Venue: Council Chamber, Council Offices, The Burys, Godalming. View directions
Contact: Fiona Cameron Democratic Services Officer
The Minutes of the meeting of the Environment Overview & Scrutiny Committee held on 29 January 2018 and the Special Meeting held on 15 February 2018 are attached, and Members are asked to confirm them as a correct record.
The Minutes of the Meeting held on 29 January 2018 and the Special Meeting held on 15 February 2018 were confirmed as a correct of the meetings.
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND SUBSTITUTIONS
To receive apologies for absence and note substitutions.
Members who are unable to attend this meeting must submit apologies by the end of Monday 12 March 2018 to enable a substitute to be arranged, if applicable.
Apologies for absence were received from Cllr Peter Isherwood and Cllr Denis Leigh.
There were no substitutes.
DECLARATIONS OF INTERESTS
To receive from Members declarations of interests in relation to any items included on the agenda for this meeting, in accordance with Waverley’s Code of Local Government.
There were no declarations of interest.
QUESTIONS BY MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC
The Chairman to respond to any questions submitted by members of the public in accordance with Procedure Rule 10.
The deadline for receipt of questions is 5pm on Monday 12 March 2018.
There were no questions.
The Chairman raised his concern that the procedure for the public to submit questions to the Overview & Scrutiny committees did not encourage participation in the scrutiny process.
No other members of the Committee had received feedback from members of the public about the procedure for asking questions, and the Chairman agreed to take this forward on an individual basis.
This report provides the context for the attached draft Preferred Options Consultation paper. It sets out the background and progress to date of Local Plan Part 2, describes the main issues pertinent to this stage of the Plan’s development, and requests that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee discuss and support the content of the consultation document.
It is recommended that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee considers the content of the consultation document and passes any appropriate comments and recommendations to the Executive.
The Environment Overview & Scrutiny Committee received the report which set out the progress to date on Local Plan Part 2, and described the main issues relevant to the next stage of the process, the consultation on Preferred Options.
Gayle Wootton, Principal Planning Policy Officer, explained that Local Plan Part 2 contained the detailed site allocations and planning development policies to support the strategy for growth set out in Local Plan Part 1. A public consultation had been undertaken 15 months ago on the Issues and Options, and it was now proposed to move to the next formal stage: consultation on Preferred Options. Planning Officers had met with Neighbourhood Planning teams and agreed where they would include detailed site allocations in their Neighbourhood Plans which would be consulted on through the Neighbourhood Plan process. As a result, the Preferred Options paper only included housing site allocations for Godalming, Haslemere and the Elstead area.
Firstly, the Committee was pleased to see that LPP2 included the National Space Standards, which meant that this minimum standard could be enforced through the development management process.
Prior to the meeting, Committee Members had received an email from the Witley Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group which set out the reasons why Witley Parish Council had handed back responsibility to Waverley for the site allocation for housing in the Parish.
Cllr Anna James explained that locally there was a preference for the development of brownfield land at the Secrett’s garden centre site, rather than other greenfield sites, and there was frustration that this was not accepted by Planning Officers.
The Committee was disappointed that there were unresolved differences with Planning Officers on the sites to be included in the Preferred Options consultation for LPP2. The Committee noted, though, that Neighbourhood Plans had to sit within the strategy that had been examined and agreed as part of the approved LPP1, and the Council had no room to compromise on this.
With regard to the additional points made about the consultation document referring to alterations to Green Belt boundaries to accommodate community uses, and clearly identifying where proposed site allocations are in the AONB, the Committee noted that Officers had already advised Witley Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group that subject to the approval of the Executive, some wording relating to the aspiration for a community use in Witley could be included; and reference to AONB was made in Appendix 3 where the planning constraints of all sites were noted. The Committee was pleased that discussions between Planning Officers and the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group were continuing, but they also encouraged Witley Parish Council to make their representations through the formal consultation.
The Committee observed that there were examples of the base maps used in the consultation document not reflecting common understanding of the current site uses, for example the Farnham Riverside Key Site (DS42). Officers advised that the most current OS maps had been used. They would check the detail on the scope of future development at the Farnham Riverside Key Site, ... view the full minutes text for item 57.
Matt Lank, Greenspaces Manager, to update the Committee on progress on delivering the vision for Frensham Great Pond and Common.
Following a feasibility study undertaken in 2015, the Council initiated the Frensham project in February 2016, titled ‘Heathland Hub’. The intention is to upgrade and improve the ageing and unsuitable facilities at Frensham Great Pond and Common, and to help the ranger service improve their management of visitors and the Common and SSSI.
