Agenda item

Stewardship & Open Spaces Policy interim report


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 resolve the issue. AA reiterated this was why it was so important to establish adoption and ownership.

AA noted that developers were keen to use management companies because they did not need to pay for them. This resulted in residents and the management companies trying to keep other residents out, as they did not pay for the open space, which caused friction in the community. AA felt there was a delicate balancing act but it was important to have the policies in place to minimise these problems happening in the future.

SW welcomed the report and this discussion. There had been floods in Tring and some land wasn’t registered, which had caused problems. SW was concerned about ‘pseudo-public spaces’ as access remains at the discretion of the landowner, who can alter the rules at will with no explanation. SW felt it important there was a charter but it would always be her preference to adopt the land. SW asked if a Task and Finish group should be involved to get the view of councillors to draw up the report. In terms of this report, SW asked whether the public would be consulted before its adoption.

NT asked whether the policy, if adopted, would be controlled through the planning system. AR confirmed that it would be mandatory, but different approaches could be applied to different sites. JB stated it would enable the Council to have these arguments before the formal DMC planning stage, with prior consultation with the developer to review the policy.

AE stated that he welcomed the possibility of a Task and Finish group to review the SPD, but he would like to make sure that NEEPS and LEAPS (ph) would be adopted by the Council and not reliant on local residents. AE asked why we could not say ‘No, this is how we’re going to do this.’ JB pointed out that the Task and Finish group should consider all options.

NT asked when there would be an opportunity for this Committee to input into this discussion at a detailed level. JB stated the Community would have another opportunity when the policy has been defined further. If a Task and Finish group were to be established, then members of the Committee could volunteer to be part of this group. JD responded that there was a draft prepared, which required further work. JD suggested he could discuss this with AA further, as this was a local planning matter.

AA stated the purpose of the SP&E meeting was to advise members that this was happening, and the meeting in November would review the content of the report, so the comments could be considered. AA was not sure what benefits the Task and Finish group would have that would improve matters. AA agreed to discuss this further with JD. JB felt there were matters where the members would want to input before hearing from the officers.

PMcD asked about how nuanced the details could be in the SPD report, e.g. some developments could become a burden after 25 years, whereas parks should be adopted with a public benefit with costs incurred by the Council. AR felt that the developers would test the Council as to why some developments were being adopted and some not. AR stated it was important to work through the practical requirements for each development.

JB stated that the Committee was minded to welcome the report but to add that it would be best carried forward by the early establishment of a Task and Finish group. JB requested the Portfolio Holder to note the expression of opinion and thanked JD for the contribution of the officers.


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