Agenda item

Q4 Environmental & Community Protection Quarterly reports


EWalker presented the update, noting that the KPI on high-risk food hygiene inspections was at 80%. The food safety recovery plan was brought in after food hygiene inspections were temporarily paused during the pandemic to catch up with inspections. At the end of Q4, there was a small remaining backlog of low-risk premises with 19 inspections outstanding and this is aimed to be resolved by Q2. There has been an increase in food premises registrations since the pandemic with a high turnover of food businesses. The annual air quality status report for 2023 has been drafted and is currently being reviewed internally and locations for three particulate monitoring devices have been agreed with Hertfordshire County Council ("HCC") as Swing Gate School, Bennetts End Road and Lawn Lane, and these are due to be installed shortly. The capital bid to purchase a new real-time analyser was successful and will be installed in the Apsley air quality monitoring area.


EWalker noted that the team has worked with a business to voluntary surrender 30kg of ready-to-eat products and secured public safety without taking enforcement action. For the corporate health and safety team, funding from the Contain Outbreak Management Fund was secured to plan for potential future pandemics and included resilience training and health and safety training for the corporate leadership team, which is now 85% complete. The enforcement team have been shortlisted for a Keep Britain Tidy Excellence and Enforcement Award, the team were beaten by the London Borough of Greenwich. Several prosecutions have taken place for fly-tipping during Q4. The animal welfare service achieved a Gold Standard Award by the RSPCA. 35 prosecutions were brought by the Council for littering and public space protection orders with 100% success, 33 were taken through the single justice procedure and 2 referred to the magistrates court.


Cllr Wyatt-Lowe commented on item 3.5 of the report regarding the 30kg of ready-to-eat products being surrendered and asked what actions have been taken to prevent this happening in future. EWalker advised that the issue was highlighted during a routine hygiene inspection and was a new business operator. New business operators are educated on how to run their business appropriately, though it was a serious offence and the business operator was very cooperative. The business has been followed up on and all food business operators should have a food safety management system to highlight issues so they have been supported on getting this in place.


Cllr Santamaria noted the improvement in the food inspections backlog and congratulated the team on this. Cllr Santamaria referred to the visit regarding what would happen in the event of a national power outage and asked what was discovered through this. EWalker advised that NBeresford went to a multi-agency exercise, Operation Lima, to highlight any gaps in multi-agency planning. This has resulted in action points to resolve both within the council and as part of the larger local resilience forum, which are being worked towards.


Cllr Mitchell asked if it is possible to use drones to monitor hotspot areas where wardens don't typically patrol. EWalker advised that drones could be used though there are limitations around covert surveillance and also how to identify perpetrators. EWalker commented that it is harder to identify those committing littering or envirocrime as people don't tend to do this near their homes.


Cllr Mitchell noted that there is a current littering hotspot area between Gadebridge and Warners End and that this was dealt with well by an officer, DRhoden, though it is typically residents that are clearing up after others. EWalker explained that this is being looked into as it's a concerning issue.


Cllr Mitchell asked if they have wardens in hotspot areas if drones aren't possible. EWalker advised that district enforcement enforce littering on behalf of the council and that they will deploy them to problem areas.


Cllr Birnie commented that air quality and getting figures from Defra has been an issue for a number of years. Cllr Birnie stated that he was disturbed to see the reference in item 3.3 to a report that has been made and will be passed onto Defra and asked why it had not been brought to the Committee. EWalker advised that the report was presented to members last year and that the new year's report has been drafted. The annual status reports are completed on an annual basis.


Cllr Birnie asked if quarterly air quality reports on collections are provided and suggested that a bi-annual report would be beneficial.


Cllr Anderson welcomed the continued littering enforcement activity and asked if this could be built on further given issues on slip roads on the A41, which is costing the council a lot of money to clear up. Cllr Anderson suggested that camera enforcement be used in the areas as it would help raise money given the level of littering taking place. The Chair suggested that officers discuss this with portfolio holders.


The Chair commented on air quality and asked if a short briefing could be provided to the Committee regarding the steering group. EWalker advised that 0.2 full-time equivalent ("FTE") works on air quality, amounting to 1 day per week. The Chair asked that this be provided as resources allow.


Cllr Mitchell asked how much work is being done to educate the public regarding littering. EWalker confirmed that there is an Environmental Awareness Officer as part of the Communications team, noting that it is challenging to get into schools to speak to young people.


Cllr Timmis noted that officers previously went into schools to inform them of various schemes. The Chair commented that schools are currently under pressure to meet a number of other targets. It was advised that visits do take place at primary school level and that councillors could look to approach head teachers to encourage further visits.


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