Venue: Council Chamber
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To agree the minutes of the previous meeting.
Minutes for the last meeting were agreed and signed by the chair
Apologies for Absence
To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies were received from Cllr McDowell – Cllr Ransley Sub
Cllr Graham Barratt
Declarations of Interest
To receive any declarations of interest.
There were no declarations of interest
Consideration of any matter referred to the Committee in relation to Call-In
Fiona Jump shared the provisional outturn report with the members and was happy to take any questions they had.
Cllr Harden referred to bullet point number 4 and the point regarding pest control and waste he asked for the specific impacts for loss on incomes streams and asked what were the plans to recuperate the loss from these streams as some of these services should have taken place irrespective of the pandemic.
Craig Thorpe responded that they had suspended bulk collection as they could not maintain social distancing. Also the business collections heavily affected the finances as businesses went elsewhere or were not in business at the time.
E.Walker said that pest control was suspended due to not being able to enter properties, then, when restrictions were lifted, demand on the service was lower and it was still at a reduced demand now due to people being put off about having people in their houses.
C.Thorpe responded regarding cesspool emptying, that they had budgeted for an income due to increasing costs however when the pandemic hit they decided they would not go ahead with the cost increase.
Cllr Beauchamp referred to overspend of £30k on the White Bridge refurbishment and asked what these overspends were. Secondly he asked about the refurbishment of the Bury, and what the £180k overspend on that.
C.Thorpe said that he would come back to Cllr Beauchamp on the White Bridge.
A.P C.Thorpe to send information on the White Bridge overspend.
J.Doe advised that there were issues with the Bury and there was a full structural survey being done that required specialist people due to it being a listed building. This was delayed due to the pandemic but was nearing completion. Then they would be able to see the full picture of the restoration costs and decisions could be made about the building’s future.
Cllr Birnie asked if they could explain what MRP charges meant.
F.Jump explained that MRP stood for Minimum Revenue Provision and it was an accounting requirement by law. When borrowing is used to finance capital expenditure, they are required to put through a charge that represents putting money aside to repay that borrowing.
Cllr Birne asked for more details of the £81k of investigative work at High Barns.
F.Jump believed that this is additional work that has been undertaken for issues that have arisen at High Barns.
Cllr Birne asked what High Barns was
J.Doe said that the correct officer is not here to answer that but some investigative work was undertaken a few years ago around the area that was subject to infilling caused by the former chalk mines and we had to carry out additional investigation work into a new issue that had arisen.
Cllr Birne had added up some of the figures that had been given and they stated a deficit of £2.4 million on outgoings and incomings, but it actually comes to £2,358,000. Similarly, income from grants received is stated as £3.6 million, but it is slightly more ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
J.Doe went through the report and he was happy to take questions.
Cllr Stevens picked up on point 21 of the report and referred to completions, he did not think it adequately reflected how good the performance was against the core strategy, and it seemed to have adopted 1023 as the future target. The core strategy gave them a target of 430 dpa and the 674 reported was ahead of that. He would like to see how performance was against the original future plan, there was a dispute in terms of the 1023 number, the more realistic number that they were talking about should be about 500 a year and to publish a report which suggest that they were way under what the government wanted them to build was leaving the door wide open for people to challenge them on developments. Whilst their 5 year land supply was not good enough to meet the target the 5 year supply at 430 a year was.
J.Doe responded that the figures were completions as they were and that is what the market along with developers, housing association and the council were doing themselves in delivering each year. What they need to have a look at was the development trajectory over a number of years. There would be some strong years where they would have done more than the 670 and sometimes less and it would be the average that needed to be looked at. They should be able to get some monitoring figures out to the committee in due course to show those trends effectively. The point on land supply was a very critical one because that was an important point when it came to looking at planning appeals and whether appeals should be allowed on the basis of housing supply and whether they like it or not as a council the 1023 figure was what was used by the government simply because that was what their standard methodology generated as they objectively assessed the housing needs of the borough and that was what they used as the housing delivery test. What was important was that Officers continued to track the actual completion rate and when they come on to the local plan in due course they would revisit the issue of the housing numbers in Dacorum.
Cllr Birne asked if the 670 figure included all completions
J.Doe confirmed that the 670 figure included all completions, private and council and those under permitted development.
Cllr Birnie said that if they were doing comparisons over many years, he would like to see against those figures the number of approvals they had issued.
JDoe would pick up information with the strategic planning team, and would get more information and circulate
A.P J.Doe to circulate approvals numbers for several years to members.
