Agenda and minutes

Strategic Planning & Environment Overview & Scrutiny - Tuesday, 2nd November, 2021 7.30 pm

Venue: Council Chamber

Contact: Corporate and Democratic Support  01442 228209

No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 231 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 Chair.  There were no matters arising.


Apologies for Absence

To receive any apologies for absence.


Apologies were received from councillors Wilkie and Hearn, and from officers Emma Walker, Richard Le Brun and Fiona Williamson.


Declarations of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest.


There were no declarations of interest.


Public Participation


There were no items of public participation


Action Points from the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 6 KB


There were no action points from the previous meeting.


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




Q2 Budget Monitoring Report pdf icon PDF 170 KB

Additional documents:


NH presented the report, noting £1m of financial pressure on SPAE at the end of Q2, of which £700k is Covid-related and is budgeted for with the economic recovery reserve, and the remaining £300k is considered business as usual and will need to be mitigated before year end.  NH confirmed an overspend of just over £700k for SPAE, a significant amount of which comes from the neighbourhood delivery service and waste services. Looking at Q1 versus Q2, NH noted the emergency payment allocation to help retain HGV drivers.  On capital, NH advised that a large portion of this is on the neighbourhood side and delivery of vehicles, of which there has been a shortage, and the focus is on supplying waste and Clean, Safe and Green services. 


Cllr Birnie asked for further clarification on AFM as referenced on page 6 of the report.  NH explained that this is the Alternative Funding Model, stating that Hertfordshire County Council paid a bonus to district councils for delivering less waste, which stopped during Covid due to the increased amount of household waste.  NH explained that the bonus helped promote recycling and that he hoped to see it return.


In response to a comment from Cllr Birnie on whether fly tipping clearance costs are offset by successful court action, NH advised that the cost of the service is reimbursed and then any surcharge goes to the enforcement service and that the service is therefore cost neutral. 


Responding to a question on if there was positive slippage into next year given that £1.5m had not been spent on vehicles this year, NH explained that the slippage has allowed them to redefine what vehicles they want and make them futureproof but that they will inevitably incur more maintenance costs. 


The report was noted by the Members.


Q2 Planning, Development and Regeneration Performance pdf icon PDF 133 KB

Covering report to follow


JD presented the report, noting the new format due to the new software system, and confirmed that of the 12 performance measures, 5 are red, 2 amber and 5 green. 


JD confirmed that planning fees and land charges remain strong, though a little down on Q1 due to the quarter being exceptionally strong.  Service still has a buoyant level of searches though it is amber due to being just over the 10-day target.  Current management performance is good although minor applications have slipped back into amber, and major applications are at target for the quarter.  The quarter saw 9 appeals, compared to 21 in Q1, of which 7 were allowed and 2 dismissed. 


Looking to the validation of applications, JD reported that there are now 77% of cases validated within 3 days of receipt.  JD noted that enforcement are struggling with the large workload caused by the backlog as a result of lockdown and that indicator will remain low for the rest of this year while the team works through this. 


On recruitment, JD noted that progress has been made with Philip Stanley appointed interim group manager for the whole development management, and that his role has been filled by Ed Arnold.  Recruitment for the assistant team leader role remains the most challenging and an advert will be going back out to market. 


Cllr Timmis noted the enforcement backlog and that many of these were in existence before Covid hit, adding that she did not feel the wait was acceptable given that buildings are going up.  JD responded that 400 cases is the likely level they will hold at any one time and that he appreciated the difficulties.  JD explained that they are looking to put in a budget proposal to extend the role put in for this financial year and that councillors were welcome to raise any particular case with the team to look into further. Cllr Birnie commented that there was a lack of information on how cases are prioritised and that the issue is with buildings being started or altered without permission.  JD advised that a triage system is in place for any new cases and that there are 3 priority levels in place with 1 being the most severe, which is usually as a result of unauthorised work to a listed building. 


Cllr Birnie asked if Members should bring cases to the team’s attention.  JD stated that the team will look at cases where there is local concern.  Cllr Timmis commented that 2 enforcement officers have left this year and that they need to look at incentives to keep people in post.  JD agreed, adding that they have to work within the constraints of the budget. 


Cllr Birnie commented on a particular case regarding an ex-constituent who was visited by an enforcement officer due to a garden shed and that he would assume this was low priority.  JD stated that he was unable to comment without the details on that particular case. 


Cllr Birnie noted  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.


Q2 Environmental Services Performance Report pdf icon PDF 301 KB


CT presented the report, particularly noting the challenge of retaining drivers and that they have 90% of drivers choosing to stay.  CT confirmed that 4 loaders have now successfully trained as LGV drivers and that 8 environmental operatives are now being trained.  Recruitment for Clean, Safe and Green continues and is hoped to be complete in the next 3-4 weeks.  Preparations have commenced for seasons with 82 nameplates replaced and the grass cutting schedule completed for the year.  CT reported that they recently met with Hertfordshire County Council to assess the impact of ash dieback on the public highways with a view to renegotiate the contract, given that more is being spent on traffic management rather than tree maintenance.


The new Canal Fields park has been built and refurbished and the tender for the play area has been completed with a view to finish work by spring.  The Educational Awareness team have been out in the community and recently spent the day at Tree Hill to encourage residents to look at donating, selling or reusing items.  Caddies were delivered into schools with children encouraged to decorate them. 