The development of the project has been complicated by the environmental sensitivity of the site and the lease arrangements with the National Trust. Following extensive stakeholder consultation and joint working with the National Trust, the Council has a proposal that can proceed to a full planning application.
There is an extant Executive authority to submit a planning application, followed by a Common Land Consent application. It is expected to have a facility open for April 2020 following a construction period starting autumn 2019.
Matt Lank, Greenspaces Manager, gave a presentation (slides attached at Annexe 1) to inform the Committee of the current status of the project to improve the facilities at Frensham Great Pond.
Following a feasibility study undertaken in 2015, the Council had initiated the project in February 2016, titled the ‘Heathland Hub’. The intention of the project was to upgrade and improve the ageing and unsuitable facilities which were no longer adequate for the number of visitors, nor as office accommodation for the rangers.
Frensham Great Pond was very popular and attracted visitors from a wide area. This posed a number of challenges relating to traffic congestion, parking, visitor safety, access for emergency vehicles, and litter and waste management.
The Heathland Hub project aimed to deliver the Council’s vision for Frensham Great Pond and Common: to protect and enhance the habitat, wildlife and facilities for all visitors to the site, ensuring that there is a long term financially sustainable approach to the management and maintenance of the facility.
The progress of the project had been complicated by the environmental sensitivity of the site and the lease arrangements with the National Trust. Following extensive stakeholder engagement, the Council now had a proposal that had been agreed in principle with the National Trust and which could proceed to submission of a full planning application.
The proposals comprised a simple building design of wood cladding with a zinc roof, with the café separate to the rangers’ office and the classroom. The car park area would be improved and would mirror the pay and display arrangements operated by the National Trust at the near-by Frensham Little Pond site. The current arrangements were costly (around £70k per annum), with seasonal rangers employed in the summer who were effectively used as car parking attendants. It was expected that the new arrangements would be more financially sustainable and closer to cost neutral.
There was an extant Executive authority to submit a planning application, followed by a Common Land Consent application. It was expected to have the new facility open for April 2020 following a construction period starting in the autumn of 2019.
In response to questions from the Committee, Matt Lank advised:
· A capital budget of £800,000 had been allocated in 2016/17 based on the original design. The new proposals were being re-costed to take account of the simpler design and inflation.
· The original intention had been to provide more car parking to relieve on street parking on surrounding roads, but this was not agreeable to Natural England. Due to the environmental sensitivity of the habitats, Natural England would not allow the Council to actively promote the site to attract more visitors. Nevertheless, the number of visitors was increasing. However, having a properly laid out car park, and introduction of pay and display, would greatly assist in visitor management and release the rangers for more productive activities.
The Committee agreed that the new design was a great improvement over the original proposal, although it was disappointing that more ... view the full minutes text for item 58.
This report provides an update on Air Quality issues in Waverley since the update to the last meeting of this Committee on 29 January 2018.
It is recommended that Members receive the report and note the progress with improving air quality monitoring and reporting
Richard Homewood, Head of Environmental Services, presented an update on Waverley’s air quality monitoring and reporting arrangements:
· The revised 2016 Annual Status Report had now been published and shared with DEFRA.
· The latest monthly raw data from the diffusion tubes, for October 2017 – January 2018, had also been published. Officers would be reviewing this with the contractor (Amec Foster) to identify trends and action to be taken.
· Amec Foster had been appointed to review the network of diffusion tubes and automatic analysers, and make recommendations on the monitoring network. A report was due in April.
· The outcome of the Police investigation into matters raised by the External Audit Report was still awaited.
· The next meeting of the Waverley Air Quality Steering Group would be in April. The Farnham Air Quality Working Group had now met, and terms of reference agreed. The meeting had been very positive and ideas about actions to be taken locally had been discussed. The Working Group would meet again at the end of March.
The Vice-Chairman echoed comments about the meeting of the Farnham AQ Working Group, and welcomed the engagement with local stakeholders including the Farnham Society.
The Chairman expressed his serious concern at the increase in air pollution levels recorded in the most recent diffusion tube data compared to the same period in 2015 (as reported in the revised 2016 Annual Status Report). The increase in air pollution in Farnham appeared to be much higher than outside Waverley, and he felt that this had major implications for planning permissions and the Local Plan.
Richard Homewood reminded the Committee that care was needed in comparing the latest raw data with the historical data to which a bias factor had been applied. It was too soon to say whether there had been a sudden jump in air pollution, or if this was part of a trend, and further analysis of the data would be undertaken by the Council’s contractor.
