Agenda and draft minutes

Strategic Planning & Environment Overview & Scrutiny - Wednesday, 6th July, 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 164 KB

To agree the minutes of the previous meeting.

Minutes:

Cllr England noted that he had raised some points regarding accuracy and requested that the Chair consider the minutes as not accurate.

 

Cllr Harden commented that the minutes were a summary of the discussion and if Cllr England was concerned that information to him from officers was not accurate then this could be looked into, but that he was comfortable with how the minutes were recorded.

 

Cllr England stated that his concerns were not semantic and that a report of the meeting should accurately reflect the meeting. Cllr England accepted that the minutes did not need to be verbatim and that he had outlined in an email how it was not accurate.

 

Cllr Harden confirmed that he would discuss this further with Cllr England, with colleague support, regarding his concerns separately.

 

Cllr England stated that they could not approve the minutes until they had been discussed as his concerns were substantive. It was noted that a point was amended regarding CThorpe's comment on the grass cutting time, that 8 weeks was mentioned and that it was updated to note that they do not often go over 6 weeks.

 

Cllr Harden advised that the confirmation of the minutes would be held until a further discussion had been held with Cllr England to clarify his concerns. The minutes would then be approved at the next meeting.

2.

Apologies for Absence

To receive any apologies for absence.

Minutes:

Apologies were noted from Cllrs Sutton, Beauchamp, Wyatt-Lowe & Timmis

3.

Declarations of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest.

Minutes:

None

4.

Public Participation

Minutes:

None

5.

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

Minutes:

None

6.

South West Herts Joint Strategic Plan pdf icon PDF 563 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

ARobinson began by introducing COuttersides and LWood and noted that the report was to consider (1) the statement of community involvement and (2) the regulation 18 consultation document. ARobinson took the report as read and highlighted some items of note. ARobinson advised that a briefing session was held last week where LWood took members though the background of the JSP. ARobinson confirmed that the Committee was being asked to inform Cabinet of its views on the 2 documents and that, due to timescales, the report will go to Cabinet on 12th July. ARobinson asked to capture feedback of the Committee to then report back to Cabinet next week.

 

COuttersides commented on the papers and summarised some key issues. The 2 reports have also gone through the other Hertfordshire authorities in parallel with 16 consecutive meetings that commenced 3 months ago, and the reports and recommendations are going through all other partner authorities. COuttersides added that the Regulation 18 plan is a high-level visions and objectives plan and is not looking at growth scenarios, housing options or green belt at this stage. A detailed engagement plan has been set up to supplement the consultation to ensure there is clear messaging on what the JSP is and isn't.

 

Cllr England stated that he supported the JSP as it was a move out of silos. Cllr England commented that it's important that some level of the local plan process should look at the dynamic of being located next to London as this affects areas such as housing numbers and employment. Cllr England described the area as a town of two cities given that they have people who live in the area who work in London and then others who live and work in the local area who earn less. ARobinson acknowledged the comments, noting that the JSP gives them an opportunity to step back and look holistically across the area and recognise that London is next to the wider JSP boundary. ARobinson confirmed that looking at this is part of the JSP's broader horizon and won't be lost in either this or future consultations. COuttersides added that the JSP will allow them to speak to the GLA as a group of authorities and will give them a bigger voice in discussions. Cllr Anderson advised that the Chair of the Hertfordshire Infrastructure Planning Partnership is taking part in London planning meetings and representing Hertfordshire.

 

Cllr Foster requested that the report be provided in a printer-friendly version, to which COuttersides confirmed they would be producing both PDF and hard copies of the report. Cllr Foster noted the use of social media and asked which platforms would be used and how they would intend to reach audiences that don't follow the council or JSP. COuttersides noted previous engagement work in South West Herts in 2020 using Facebook and Instagram to reach 18-25 year olds and hard-to-reach groups, which was particularly successful. The aim was to make questions more attractive to people who didn't have enough  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Provisional Outturn Report pdf icon PDF 508 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

FJump provided an overview of the report, noting that the report was subject to final movements on the Council's reserves and is also subject to the conclusion of the external audit process, which is likely to conclude by the end of September. FJump reported a surplus of £0.565m and that a recommendation will be taken to Cabinet to transfer the surplus to a newly created reserve, and if approved, the reserve will be named 'the inflationary pressures reserve'. The purpose of the reserve is to help the Council mitigate any unexpected in-year inflationary pressures. FJump advised that the general fund positions includes a draw down from the Council's economic recovery reserve, which was set up at the start of the pandemic to cover Covid-related pressures. FJump noted an underspend of £66k and that there were more significant variances in this position, including a more favourable variance to budget from gate fees on recycling. Against strategic planning and the general fund capital budget, there has been further slippage of around £0.335m, which has been primarily driven by delays in the delivery of the fleet as part of the fleet replacement programme. There are also pressures of £0.163m on the schemes, driven largely by expenditure on wheeled bins during the year.