CT reported that the local Vauxhall supplier has pulled out of supplying cage tippers and smaller vehicles and they have therefore moved to Ford, though the lead time for new vehicles has increased from 6-9 months to 12-24 months, which will mean maintenance of current vehicles is critical.


CT provided an overview of the resources and admin team, noting that 9,360 calls were received in the period, of which 560 were bulky item requests, 340 for fly tip reports, and that Clean, Safe and Green received a total of 1,483 requests, and 1,068 vehicles were manually weighed in. 


Cllr Wyatt-Lowe thanked CT and the team for their work during such a challenging period and noted that while she has received no complaints about the service, there are issues regarding lorries unable to access roads due to poor street parking.  CT acknowledged the issue, which has increased over recent years, and that they are looking at smaller vehicles to combat the problem.  CT added that stickers and hangers are used to inform residents that the road had to be missed.  In response to a further question from Cllr Wyatt-Lowe regarding the impact of longer lead times for vehicles, CT advised that he was unsure of the cost implications as no orders have been placed at the time of reporting though maintenance costs are likely to increase.


Cllr Timmis praised the report and commented on the positive impact of decreased grass cutting in encouraging rewilding.  In response to a question from Cllr Timmis regarding ash dieback, CT advised that the whole stock will be affected but they do not yet know the full extent of the issue.  Looking at tree management, CT stated that they have the budget to plant trees but not for maintenance, adding that a number of trees had not survived this year due to bad weather and vandalism.  Cllr Timmis suggested  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.


Q2 Environmental and Community Protection Performance Report pdf icon PDF 319 KB


It was noted that Emma Walker was not present to give the report and that it would therefore be taken as read with CT taking questions from Members.


Cllr Wyatt-Lowe commented on item 2.2 in the report regarding 88% of noise complaints being closed within 60 days and asked for more information on why cases are closed.  CT confirmed that he would ask EW to respond to this directly.


Looking at fly-tipping under item 5.4, Cllr Wyatt-Lowe suggested that the fine of £200 is too low to act as a deterrent.  CT confirmed that the council does not set the fine as this falls under central government and they only put together additional surcharges covering investigation and cleaning. 


In response to a query made regarding the length of time before a decision was made on whether a vehicle was actually abandoned, CT stated that a response would be given outside of the meeting.


Cllr Birnie noted that 87% of fly-tipping reports are visited within 3 days and asked what the longest delay was, commenting that visiting as soon as possible was essential to catch perpetrators.  CT advised that the team visit sites quicker if they are likely to obtain evidence of the perpetrator. 


Cllr Birnie referred to item 4.4 in the report regarding the use of The Forum and asked who decides the policy.  CT explained this is discussed by chief executives, the senior leadership team and EW’s team.  In response to Cllr Birnie’s suggestion that Members should also provide input, it was noted that a number of presentations are made to the committee and cabinet to allow for input, but most of the discussion is with management and the health and safety team.


The report was noted by the Members.


Climate and Ecological Emergency Action Plan pdf icon PDF 452 KB

Additional documents:


MG presented the report, noting the proposed strategy is currently in draft form ahead of being taken to cabinet and to work on it further with Communications to ensure the layout is as effective as possible.  MG commented on the timeliness of the report alongside COP26 and that it looks at the council’s pledge on achieving net zero as well as work with the community on achieving its targets by 2050.  MG advised that the report looks at high-level actions rather than noting all details, with the main focus being on the council’s own pledge and work that will impact the community.


MG outlined the challenge in costing the plan given that the plans are to be delivered by 2030-2050.  MG advised that the government’s direction on vehicles and air source heat pumps is yet to be defined, and there are supply chain issues in delivering what is currently required.  Costings are therefore provided as an estimate with more details to be set out on immediate actions and what will follow.  MG stated that the focus is on meeting the necessary challenges and ensuring that actions are taken in the right order and that bids are made on all possible opportunities.


Cllr Wyatt-Lowe noted the list of consultees within the report and asked if this should be widened out, commenting that she would expect the scope to broaden throughout the process, particularly to bring in participation from the general public.  Cllr Wyatt-Lowe noted the success of the recent carbon literacy training and that she would like to see this being offered to residents to help increase engagement.  MG agreed, confirming that engagement will broaden as the strategy develops and that the public will be vital in shaping the strategy going forward.  MP added that they have focused on reaching out to experts to help guide the strategy, such as with the Energy Saving Trust.  MP also noted that the Dacorum Climate Action Network was recently set up with 30 organisations and over 130 residents already signed up and they will be looking to expand this further.  MP agreed on the need for training and that they will be looking to train Members of the public to enable them to carry out training sessions.  MG added that including parish and town councils will be imperative in ensuring local engagement with initiatives. 


Cllr Birnie commented on the academic work currently being done in this area, such as the work at Sheffield University on heat pumps and housing insulation, and that he would hope to see these references included within the report.


Cllr England remarked that he found the report lacking in measurable activity and that, given the report was delayed in July due to Covid and the decision to wait until nearer to COP26 when government guidance was likely to be updated, he was surprised there was nothing in the report pertaining to this.  Cllr England commented that while he understood the difficulty in including figures in the strategy, he felt  ...  view the full minutes text for item 11.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 401 KB


JD requested to add an item on a new supplementary planning document for skills to the 11th January meeting.


JD requested that the stewardship policy item be removed from the 24th November meeting, advising that further work still needs to be completed on the final document and that he was currently unsure of when it would be brought back as an agenda item.