Cllr Beauchamp asked about the improvement plan to reduce the enforcement caseloads from 600 to 400, this meant that they could still after 12 months have over 400 cases outstanding and was there ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
E.Walker ran through key point from the report for and was happy to take questions from members
Cllr Birnie congratulated Walker on test and trace 16 out of 315 was pretty good.
Cllr Harden referred to the Covid Marshalls and asked what their titles were, how many there were, how they were funded and also when the funding would end.
E.Walker said they were called Covid advisors as they take a helpful approach which was what they do with most enforcement activity. Their role was to advise members of the public initially before they look at taking enforcement action and were keen to use behavioural change and encouragement rather than heavy handed enforcement., There were 6 advisors and they were funded by the COF fund which was held centrally at the County Council, but Dacorum had its own portion of the COF funding which is the Contained Outbreak Funding and they were funded until January if that was required.
Cllr Silwal referred to 2/3 being the food premises rating and commented it was low in comparison to 4/5 and asked why that was.
E.Walker advised that this was a skewing of the results due to the impact on the food inspection programme of the Covid restrictions. At the time they were only responding to imminent health risk conditions, which meant they were only rescoring the poorly compliant premises rather than the low risk premises which resulted in the 5 rated premises tailing off. They expected this to improve in the coming months.
Cllr Timmis congratulated the Clean Safe And Green team for the quick clearing of fly tipping. She referred to the dog fouling report which stated they had a number of dog fouling reports actioned and asked what that meant.
C.Thorpe responded that actions meant that they had been cleared.
Cllr Birnie referred to point 2.6 and the significant work that had been put into responding to planning enquiries and wanted to know why.
E.Walker said they had recruited a new contaminated land officer and a new acoustic specialist in the last 18 months and that figure was a lot lower before they joined. They had spent a lot of time working with Planning and Development Control to try and make sure that they were getting those responses back in a timely fashion, which they had now achieved.
Cllr Birne asked who the responses went to.
E.Walker explained that they went to statutory consultees for technical responses or concerns about contaminated land or acoustic issues and this reflected the time her department took to respond to planning.
Cllr Stevens thanked the department for their engagement regarding the Old Mill in Berkamstead and the noise complaints. This was causing issues for residents last summer and this resulted in planning conditions.
The report was noted.
C.Thorpe ran through key points from his report and welcomed questions from members.
Cllr England asked how wildflower areas are chosen so Members can explain this to residents.
C.Thorpe said that there is a lot of information on the website that could be shared with residents regarding the wildflower areas including areas chosen and the reason they were not mowing and where bee boxes had been placed.
Cllr England said he was not able to answer the residents’ questions from the information on the website and asked whether there were there any maps he could share.
C.Thorpe said that it was a fairly new scheme and that it was a work in progress, but further information will be put on the website.
Cllr Harden asked if there was a reason why an area of grass would not be strimmed but poisoned instead. He also queried who was responsible for the hedges around Heath Lane Cemetery.
C.Thorpe said that they use weed killer only in areas where there are multiple obstacles and there should not be any substantial damage. There could be cases of an overzealous operator but that should be minimal. He would find out who was responsible for the cutting of that hedge.
A.P C.Thorpe to go back to Cllr Harden regarding the responsibility.
Cllr Beauchamp referred to the statement made by the Environment Agency regarding who would take over the maintenance of the River Gade if the project went ahead and said that when the last river improvement happened there had been a filtration pond put in and he was not aware to date that it had ever been desilted and the silt was now almost to the top of the Gavels so any water run-off from the road would run into the Gade washing the silt with it. The smell was also particularly bad.
C.Thorpe said he wasn’t an expert in this area. However he knew that the pond was cleaned out some years ago and he wasn’t sure that they had an ongoing programme for this, so he would get back to Cllr Beauchamp.
A.P C.Thorpe to respond to Cllr Beauchamp outside of the meeting.
Cllr Birnie asked whether the reference to Kilner Court refurbishment being completed was to do with the bin store.
C.Thorpe confirmed it related to many improvement including the bin store.
Cllr Birnie also referred to the item Football pitch drains and asked which pitch that referred to.
C.Thorpe said it referred to all football pitches under Council control. DBC used to employ an external contractor for the work. However, it was quite costly and so they have since bought the equipment to work with their tractors to do this work themselves.
The report was noted
Ben Stevens ran through the report with members and welcomed questions.