The Committee agreed to receive and note the update on Waverley’s air quality monitoring and reporting.
This report provides information on key corporate priorities that fall within the remit of the Environment Overview & Scrutiny Committee.
Updates since the Committee report in January are shown in bold type.
It is recommended that the Committee considers whether there are matters in relation to these Corporate Priorities that they would like to add to the Committee Forward Programme, ensuring that the purpose for scrutiny is clearly defined and any proposal passes the work programme selection criteria flowchart.
The Committee received a reporting that provided updates on key Corporate priorities.
The Committee noted that:
· Local Plan Part 1 had been adopted by the Council on 20 February 2018. The six-week challenge period would end on 4 April 2018.
· The Secretary of State’s decision on the Dunsfold Park application was now expected on 29 March 2018.
· Further to the information in the report, the contract with Crest Nicholson was now unconditional, and tree clearance works had commenced on site to prepare the construction access from the A31.
Cllr Anna James asked what would happen if the Secretary of State refused the Dunsfold Park planning application, as the uncertainty was causing a high level of anxiety among residents. Elizabeth Sims, Head of Planning, explained that while the Local Plan and the planning application were separate, they were linked. The Local Plan had now been adopted, and it contained a strategic site allocation at Dunsfold Park, which the Secretary of State would have to take account of in his decision. If the Secretary of State refused the current planning application, the strategic site allocation would still exist in the Local Plan, and would enable an alternative planning application to be submitted for Dunsfold Park.
The Chairman suggested that the Committee should now be monitoring the Brightwells development in a different way, as the project had now commenced. He was also concerned about the impact on the Brightwells construction timetable of the delays in completion of the Farnham Memorial Hall development. The Vice-Chairman disagreed, and felt that it was not the role of the Committee to be monitoring Crest Nicholson’s development timetable. He did feel that it was important that the Memorial Hall development was monitored, but this fell within the remit of the Community Wellbeing O&S Committee.
The Committee therefore agreed to note the report and the progress of key corporate priorities.
The report details the Council’s performance in Quarter 3 of 2017/18 for services that fall within the remit of Environment O&S: Planning and Environment.
Annexe 1 to the report details performance against key indicators.
It is recommended that the Environment Overview & Scrutiny Committee considers the performance figures for Quarter 3 as set out in Annexe 1, and agrees any observations or recommendations about performance and progress towards the targets it wishes to make to the Executive.
The Committee received the Quarter 3 Key Performance Indicators for Planning and Environmental Services. Nora Copping, Policy & Performance Officer presented the headlines:
· The Planning Service continued to perform well on all indicators measuring speed of decision-making.
· Performance on planning appeals (quality measures) was a cause for some concern: the local indicator [P2] which measured the cumulative number of appeals allowed as a percentage of the total number of appeals, continued to exceed the target of less than 30% of appeals allowed, with 25 appeals allowed out of 60.
· The Government’s National Indicators for quality of Planning decisions were based on the total number of applications determined. Performance on Non-major applications [P154] was excellent, and whilst performance on Major applications [P152] was within target at the end of December 2017, appeal decisions received since then meant that there was a risk that this indicator would exceed the target at the end of the fourth quarter. The Committee was aware of the implications of this and had endorsed the Development Management Improvement Plan that included additional training for Members and Officers. The adoption of the Local Plan would also reduce the scope for future challenges to planning decisions.
· There were two Environmental Services indicators of significance in the third quarter: Compliance against street cleaning standards for litter and detritus [E3] had fallen significantly to 73% against a target of 90%; and one food premises inspection [E5] had been overdue at 31 December causing the indicator to dip below target. The premises had now been inspected.
The Committee was disappointed with the performance on street cleaning, and Richard Homewood, Head of Environmental Services, explained that pressure had been put on the contractor to improve performance and bring in additional resources to deal with the extra demands caused by seasonal leaf-fall.
Richard Homewood also elaborated on the comments in the report in relation to the MRF reject rate [E1]: recycling and waste left at the Council’s ‘bring sites’ in local car parks were a significant source of contamination. It was very difficult to police what materials were being left, although CCTV had been installed at those sites that had high incidents of fly-tipping. The Committee noted that bring sites allowed residents to recycle certain materials that were not currently collected kerb-side. As part of the exercise to specify and procure new waste and recycling arrangements from October 2019, consideration was being given to enhancing the range of recyclable materials collected kerb-side, which could then allow bring sites to be closed.