 

Cllr Wilkie agreed with the set up of the inflationary reserve fund. Cllr Wilkie noted concerns around staff shortages and wage increases and asked if the inflationary reserve fund will help with increasing salaries to attract more staff. FJump confirmed that, as part of their medium-term financial planning, salary increases have been built in, while the inflationary reserves fund may also be available to help meet these pressures. FJump stated that this could be discussed further with HR and additional updates could be provided.

 

The Committee noted the report.

8.

Annual Planning Enforcement Report pdf icon PDF 903 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

PStanley presented the report, noting that the purpose was to provide an update on the planning enforcement service over the last 12 months and to provide an update on the March 2022 planning enforcement audit and the service's response to the control issues raised. PStanley noted the successes highlighted in the report and noted that there are now 145 fewer live enforcement cases compared to this time last year and the corporate performance for first site visits is improving, although it is failing to meet the 100% target. PStanley advised that there are a number of challenges, including staff vacancies as there is no permanent assistant team leader and they have been unable to recruit the 1-year enforcement officer position. The audit raised a number of control issues and PStanley noted the appended management action plan. The enforcement team can't deal with all cases at the same time and therefore a focus is required.

 

PStanley outlined the 3 areas of focus as (1) dealing with new cases and close new cases as quickly as possible, (2) to deal with older cases in a systematic way with the aim in 2022 to look at 4 calendar years to ensure that enforcement matters don't become immune to enforcement action by virtue of the passage of time, and (3) to focus on the matters causing significant harm.

 

Cllr Riddick referred to item 3 on page 261 of the report, noting that it suggests a more recent trend of a significant increase in live enforcement cases was being disguised and asked what is being disguised. PStanley explained that the number of enforcement cases has increased over the last 10 years, though there has been a significant decrease in the last 12 months, and that the comment was highlighting that the trend in the last 12 months doesn't negate the overall increase in cases. Cllr Riddick commented that the report notes that the amount of live cases has more than doubled since 2014 and that this suggests more cases are coming in than are being closed. PStanley confirmed that they have closed more than they have received in the last 12 months due to receiving fewer cases and the results of the 400 plan. PStanley advised that if numbers return to 2018-19 levels then there may be a return to the team being able to handle all cases if they continue at current staffing levels.

 

Cllr Harden asked that the Committee's praise be passed onto the team.

 

Cllr Harden noted that the 400 plan is working and that the team had also benefitted from a reduction in cases coming in, and asked if they would now be looking at a 250 or 600 plan. PStanley commented that they are optimistic that they can go to below 400 by the end of the financial year and the intention was to supplement the 400 plan with a 300 plan as a sustainable rolling caseload, though it is unpredictable as a large number of new cases or complex  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Paradise Employment Area Design Code pdf icon PDF 534 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

ARobinson provided an overview of the draft supplementary planning document, noting that the government are putting more emphasis on the development of design codes and that Dacorum had won funding last year to pilot the new design codes. It was decided to select the Paradise area as this had been marked for mixed use development. ARobinson explained that the design code has been developed over the last year with the assistance of an external architectural practice and that they have undertaken an extensive array of consultations as the design code has developed.

 

ARobinson explained that the design code is structured to set out mandatory and voluntary requirements to guide development on the site going forward. The main themes are (1) movement, (2) built for, (3) identity and (4) use. It is hoped the design code will form a baseline to guide developments and can be rolled out for all strategic growth locations across the borough. ARobinson advised that they intend to consult on the document over summer and autumn, to return it to the Committee for further review before going to Cabinet and Council for adoption.

 

ARobinson noted that the Committee was being asked to inform Cabinet of its views on the document prior to going out to consultation.

 

Cllr England commended the report, noting that it is particularly strong on movement. Cllr England remarked that it was encouraging to see the vision for cyclists and pedestrians, and the only area of concern was a preference for flat roofs, which may result in an missed opportunity to optimise solar and that they should look to maximise the amount of renewable energy they get from these buildings. ARobinson responded that the design code doesn't want to frustrate innovation in sustainable development and that the comments would be taken on board so the design code doesn't stifle this type of technology. Cllr Anderson stated that he would be happy to show Cllr England around Hemel Hempstead Day Centre that has a flat roof and solar panels.

 

Cllr Harden commented on the views around discouraging parking and asked if this had any influence on residents who can't park their vehicles on site and what impact this would then have on surrounding areas. ARobinson advised that the design code doesn't change parking standing policy and instead looks to influence the layout and form of parking spaces. The intention is not to change any requirements for parking and instead to ensure parking is provided in a sensitive way.

 

Cllr Wilkie agreed that the report was particularly strong. Cllr Wilkie referred to point 11.3 and noted that the SPD would be a national material consideration determining planning applications and asked if this point would be developed further. ARobinson agreed, noting that once the code was adopted, it would become a statutory document and would need to be regarded in any planning decisions. If it is felt the document needs to be developed before being adopted, any points will be taken on board.

 

The Committee noted  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Annual Waste Review

Presentation to be given on the evening

Minutes:

Cllr Harden noted apologies from officers who would not be presenting the review as it still has to go through internal processes. It was noted that officers suggest the review be circulated via the Committee once it has been approved internally as the review was for presentation only.

11.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 388 KB