She was pleased to see the smaller islands had been cleared of rubbish but the geese seem to have made a comeback and are pecking holes in the grass. Secondly, the new Swallowdale estate does not seem to have any general litter bins or dog waste bins installed and she asked if they were due to be.

C Thorpe said the dog waste bin contract did not fall under his remit. He was unsure about the situation regarding litter bins and said he would come back to Councillor C Wyatt-Lowe with an answer after the meeting. The geese have had an impact on the maintenance of the gardens. The team are working with others to come up with some solutions. One that has been suggested is to not cut the grass on the edge of the banks so it is difficult for them to get out the water.

Councillor Birnie asked what was the difference between litter and detritus.

C Thorpe said litter was rubbish dropped like crisp packets and detritus was dirt, earth and weeds.

Councillor Birnie said the department had been removing dog waste bins in his ward to see if it was cost effective. He asked if any conclusions could be drawn yet.

C Thorpe said there will be a report to this committee in January about dog waste bins. If dog waste bins are not able to be repaired then they are removed if there is a general litter bin nearby. There haven’t been any complaints as yet.

Councillor Birnie asked if any publicity had been promoted to tell residents that dog waste  ...  view the full minutes text for item 151.

152.

Regulatory Services Q2 Performance Report pdf icon PDF 99 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

E Walker introduced the item to members and ran through the key points:

  • A-C food inspections have dropped off significantly in this quarter. This is due to staff sickness but all staff have now returned to work so this is expected to pick up in the next quarter.
  • A corporate health and safety training session was delivered to members with positive feedback. Members requested accident data to be included in the quarterly update. There have been 33 accidents across the whole Council in Q2 (including vehicle accidents). Three of these accidents were RIDDOR reportable to the Health and Safety Executive. Two were over 7 day injuries, arising from a slip, trip or fall. The other was a member of the public taken straight to hospital arising from a slip, trip or fall.
  • There has been a significant increase in food poisoning cases but this has not been linked to a common cause and the department have been working closely with Public Health England.
  • There were two warrants to enter premises in Northend due to noise complaints. Equipment was seized and the Environmental Health Officer was called to court to give evidence and a closure order was granted,
  • The Stray Dog Service has maintained its Gold RSPCA award. Communications spent the day with the dog warden and promoted “The Day in the Life of the Dog Warden” on social media.

Councillor Anderson thanked E Walker for including the accident data in the report as requested.

Councillor Birnie asked what progress was being made on the noise complaints on Bovingdon Airfield.

E Walker said she believed it was still with the planning department who are working to reach a resolution.

Councillor Riddick said that staff turnover in the department seems to high.

E Walker said there was a national shortage of qualified staff and only two universities in the country offer the course needed.

Councillor Riddick referred to paragraph 3.1 and the number of accidents. He asked if the member of the public would be likely to claim against the council.

E Walker said the incident involved a child jumping of a swing and breaking their wrist. It was unlikely to come back against the council.

Councillor Riddick asked how staff were able to train at the University of Birmingham – do they get day release or is it distance taught?

E Walker said it was a mixture of both. University of Birmingham provides the masters course and University of Middlesex provide an undergraduate degree.

Councillor Riddick referred to the ASB noise order and asked what happened to the tenants.

E Walker said she was unsure but would come back to Councillor Riddick on that point.

Councillor Timmis congratulated the dog warden on the Gold Award.

Councillor Anderson thanked the department for all their hard work despite the staff vacancies and issues faced.

Outcome

That the Strategic Planning and Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee approve the report.

 

 

153.

Planning, Development and Regeneration Q2 Performance Report pdf icon PDF 67 KB

Report to follow

Additional documents:

Minutes:

J Doe introduced the report to members and ran through the key highlights:

  • There has been a 100% success rate in appeals
  • All major applications have been determined on time
  • The validation of applications is still proving difficult. There is a backlog which has been exacerbated by staff sickness and complex cases. The department has received assistance from the performance team and the average wait time for validating applications is down to 7 days.
  • There is an issue with recruitment and retention of staff especially in building control as the pay is better in the private sector.
  • The missing measures on the performance report are the planning enforcement figures. These are: 100% for priority 1 cases, 83% for priority 2 cases and 96% on priority 3 cases.

