Agenda and minutes

Strategic Planning & Environment Overview & Scrutiny - Wednesday, 22nd September, 2021 7.30 pm

Venue: Council Chamber

Contact: Corporate and Democratic Support  01442 228209

No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 259 KB

To agree the minutes of the previous meeting.


The minutes from the previous meeting were agreed by the members present to be signed by the Chairman. There were no matters arising.



Apologies for Absence

To receive any apologies for absence.


Apologies received from Councillors Timmis and Barrett. Councillor Anderson was taking over for Cllr Barrett that evening.



Declarations of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest.


There were no declarations of interest.



Public Participation


There were no items of public participation


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


There were no call-in matters


Environmental and Community Protection Q1 Performance Report pdf icon PDF 246 KB

Additional documents:


EW noted the KPI for High-Risk Food Inspections was at 29% versus 37% at the end of last year. The outstanding 63% were not reflected in the figures. It was explained there was a high number of new premises in the Borough, and officers were still diverted to COVID-19 response. 96% of responses were acknowledged within 3 working days in the department, seeing a tripling of service requests against last year.

EW noted 2 incidents were reported to the HSA in Q1. 10 H&S notices were served in relation to COVID-19 in Q1. Recruitment and retention remained an issue, with 3 vacancies in the team and a member of staff resigning.

EW stated that members were provided with H&S training in Q1. There had been an increase in animal welfare cases in Q1, with a large number of pet owners who had not owned an animal before lockdown, who required training from officers.

EW observed that fly tipping had reduced in Q1 slightly. There were 2 prosecutions relating to recycling and non-payment of fpns. Mr Hardy was ordered to pay £140 and a further prosecution on Mr Baptiste. There was a backlog of pending prosecution cases, with 6 cases outstanding, mostly due to the COVID-19 Nightingale Court arrangements. 1,564 interventions had been carried out in Q1.

JB congratulated the team on fly tipping achievements and invited questions from members.

RB noted point 2.1 regarding food inspections and noted there were originally 59 outstanding. RT asked how many of the 59 related to businesses that were no longer trading. EW stated there were more than 63 in the backlog, due to the previous year’s inspections being outstanding. The number was fluid as businesses opened and closed quickly. RB asked for the figures for the businesses in the town that were low category. JB also asked how many newly registered premises there were in the town.

Gsi noted there had been an increase in fireworks in the community and asked how these could be stopped. EW stated they released advice every year, and normally, they did not stop fireworks but encouraged people to attend organised displays instead.

SW commended the team for their work in extraordinary circumstances and asked for clarification regarding outbreaks at school (point 3.1). EW noted the multidisciplinary incident response teams had been set up. Schools were set up to perform contact tracing. Target hardening related to other businesses in the community, e.g. A corner shop on the route home from school and schools may be encouraged to ask individuals to move on from those areas.

AE asked what the main causes and effects were with regards to recruitment and retention, per paragraph 3.2. EW responded that some roles were temporary and funded by the government relating to COVID-19. These 9 posts did not offer job security, so those members of staff were looking for roles elsewhere. Additionally, there was a shortage of student posts. Dacorum was fortunate to have 2 student posts, so EW hoped that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Environmental Services Q1 Performance Report pdf icon PDF 515 KB


CT noted the Q1 report was slightly out of date, and Q2 was closer to what was happening on the ground. Waste service operations maintained collections during COVID lockdown restrictions despite the low availability of LGV drivers. CT advised many LGV drivers had taken early retirement or left for local hauliers with significant salary increases, citing Waitrose wages of £53,000 versus £28,000 at Dacorum. It was also difficult to source agency drivers because their costs were high. CT stated some neighbouring authorities had suspended services, but Dacorum had maintained service thus far.

With regards to the Splash Park, there was a delay opening the park, as it required additional work. CT stated that an online booking system was introduced which worked well, with good feedback received from the public. Additionally, several 2- to 3-year-old trees were planted in Gadebridge Park. The Oak moth disease remains prevalent in the Borough, with spraying taking place to remedy this.

