Agenda and minutes

Strategic Planning & Environment Overview & Scrutiny
Tuesday, 23rd January, 2018 7.30 pm

Venue: Conference Room 2 - The Forum. View directions

Contact: Katie Mogan  Member Support

Items
No. Item

1.

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 5 December 2017 were confirmed by the members present and signed by the Chairman.

 

2.

Apologies for Absence

To receive any apologies for absence.

Minutes:

Apologies were received from Councillor Hicks.

 

3.

Declarations of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

 

4.

Public Participation

Minutes:

There was no public participation.

 

5.

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

Minutes:

None.

6.

Dog Waste Bin Contract pdf icon PDF 668 KB

Minutes:

C Thorpe introduced the report to members. He explained that the dog waste bin contract went out to tender in 2013 and was awarded to TBS Hygiene Services. At the end of the contract, it was decided to move the service in-house and so the contract was extended for a further three months and is due to expire on 31st March 2018.
There are 440 bins across the borough which are emptied on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. The service performance has been good, with a few complaints over the summer months about overflowing bins. Modelling suggests that the Council could make a revenue saving of £30k per year by phasing out the specialist dog bins and instead encouraging dog owners to use general litter bins. Officers have contacted colleagues in the Herts Waste Partnership to learn if any of them have undertaken similar projects. Other authorities have introduced stickers on general litter bins to educate the public and raise awareness.
Health and Safety issues are included in the report but other local authorities haven’t reported any. Staff that empty the bins are provided with gloves and other protective clothing.
The risks associated with Roundworm are incredibly small and it is considered that there is a greater risk from fox excrement left on the ground.
Human Resources are in discussions with the current service provider to determine whether TUPE applies which would enable the current operative to transfer into DBC’s ranks.
In readiness of this bins that have been in need of repair or replacement have been marked as “out of service” and dog walkers requested to dispose of their dog waste in the nearest litter bin located nearby and no complaints have been received so far. A further rationalisation of dog waste bins, and their location in relation to general litter bins, has been undertaken and it is envisaged that a further 176 dog waste bins could be removed. A further 78 bins require surveying. Dog waste bins hold 35 litres and general litter bins hold 110 litres.
To raise awareness of this change, there will a press release, increased signage to encourage responsible disposal of dog waste and ward councillors will be notified if any bins are due to removed in their local area.

Councillor Matthews asked if the contract extension could have been foreseen and avoided. He asked what the financial implications of extending the contract were.

C Thorpe said this contract had only recently moved under his service and felt there was not enough data to make a decision on the contract. It was extended to survey the current stock of bins and there has also been a delay trying to find out if TUPE applies.

Councillor Matthews referred to paragraph 8. He said some people go through litter bins to collect recyclables or to look for things to sell on. He asked what measures will be put in place to ensure that the public are aware of the risks in the bin.

C Thorpe  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Annual Review of Complaints pdf icon PDF 52 KB

Minutes:

D Austin and J Doe gave a presentation on complaints over the year in their service areas.

D Austin explained that the public can make a complaint online via the website. A stage 1 complaint is investigated by a Group Manager and if it is escalated to stage 2 complaint then it will be investigated by an Assistant Director. If the complainant is not satisfied with the stage 2 response, they can contact the ombudsman.

J Doe ran through the main areas of complaints with the Development Management service:
- didn’t receive a letter about application
- didn’t see the site notice
- can’t see comments online
- comments not taken into account
- disagree with decision
- certain policies not taken into account

J Doe said the complaints process was a positive experience and allows for services to improve. The new planning software is due to go out to tender and this should solve the problems currently experienced by the public.

Councillor Ransley said the main issue with the current system is that people do not know if their comments have been received and perhaps there should be a system in place to acknowledge receipt.

J Doe said this would have to be done manually. There is nothing on the system to allow that function. The department do not have the resources to respond to every comment.

Councillor Timmis said there had been a few applications in her ward that did not have a single comment online. She also added that these complaints in the presentation are only those submitted online and queried about those that are sent via email or on the phone. She hoped that in the future, the report could include what the departments were learning from the complaints.

D Austin said the complaints could be incorporated into the quarterly performance reports and then members could see trends developing. These aren’t the only complaints the council receive. A lot come via the MP but this is being looked into by Rob Smyth to see if it can be incorporated into the data.

Councillor Birnie said it would be useful if the complaints could be broken down. He commented that planning officers should be able to make a sensible distinction about sending notification to residents about a planning application. Some controversial applications affect a wider area yet residents are surprised when they find out about it as they haven’t been notified.

J Doe said this was a valid point. The Council must prepare a Statement of Community Involvement which sets out standards that must be followed. For major applications, we are required to put adverts in the local press. He said he would this up with Councillor G Sutton to see if policies should be reviewed.

Councillor S Hearn asked who you complain to if Dacorum has made a decision on a planning application due to incorrect information from Herts Highways?

J Doe said the permission comes from Dacorum. Herts County Council are only a consultee. There  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Housing White Paper "Right Homes in the Right Places"

The Assistant Director for Planning, Development and Regeneration will give an update on what the Council has said to the Government in connection with this consultation, and members are asked to decide what action/s if any to take.

Minutes:

Councillor Anderson introduced the item.  The Government's consultation had run out some weeks previously, and it was concerning both that the committee had missed an opportunity to have its say on the consultation, and that the Government will have come under intense pressure to re-raise the lower housing allocation for Dacorum.  He felt there was an opportunity to lobby the Government out of the consultation window, and tabled a draft letter appealing to the Government to retain the lower figure.

