Agenda and draft minutes

Strategic Planning & Environment Overview & Scrutiny - Tuesday, 14th June, 2022 7.30 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, The Forum. View directions

Contact: Corporate and Democratic Support  01442 228209

Items
No. Item

1.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 186 KB

To agree the minutes of the previous meeting.

Minutes:

The minutes from the last meeting were approved. 

 

Though the minutes were an accurate recording, Cllr Banks highlighted that during the previous meeting she had informed Cllr Wyatt-Lowe that revenue from fixed penalty notices for public space protection orders was split equally between Dacorum Borough Council and district enforcement.  After further investigation, Cllr Banks wished to correct this, as after expenses the split was 22% to Dacorum Borough Council and 78% was retained by district enforcement.  Cllr Banks apologised for misleading members of the council.  The previous minutes would be updated accordingly.

2.

Apologies for Absence

To receive any apologies for absence.

Minutes:

Apologies were noted from Cllrs Sutton, Beauchamp and Wilkie.

3.

Declarations of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest.

Minutes:

None

4.

Public Participation

Minutes:

There was no public participation. 

5.

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

Minutes:

No matters had been referred.

6.

Environmental Services Annual Review

Presentation to be given by Craig Thorpe

Minutes:

It was explained that this matter had been withdrawn from the agenda and deferred due to a change in process

7.

Environmental Services Performance Q4 pdf icon PDF 322 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

CThorpe presented the salient points from the report. 

 

Waste services operations continued to suffer from COVID-related absence plus a national shortage of drivers, but had nonetheless managed to provide a successful full service.  Fewer mechanical sweeper drivers had been available due to drivers having been redeployed to waste collection, and difficulties were still being encountered with recruiting new drivers with 7 current driver vacancies.

 

Over the last few months annual refresher training had been delivered to 110 frontline staff and a further 90 Council staff, plus agency staff.  Driver CPC training had also been provided to the 30 drivers on waste services.  An ISO14001 report had revealed several issues to be resolved in relation to the depot.  CSG assisted the tree contractors in the 3 storms that occurred in March. 

 

DBC had worked alongside other organisations on town cleaning, particularly targeting graffiti on all structures. 

 

The A41 was deep cleaned and all traffic islands were swept before grass cutting operations were recommenced in April. 

 

The Splash Park was recommissioned and opened earlier than in previous years.  Some maintenance was required, though the park was operating well.

 

95 standard trees and 900 whips had been planted across the borough and 60 new planted troughs had been supplied, along with further plants and a green canopy.  Several organisations had contributed further plants, work and best practices.

 

Bunkers Park and Chipperfield Common had retained their green flag status and other parks would be judged later in the year.

 

The River Gaye project had been pushed back to the following year.

 

On education awareness, Christmas Tree recycling had been a large success with 6,000 trees having been collected and chipped. 

 

Several ‘Nappy Natter’ events had been held with success, with a view to changing mothers’ behaviour in terms of reuse of nappies. 

 

3 successful clothes swaps had been very popular with the public.

 

130 new street champion registrations had been received, with a total of 628 registered champions as of 31st March.  It was clarified that the total number of active champions each week was slightly lower, though champions were regularly contacted to monitor engagement levels.

 

324 individuals took part in the Great British Spring Clean.

 

Primary and secondary school talks continued with a brand-new pack.

 

Over 11,000 requests for services had been received by the customer services department at Cupid Green depot.  An outline of the individual services requested and delivered was then provided including clinical waste and sharps collection.

 

In terms of performance, the figure for WR001A was slightly higher than target due to a number of agency drivers being deployed and several vehicles without the required in-cab technology to monitor assisted collections.  As such, with new staff recruitment this was expected to be alleviated.

 

Garden waste collections had been lower than target in Winter, though this was to be expected and reflected a requirement for more seasonal variance in the targets.

 

The report was noted, and the floor was then opened for questions.

 

Cllr Timmis expressed  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Environmental and Community Protection Performance Report Q4 pdf icon PDF 523 KB

Minutes:

The salient points from the report were presented by EWalker.

 

Sarah Stefano had been appointed Team Leader for Environmental Health, beginning her role on 31st January 2021 and replacing her predecessor Paul O’Day.

 

The team had continued to support COVID-19 related tasks, with 320 self-isolation checks carried out in January, along with other local work to aid transition to the Living with COVID plan.  Test and Trace officers had however transferred to the Partnerships team to assist with vaccination planning and support.

 

Work was undertaken to meet targets for the food safety recovery plan presented in October 2021.  New contractors had been brought in to deal with the pandemic-related backlog.  A steady flow of new food business requests was being received and work was being done in relation to pest-related closures.

 

Rebecca Connelly had won the Performance Award for her outstanding contribution to setting up and running a COVID-19 test and trace service, and her instrumental role in designing a food safety recovery plan amid the pandemic.