On educational awareness, CT reported that the situation was normal with some virtual school talks taking place, and food waste collections had been rolled out in classrooms. A compost giveaway had taken place, with 10 tonnes given away to 400 residents in 90 minutes. All flats had been visited to ensure they could recycle, and 90 1,100 litre bins had been given to residents in flats.

In terms of performance indicators, CT stated there was some concern around the missed bin collections, which was mainly due to the amount of agency staff employed and parked cars blocking roads due to more residents working from home. CT expected this number would come down as people returned to work.

JB appreciated that COVID had exacerbated the missed bin locations, and questioned the lack of technology in the cab, as this had been mentioned a few times, asking why the technology was not yet fitted to the cabs. CT replied that the agency staff were unfamiliar with the system and the in-cab technology is only fitted to the council’s vehicles and not those hired in to cope with the additional workload. JB understood that the collection fleet was now complete, and asked whether this was a current issue or a historical one. CT confirmed this was historical in Q1.

RB returned to the subject of the high wages with the LGV drivers. CT advised that the local hauliers were implementing several incentives, including paying back the handcuff clauses imposed on the council workers. Local hauliers were able to offer incentives that the Council could not, but Cabinet had confirmed a loyalty bonus package could be implemented, which CT would investigate.

AE commended Joanna Boyd for her action and stated it was gratifying to see the amount of engagement. AE felt the Street Champion programme was seeing a new lease of life and noted Dacorum was doing better than neighbouring authorities. In the report, AE noted that grass cutting had been a struggle due to good growing conditions, but also that the growing conditions for 3-year-old  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.


Planning, Development and Regeneration performance Q1 pdf icon PDF 133 KB

Additional documents:


JD presented the Q1 report and drew out the highlights. JD reported that the year had started strongly with regard to income. There had been a rising trend in applications, and there was an over-recovery being recorded. Land charges, e.g. property searches, were 20% ahead of budget, which had been accelerated due to the Stamp Duty holiday, which had now come to an end. JD stated they would continue to monitor this.

JD noted that all major applications had been determined within timescales, and the minor applications had returned to green status from amber. 90% of the ‘others’ applications had been determined within 8 weeks of receipt by the Council, representing a further increase on the previous quarter. 80% of appeals were dismissed in Q1 against the target of 70%.

JD stated there had been difficulties with validation of planning applications, due to a combination of factors including staff sickness, some COVID related, annual leave and staff being involved in election duties. JB asked for clarification on validation. JD stated this was the first task when the application was received, that all information had been included and the correct fee had been paid. This was purely an administrative function. JD confirmed there was scope to automate some of this, and it was hoped that technology could be used for this in future, which would allow as much time as possible for the officers to review the application.

JD explained that performance validation was not good in Q1, but it didn’t impact the performance figures for planning applications, which was the government’s indicator. Enforcement would continue to be challenging for the remainder of the year due to the backlogs that had built up over lockdown. JD added that the team was experiencing considerable staff movements which were causing difficulties. One of the Enforcement Officer vacancies had been recruited into, but this continued to be a challenging area.

On Land Charges (para 21), JD noted the numbers had exceeded the 10-day target as a consequence of the workload, which was being monitored carefully. JD invited questions from the members.

On the subject of Enforcement, PH asked how many staff were in the team versus the number for planned establishment and asked what the risks were of not enforcing. JD responded the core staff was 6 with an additional temporary officer in the team. The team leader had other responsibilities in other teams. JD referenced the 400 Plan discussed at a previous meeting, which included an assessment of the more serious cases. The enforcement risk varied from case to case. JD stated that if the Council did not take action in 4 or 10 years, then a case would become immune to enforcement action. This did not apply to any cases currently.

GSt returned to the validation issue, noting that some applications occasionally showed as ‘other’ whereas some should be ‘RETs’. GSt stated these should be shown correctly. JD stated he would take this point away for discussion.

MR referred to a recent  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.


Financial Q1 Performance pdf icon PDF 166 KB

Additional documents:


NH summarised the financial position. The Council had an overall budget pressure of £1m, of which £0.7m was classified as COVID related, the remaining is an overall pressure to the Council. In terms of the SP&E budget, there was an overall pressure of £545,000, the majority in the Neighbourhood Delivery area, specifically the waste service, pressure relating to lack of income from the alternative funding model and reduction in commercial waste and the increasing cost of resolving fly tipping.