The Environment Overview & Scrutiny Committee was pleased to see that the good performance overall had continued in Quarter 3, with no new areas of concern evident. The Planning Development Improvement Plan was progressing well and the actions should result in improved performance on planning appeals.
The Committee recognised that many of the Environmental Services indicators were not entirely within the control of the Council, and reflected the action and behaviour of residents. The contractor performance on street cleaning (litter and detritus) was very disappointing, ... view the full minutes text for item 61.
The purpose of the report is to provide Members with an update on completion of the actions set out in the Improvement Plan since it was agreed by the Executive in November 2018. There are five broad objectives each associated with a number of related work streams. Progress has been made on all actions with many completed. Timescales are provided for likely completion of outstanding actions and explanatory comment provided.
It is recommended that the Environment Overview & Scrutiny Committee considers the progress on carrying out actions in the Improvement Plan and passes any appropriate comments and recommendations to the Executive.
The Committee received the progress report on the implementation of the Development Management Improvement Plan, which was presented by Elizabeth Sims, Head of Planning.
The Committee noted the good progress being made, and was pleased that additional staff resource has been provided to drive forward delivery of the Action Plan as quickly as possible.
The Committee has some reservations about the Council developing its own bespoke IT database, but recognised that there are benefits to doing this in partnership with a provider rather than purchasing a product that does not meet the Council’s requirements.
Members asked what training was being provided to improve performance on appeals. Elizabeth Sims advised that training focussed on supporting officers in effective presentation of evidence at appeal hearings, but the most important factor would be having an adopted Local Plan with a 5 year housing supply.
The Committee noted that a review of the Planning Committee structure was underway. No conclusions had been reached so far, and the Committee’s Planning Reference Group would be consulted in due course.
To receive a verbal status report from Richard Homewood, Head of Environmental Services, on the works being undertaken in Crown Court, Godalming.
At the last meeting of the Committee, Cllr David Hunter had raised his concerns about the long delay in completion of works by contractors in Crown Court. The paving had been dug up and then works had been halted. This was unsightly, and had resulted in Godalming Town Council losing revenue through not being able to hire out the area for events.
Richard Homewood, Head of Environmental Services, had circulated a note to the Committee (published as a supplement to the agenda) explaining the background to the works. In short, the contractor had commenced works to install fibre optic cabling without gaining prior permission and licence from Waverley, including agreeing the details of the replacement flagstones in the conservation area. Waverley Officers had been engaging with the contractor but progress had been delayed due to the number of contractors involved, one of which being Carillion. There had been progress recently, with necessary documentation being completed and fees paid. The contractor would be meeting with a supplier of ironstone cobbles and Waverley’s Conservation Officer next week.
Cllr Hunter thanked Officers for the comprehensive update, and was pleased that there seemed to be some progress towards the work being completed. However, he found it unacceptable that a contractor could just open the street and then not finish the work. He felt there needed to be strict timetables imposed, and sanctions for late completion of works.
Richard Homewood explained that utility companies had rights to undertake works, but should have obtained prior consent and a licence from Waverley which would have avoided the unfortunate delays. They had now paid the licence fee and a deposit.
The Committee noted the report and looked forward to hearing that the works had been completed.
The Environment Overview & Scrutiny Committee, along with the O&S Coordinating Board, is responsible for managing the Committee’s work programme.
The current work programme (attached) includes items agreed at the O&S Coordinating Board and takes account of items identified on the latest Executive Forward Programme (Annexe 2) as due to come forward for decision.
Members are invited to consider their work programme and make any comments and/or amendments they consider necessary, including suggestions for any additional topics that the Committee may wish to add to its work programme.
Alex Sargeson, Scrutiny Officer, introduced the Committee’s work programme which showed the items due for the June 2018 meeting. As this was the last meeting of the current Council year, some thought would need to be given to drawing up the work programme for 2018/19 and he welcomed suggestions from the Committee members.
The attention of the Committee was drawn to the Budget Strategy Review Working Group being led by the Value for Money & Customer Service O&S Committee. This Working Group would be working with Finance Officers to drive forward the Medium Term Financial Strategy. This would be a long-term project and the membership of the Working Group would be drawn from all four O&S Committees. Environment O&S Committee was invited to nominate two members to join the Working Group.
The Vice-Chairman was very unhappy at the approach being taken to the Budget Strategy Review, which he felt had too wide a remit and was too high level to be useful. The Chairman noted that there was no particular enthusiasm from the Committee members to take part in the Working Group, and he suggested that Alex circulate the more detailed project scope to provide more information about the proposed work streams and the expected outcomes.