J Doe said the government issued a consultation in September 2017. It was a long awaited consultation and is supposed to give a standard approach/method on housing needs. It was expected that there would be a formula for local authorities to calculate need however, the responsibility was handed down to individual boroughs. Dacorum was rewarded with a relatively low figure because the council has an up to date Local Plan but here has been confusion around this figure. If a plan is beyond five years old, the figure reverts to a higher number. Dacorum’s Local Plan reaches that milestone in September 2018. Currently, the low figure is 607 but the higher number could be in the region of 1,000-1,100 which is way above anything the council have ever experienced.
The council need clarity on the figure expected and whether we can rely on the lower figure. The government will be considering the responses submitted and this will contribute to formulating the new National Policy Framework which is expected as a final document in summer of this year.

Councillor Anderson asked J Doe if any harm could be foreseen if the committee was to send the letter as tabled (see Appendix A).

J Doe said he didn’t think it would. The government will have received many responses at polar ends of the spectrum. The government’s policy is clear: a significant boost to building houses is needed.

Councillor G Sutton said he was happy to take this forward.

Councillor Anderson asked the committee for its support in sending the response to the government.

Councillor C Wyatt-Lowe said she supported the letter with some changes. She felt paragraph four was quite vague and the additional of the new home figures would make it clearer.

Councillor Anderson said he would redraft the letter and send to members via email.

Councillor Fisher asked if the lower figure would mean an increase in house prices.

J Doe said this comes down to many factors. Hertfordshire is a high value area with a high level of unaffordability. The more expensive an area, the more house they will need to build. The supply of new homes is dependent on developers who regulate development to influence the price.

Councillor C Wyatt-Lowe said the mix of homes needed to be looked at to accommodate the rise in single people, the elderly and those with additional needs.

J Doe said the government figures are just numbers, they do not specify the types of housing needed. DBC will be conducting work  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Luton Airport expansion pdf icon PDF 91 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Timmis gave an update to the committee. The report in the agenda is from London Luton Airport and provides statistics about 2017. There is no mention of the new plans which will see 36 million passengers a year by 2050. The current plan is to have 18 million passengers by 2025, but already it has reached 15 million. Luton Airport do not have the same constraints on night flights as other airports like Heathrow.
The noise from the airport falls heavily on Markyate and Flamstead but DBC don’t seem to be pushing this. St Albans Council has submitted a huge objection to the expansion so we should be joining with them.
The airport is holding consultations in this area but the results don’t seem to be fed back.
The airport has promised quieter aircraft but currently they only have two. Also, larger planes are planned which would increase the number of passengers but would need a greater take off angle, further increasing the noise.
Air Traffic Control are undertaking a reorganisation of the skies, the current problem at Luton is that there are stacking areas at a higher altitude for Heathrow and London City airports and so the planes have to take off at a lower level to avoid this area.
Overall, the problem is that Luton Borough Council owns the airport and are the planning authority. The airport generates income and the Secretary of State is keen to expand airports because of the economic benefits.
Councillor Timmis said that she had arranged a meeting with Sir Mike Penning MP in the hope he will be able to lobby the government.

Councillor Birnie said he felt that DBC should be more proactive in approaching the airport about noise. He said it had been brought up at Herts County but the airport is in Bedfordshire so even they have limited influence. The only meaningful influence and direction will come from the Civil Aviation Authority or central government.

Councillor Ransley said if the airport expands, it’ll start taking in more goods flights. Currently, there is a goods flight that comes over Tring at 2.30am every night.

Councillor C Wyatt-Lowe agreed that the noise was bad, it is also noisy in Woodhall Farm and Grovehill. She said central government are pushing for airport expansion but local authorities have greater control and influence over infrastructure. It might be better to focus attention on night flights and try and get them controlled.

Councillor S Hearn said DBC should be contacting Luton Borough Council as they are the driving force behind the airport. Over the last five years, they have improved the airport and road system to allow for gentle expansion.

Councillor Anderson said the government were in favour of growth. He asked Councillor Timmis if it would be an idea to invite Councillor Williams or Councillor G Sutton to her meeting with the MP.

Councillor Birnie said it was important that DBC join with other councils to protest otherwise the flight paths might  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Work programme pdf icon PDF 98 KB

Minutes:

Councillor Anderson said that M Brookes has conducted a scrutiny review and one of the suggestions was to remove the quarterly reports from the work programme as it was felt they were not achieving anything. The idea was for scrutiny committees to scrutinise single issues.

Councillor Ransley said if the quarterly reports are removed then the committee will not be able to specify what issues they want to scrutinise in full.

Councillor Marshall said she found the committee's comments on the quarterly reports helpful and informative and removing them would be a loss

Councillor Matthews endorsed the comments of his other councillors and said the quarterly reports feed into the single issue reports.

Councillor Anderson said he would report the committee’s comments back to M Brookes.

The committee agreed the work programme.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

APPENDIX A

Dear Secretary of State,

Housing White Paper: Planning for the Right Homes in the Right Places

The consultation period may have ran out some weeks ago, but our Overview & Scrutiny Committee would still like to support to government’s approach in relation to our borough.

We are mindful of the need to provide additional housing, but are located in a borough where 77% of the land is Green Belt or AONB, and very little of the remaining 23% is undeveloped.

We are therefore only too aware of the difficult balance that needs to be struck, and were grateful that the government calculated a figure that allowed for sensible, balanced growth.

However, powerful parties will have tried to question and unpick the government’s calculation because it fell short of what they had in mind, based on a flawed regional assessment and a goal to develop as much of the Green Belt as possible, contrary to the NPPF.

Thus, our Committee would like to appeal to the government to stand by the White Paper as published in September, so that our council can get on with permitting the new housing that is needed, whilst reducing the development of the Green Belt as much as possible.