In terms of capital reporting, NH explained it was difficult in the construction industry with costs increasing month by month, and resource availability pushing the scheduling of capital projects. Q1 was aimed to be on budget, a good outcome. NH opened to questions from members.

JB noted point 3.4 and expressed surprise at the high cost down to temporary accommodation. NH explained this was related to the cost of repairing temporary accommodation, which had high tenant turnover and was returned by tenants in differing standards. In terms of the costs, there were more TA properties than in previous years to reduce reliance on the private sector. This caused pressure on maintaining the stock going forward. NH hoped there would be a more efficient way to manage the stock and create greater economies of scale.

JB asked whether this accommodation was allocated to those made homeless. NH confirmed this was the case, and that Dacorum had been able to deliver good quality temporary accommodation with no reliance on the public sector. JB asked if the figures were unrelated to the Afghan settlement in the Borough. NH confirmed this and noted that they were waiting for confirmation from the Government for funding. No costs had been incurred thus far with regards to the Afghan settlement programme


Stewardship & Open Spaces Policy interim report pdf icon PDF 234 KB


JD noted that this was an interim report, and a supplementary planning document was being produced. The report would be presented when the document was produced, to be taken to Cabinet for public consultation purposes. JB asked whether this meant this would not be covered on 24th November. JD confirmed there may be a risk of the report not being ready.

By way of background, JD stated that there was a need to add clarity on the route that new open spaces were managed and maintained in future. Previously, there was a clear expectation by developers that the council would take on open spaces at an agreed sum. Many developers now preferred that an independent management company take on the spaces at a charge to the homeowners. JD explained the report would show a range of options to manage new open spaces.

JB asked if the Council had the power to stipulate which model would be adopted. JD advised that this was not the case, but the policy would set the Council’s preferred options.

AR added that the report would be on the agenda in due course. The work was at an early stage, with data needing to be collected around the financial and legal obligations. AR stated it was too early to conclude which models were preferred by the Council, but a mixture of these might be appropriate. AR confirmed the document for members would include appropriate recommendations based on the appraisal work.

JB welcomed the report, as there had been some poor examples of developers leaving a mess after developing an area, and not maintaining such areas. JB invited questions.

PH referred to the LA5 development in Tring and stated that the open space would include a pathway and BMX track on the open space. PH asked what happens to decide what activities can take place in these open spaces. JD responded that with regards to LA5, it was in the site allocation document as to what could go in the open space. The planning application was where residents could consult. JD felt the LA5 development was unusual in terms of the amount of land. Following negotiations with the developer, this open space would be adopted by the council. The new report had the full input of Clean Safe and Green, in terms of what was appropriate.

PH responded that local councillors should know what was planned for the land. AR stated that the SPD would spell out the types of spaces the council would adopt. These decisions would be open to consultation with the public.

AA cited an example in Berkhamsted, where swings became broken in a play area, which was closed down by the Council. When the surrounding site was developed by the Wellcome Trust, nobody had gone through the exercise to establish who owned the play area. The swings did not belong to anyone as a consequence. The residents and members were angry, and the Council bought the land through a legal loophole to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 401 KB


There were no suggestions for additions or other changes.



Gade Bridge Project


JB stated that the Committee’s view on this project was becoming urgent because the funding had been secured. It was important to decide whether Dacorum would contribute the relatively small amount of £120K towards the project. Questions that were put to the Environment Agency had been responded to and circulated amongst members. JB stated that the Agency will go ahead, with or without Dacorum’s contribution. If the contribution were not made, there would be some omissions from the scheme, including 1 of the bridges, the educational aspects and a fence down the side of Leighton Buzzard Road for the protection of children and animals, which might otherwise stray into into the road.

JB reminded members that the plan has to go to Development Control for further  consideration, noting that concerns such as the river running dry can be mitigated by planning conditions.

JB proposed advising the Cabinet that the Committee was in favour of contributing to the Environment Agency’s plans for the Gade River development. There were no objections.

There being no further business, the Chairman closed the meeting at 21:41