Councillor Birnie highlighted that there had been a lot of resignations in the department and asked how many staff were left.

J Doe said that there was an admin team, three trainees and one agency staff member. The Team Leader left due to personal circumstances and the Assistant Team Leader moved to the private sector for better pay.

Councillor Birnie asked if bonuses had been addressed to retain staff.

J Doe said the council had previously paid market forces supplements but this was phased out due to budget pressures. Retention of staff is becoming a growing problem and currently, the council’s pay policy does not include market force supplements. The only current option is to use agency staff which are expensive. J Doe assured members that different options and interim management assistance are being explored.

Councillor Birnie referred to the 100% success rate in appeals.

J Doe said this indicator varies from quarter to quarter and shows that there is good decision making from both members and officers. It also shows that the council has good, robust planning policies.

Councillor Birnie said he was unsure on the call-in process if an application is in a different ward.

J Doe said ward councillors have a 28 day period from when an application has been validated to call it in and give valid reasons why. Senior officers also have the ability to refer an application to the Development Management Committee if there is deemed to be a high level of public interest. Also, any application that a Town or Parish Council does not agree with the recommendation, and then this is automatically referred to the committee.

Councillor Birnie referred to the recent application for a Mosque in Nash Mills and said he had received 97 emails from residents raising concerns. Would this constitute enough public interest to go to the committee?

J Doe said that unless it was subject to a member call-in then he would be referring it to the committee.

Councillor Anderson said this point flags up the importance of members taking the time to read the constitution.

Councillor Fisher said that recently, the Development Management Committee were faced with applications that had been approved but a second had been submitted with a  ...  view the full minutes text for item 153.

154.

Air Pollution Update pdf icon PDF 218 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

D Newnham introduced the report to members and ran through the key points:

  • Part IV of the Environment Act 1995 requires Local Authorities to review air quality within their area. If it appears that any air quality ‘objective’ prescribed in the regulations and in the National Air Quality Strategy is not likely to be achieved then the Local Authority must designate the affected areas as Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs). The Act then requires that an Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) be produced for any areas designated as AQMAs, setting out the actions that the Council intend to take to achieve the air quality objectives. 
  • In June 2012 Dacorum Borough Council formally declared three identified areas where it was likely that the annual mean air quality objective for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) (40µg/m3) would not be met, these areas are:

AQMA 1: Lawn Lane, Hemel Hempstead

AQMA 2: London Road, Apsley

AQMA 3: High Street, Northchurch 

  • With regards to the Lower Kings Road monitoring site, the monitoring data for 2014 to 2016 has indicated exceedances of the annual mean NO2 concentration in 2014 and 2015. The annual mean NO2 objective was not exceeded in 2016. In terms of the further action, Defra have advised Regulatory Services should await the results of the 2017 data before taking further action. An exceedance for 2017 would form a just cause to declare an AQMA.

Councillor Birnie referred to the 20 mitigation measures included in the report but it doesn’t contain anything truly proactive and relies on the vague hope that people will give up their cars. People’s health is in danger and pollution is increasing. Apsley and Lawn Lane are the most polluted areas in the borough and there is a proposal to build hundreds of new flat which is inappropriate and dangerous.

D Newnham said air quality was a material planning consideration. She said she had made comments on the Two Waters Masterplan consultation. The national planning guidance informs when to ask for an air quality assessment.

Councillor Birnie said assessments are not needed. Electric vehicles will not be common place until 2030.

D Newnham said conditions can be put on major applications if it will worsen the air quality situation.

Councillor Birnie said the council have admitted that traffic contributes to the problem yet there is constant static traffic in Apsley. The road structure is the problem.

The Chairman said the Vice-Chairman who represented Apsley and he were grateful that they were invited to participate in the workshops conducted to draft the Two Waters Masterplan.  Apsley High Street was the way in to and from Hemel Hempstead for Councillor Anderson's consitituents and the road had largely become impassible due to congestion.  As a result of the workshops, the draft Masterplan contained a proposal for the widening of the bridge in Durrants Hill, which ultimately could be paid for by developer contributions.

Councillor Birnie said that perhaps DBC should liaise closely with HCC on the design of the roads.

D Newnham  ...  view the full minutes text for item 154.

155.

Work programme pdf icon PDF 104 KB

Minutes:

The work programme was agreed.