 

The title of Health and Safety Champion was awarded to Chris Connelly of Clean, Safe and Green after his considerable efforts in this area.

 

Russel Hamm was a finalist for a Performance Award for his work on safety systems throughout the pandemic.

 

The Operations team had been busy throughout Q1, securing an animal welfare warrant and successfully rehoming several animals.

 

Following the presentation to the Animal Welfare service of another Golden Pawprint award to the Animal Welfare service, MP Gagan Mohindra had visited and had been provided a presentation by lead officer Rachel Smith. 

 

9 fixed penalty notices had been served for fly-tipping in Q4, and 4 abandoned vehicles removed.  There were 3 outstanding warrants in place for defendants who had failed to appear in court, being regularly pursued in conjunction with four different police forces.

 

On Monday 24th March, 9 people were ordered to pay fines for littering offences and breaching public space protection orders, after failure to pay fixed penalty notices.  These had been the first prosecutions of this kind issued by the Council.

 

Ben Stephens was the finalist for the Innovation Award for an innovative approach leading to engagement third-party enforcement organisation.

 

The Neighbourhood Delivery service were finalists for Team of the Year for 2021.

 

The report was noted, and the floor was then opened for questions.

 

EWalker was congratulated for her Excellence in Leadership Award in 2021.

 

A question was raised regarding the Corporate Health & Safety Team and reporting of accidents.  Clarity was requested on the statistics provided, particularly in relation to apparent duplication of some figures.  In response, EWalker clarified that the apparent duplications between slips, trips and falls and strike by object were different incidents.  The numbers appeared higher than in previous years due to an increased number of types of incidents now recorded.  EWalker also agreed to clarify some differences in figures between slips, trips and falls and strikes by object.

 

Cllr England, in relation to the figure of 41% of noise cases closed  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

PSPO & Enforcement Review pdf icon PDF 616 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report was taken as read, though several points were highlighted.  Over 1,500 abandoned vehicles had been reported, resulting in 45 vehicles being removed and destroyed.  The Abandoned Vehicle Policy released in 2021 had improved understanding among officers and vehicle owners alike. 

On crime, a marked increase in fly-tipping had been seen in comparison to the previous year.  There had also been several operational difficulties owing to an increase in drug related fly-tipping, use of hired vehicles, and court no-shows.  59 waste crime FPNs had been issued, with a total of 4 prosecutions.  Dacorum Borough Council continued to be a leading authority within Hertfordshire in this domain and maintained a good working relationship with court authorities. 

Deployment targets were in place for each ward.

To clarify a point in relation to the earlier question from Cllr Timmis, it was made clear that drug-related fly tipping involved cannabis, rather than drugs requiring the use of sharps.

The report was noted, and the floor was opened to questions.

Cllr Timmis was disheartened to see the increase in fly-tipping, and particularly drug-related fly-tipping, and especially in the north part of the district which was Cllr Timmis’ ward of Wapping.  Cllr Timmis was surprised not to have been informed of this previously.  She also remarked on the number of court no-shows and wished to see greater action taken by the police given the destructive and criminal impact of fly-tipping.  In response, it was stressed that Dacorum Borough Council, police authorities and other authorities north of the Hertfordshire border were working to curb the local increase in fly-tipping. 

EWalker asked Cllr Timmis whether she had any suggestions as to specific actions she would like to see.  In response, Cllr Timmis highlighted that 2 individuals prosecuted for fly-tipping had been caught thanks to covert surveillance.  Increased police presence and advertisement of surveillance as a stronger deterrent were also recommended.  It was also added that Dacorum was working closely with Luton authorities to ensure that further action was taken.  EWalker pointed out that the number of covert cameras had been increased in recent times, along with authorisation to place these in areas identified as hotspots.  EWalker however pointed out the difficulty of catching individuals given the unpredictable nature of the crime.  Efforts were also being made to influence local police authorities to encourage police presence, though DBC could not direct police agencies, who themselves had resource issues.  EWalker also commented on the costs associated with court cases and also theft of camera equipment and the need for sufficient resources for the camera footage to be perused.  It was also highlighted that 12 fixed penalty notices had been issued last year which was a proportionate response and allowed the avoidance of court proceedings.

Cllr England commented that cigarette waste was still above 95% of all litter, and hoped to see this figure drop below 80% by September.  Cllr England also reiterated Cllr Birnie’s previous remarks that there should be sufficient  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Town Centre PSPO pdf icon PDF 492 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

RLeBrun took the report as read, though several points were highlighted. 