Cllr Harden referred to the end of section 3 and the statistics around recent activity and the small 3.81% of vehicles that were removed and destroyed from a total of 1,337 reports. He asked what officers believed was the cause of the low percentage to be and was there an issue around public awareness as to what constituted an abandoned vehicle so that many reported vehicles were not actually abandoned.
B.Stevens said that there is a section on the website for reporting and they do try and demonstrate on there when reporting what an abandoned vehicle was. However, this does not always succeed and the vehicle is often just a nuisance vehicle.
Cllr Harden said he would be interested to look into perhaps doing a campaign to help residents understand what an abandoned vehicle is and thus cut down on the time wasted by officers.
B.Stevens said he would take those comments back and consider what they could do.
Cllr Birnie referred to the point that said that officers would follow up within 3 days of a report of an abandoned vehicle and asked if that was correct. He was also surprised that there was such a discrepancy between the number of reports and the vehicles that were found to be abandoned. He asked whether most people realise realising that they have to move their car as a result of the issue of the initial notice.
B.Stevens explained that many people will react once they got the notice and the car was often claimed or officers have a discussion with the owner and the vehicle is moved, some people do not want to move them but the car is then reclaimed before destruction.
Cllr Harden suggested that there may be a reporting mechanism that they could put in their data showing the reasons for resolution, for example that the owner had moved the vehicle.
E.Walker said that although there was only a result of 51 resolved by removal in actual fact all were resolved as some were moved as they were not abandoned. She took Cllr Harden’s point regarding education and felt it was a good idea. However, using that as a performance indicator as to what officers were doing was not appropriate.
B.Stevens added that other authorities were also reporting low numbers.
Cllr Beauchamp asked for clarity on paragraph 5.4 concerning vehicles on private land. He asked if this covered private land that had been used for a number of years as a community car park whether the Council had any enforcement powers under these circumstances.
B.Stevens said that they can enforce on any open land and what often happened was that the land owner reported it. Where the land owner was not known then a 15 day notice would be served.
Cllr Silwal referred to paragraph 3.4 where the local authority could issue a fixed penalty of £200 instead of prosecuting and asked if that was before ... view the full minutes text for item 10.
Presentations by the Environment Agency
JDoe introduced the report and invited Christopher Hall from the Environment Agency and Kieran Sheenan to make their presentation.
Christopher Hall thanked the committee and gave some background to the River Gade improvements. The key points were:
He said that the members would probably want to know why the Environment Agency were proposing it. He explained that the main driver for the project from the Environmental Agencies point of view was the Water Framework Directive, which since leaving the EU has been adopted into UK law. The river Gade was failing on a number of measures set out by the Water Framework Directive and was in a less than good status. Part of their commitment to the water quality of the River Gade. The proposal was to realign the river channel which would revitalise the chalk stream to what it used to be.
A large amount of water resources capital and water resources revenue funding had been secured from the Environment Agency in 2021 and 2022 and around £400,000 and a further £250,000 from 2022/2023 onwards from Affinity water, as Affinity is part of their revitalising rivers partnership.
The main objects of the projects were to improve the river and the adjacent parkland, creating an environment more akin to the natural chalk stream. This would improve opportunities for amenity and recreation around the river, improve resilience to low flow events and to climate change by reconnecting the river with the groundwater table. It would improve the ecology of the river by creating an environment that supports good ecological status under the water improvement regulations 2017. It would also improve the floodplain by re directing the river to the valley bottom and would also address the impact of the gauging station, which was currently in Gadebridge Park and acts as a barrier to fish, by its relocation. There would be a reduction in the maintenance of the current channel by improving flow and therefore cutting down on the growth of vegetation.
The overall cost is estimated to be around £750,000. They have around £610,000 of water resources capital money overall and as previously mentioned they have money from Affinity Water.
The project also meets DEFRA’s 25 year environment plan and the outcomes would be pure clean rivers and resilient water supply, beautiful landscapes, flourishing wildlife and native species, thriving rural economies and communities, protecting animals and plants from health risks. The project also supports Dacorum Borough Council’s policies, including the Local plan 104, supporting initiatives to improve the quality of the water in rivers and canals part C. Part D, encouraging wetland habitat creation, part F restoring culverted watercourses to a more natural state and also Local plan CS26 and the strengthening of biodiversity corridors, the better public access and links through green spaces and finally CS27 (the conservation of heritage assets) and the NPPF paragraph to identify and address the particular significance of any heritage asset that may be affected by a proposal.
So the main benefits anticipated would be ... view the full minutes text for item 11.
There were no amendments