The PSPO whose continuation was under consultation related to prohibitions around cycling and skateboarding in a defined area, as well as spitting, urinating and defecating in a defined area.  In addition, the consultation had examined the issue of electric scooters in the town centre.  Cycling and skateboarding were still perceived to be a problem, with a large majority of support for the inclusion of this.  IT would not preclude people from dismounting and carrying their bikes or skateboards through the town centre.  There was also overwhelming support for the provisions on spitting, urinating and defecating.  The proposed addition related to prohibition of unauthorised electric scooters on a public highway within a defined area, excluding rental scooters and scooters for certain uses.  It was recognised that a trial scheme for electric scooters may be introduced in the future, and the proposed addition to the PSPO did not preclude this.  The approach would focus on e-scooters, but the PSPO could be amended to include manual scooters should this be deemed necessary at a later date.

As part of the consultation, many members of the public had suggested other additions to the PSPO, which would be reviewed and assessed in time, and the current provisions of the PPO would also be reviewed regularly during its three-year period of validity, should it be renewed. 

The report was noted, and the floor was opened for comments and questions.

 

Cllr Wyatt-Lowe pointed out that many members of the public felt threatened by the silent nature of e-scooters.  She questioned why a by-law was not in place to ensure that all scooters and similar vehicles had an approach warning mechanism fitted.  In response, this would be explored, though it was highlighted that the fitting of warning devices did not necessarily entail their use by the rider.

 

Cllr Stevens was pleased to see the proposed extension of the scope of the PSPO.  He then pointed out the inconsiderate nature of a number of cyclists on canal walkways, and asked whether speed provisions for cyclists on canal towpaths might be included in the PSPO.  Though this was possible, Cllr Stevens was advised that the capacity to enforce such a rule may prove challenging.  Another avenue may be to approach the Canal & River Trust about what might be done in partnership, including changes to towpath layout or educational initiatives.

 

The Chair challenged how enforcement officers might enforce the PSPO in general given the speed considerations implied.  In response, it was pointed out that within the town centre it was generally not possible to gain sufficient speed for this to pose a risk to the enforcement officers, though it was stressed that no officer would be expected to place themselves at risk of a collision.  Other avenues may also be explored, such as speed bumps.

 

Cllr Rogers was concerned that the PSPO might undermine efforts to increase electric scooter and cycle use from an environmental  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.

11.

Planning, Development and Regeneration performance Q4 pdf icon PDF 299 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report was taken as read, with the following salient points highlighted.  During the Q4 period, a planning moratorium had been initiated, which affected the figures in the report.  There was an extended text in section 2 highlighting key priorities that the department had undertaken in the previous quarter.  Section 3 set out the majority of the key performance indicators.  Namely, planning fee income was ahead of budget.  However, there had been some decline in performance, primarily due to the planning moratorium.

 

The report was noted and the floor was opened to questions and comments.

 

Cllr Timmis asked for further details on the proposed fully automated committed development software to process town planning applications.  It was explained that a pilot programme had been secured with £350,000 from Central Government for a service that would improve the efficiency of the advice given to residents in respect of town planning applications, allowing members of the public to check in advance, prior to submission, whether their application was likely to be approved, with the aim of freeing up resources.  Cllr Timmis expressed concern that residents may be able to bypass local authorities.  In response, it was stressed that the proposed model was not a mechanism to circumvent the existing town planning approval mechanisms, but rather was a pre-application process to screen out those applications likely to be declined.  Nonetheless, Cllr Timmis was concerned that this may give residents the impression that they could continue with proposed works despite their application having been declined.  In response to this, it was clarified that the intention of the model being piloted was to deal with binary yes-or-no decisions that did not require town planning judgment. 

 

Cllr Timmis also referred to the issue of an insufficient number of enforcement officers to meet the demand for enforcement issues in need of processing.  As a result, many cases were in danger of expiring before they could be duly addressed.  In response, the ongoing difficulties in this area were acknowledged.  A senior enforcement officer had been appointed, though resourcing issues remained to affect the service.  Recruitment efforts were ongoing, along with efforts to engage with partners to secure additional resources, and to make enforcement officer roles more attractive to prospective recruits.  It was highlighted that there was widespread difficulty within the industry in terms of recruiting planning and enforcement officers.

 

Further on the issue of enforcement, Cllr Hearn seconded concerns at the lack of resources to sufficiently meet demand for cases before they expired.  In response, it was explained that there was a 4-year rule and a 10-year rule, depending on whether the case involved a change of use.  More broadly, enforcement plans were in place and the majority of site visits were conducted within the prescribed period, and all cases continued to be investigated.  In summary, the lack of resources did not mean to say that enforcement officers were not investigating existing cases.  Other solutions were also being explored, such as the removal  ...  view the full minutes text for item 11.

12.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 416 KB

Minutes:

The next meeting was scheduled for 6th July 2022.  The agenda items for that meeting were outlined.  Colleagues were encouraged to submit any further issues they wished to the Chair. Cllr England wishes to discuss the matter of air quality.  The Chair pointed out that a report on this was scheduled for discussion in November 2022.  In response to Cllr England’s question of why this had been delayed, it was explained that the steering group on this matter had been suspended due to COVID-19 and its next meeting was scheduled for later in June 2022.

 

13.

AOB