Minutes

of the Meeting of the

Strategic Planning and Economic Development Policy and Scrutiny Panel

Monday, 24th November 2008

held at the Town Hall, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset.

 

Meeting Commenced:  3.30 p.m.   Meeting Concluded: 5.27 p.m.

 

Councillors:

 

P  Clive Webb (Chairman)

P  David Pasley (Vice-Chairman)

 

P  Bob Cook 

P  Jill Iles 

P  Edward Keating 

P  Dr. Mike Kellaway-Marriott 

P  Keith Morris 

P  Tony Moulin 

 

 

P: Present

A: Apologies for absence submitted

 

Officers in attendance: Karuna Tharmananthar (Development and Environment), David Jellings (Corporate Services Unit), Jo Gadegaard (Corporate Services Unit), Graham Quick (Development and Environment).

 

SPE

30    

Declarations of Interest by Members (Agenda Item 3)

 

There were no declarations of interest.

 

SPE

31    

Minutes of the Meeting held on 6th October 2008 (Agenda Item 4.1)

 

            Resolved: that the minutes of the meeting be approved as a correct record.

SPE

32    

Presentation – Work and Future Role of the Forest of Avon (Agenda Item 5)

 

The Panel received a presentation by Jon Clark, Director of the Forest of Avon on the work and future role of the Forest of Avon Partnership.

 

Mr Clark commented on the principal areas of work of the Partnership over the last year. He also highlighted current programmes including Green Infrastructure mapping, planning and delivery to facilitate sustainable development and community cohesion, working with disadvantaged people to improve their access to facilities, engagement in learning and the natural environment, and support for local rural businesses, such as the production and use of wood fuel.

 

Mr Clark responded to Members’ questions and queries.

 

The Panel was informed that the Partnership had reduced core costs by 30 per cent, and had generated £62,000 from new sources. In 2007/2008, the four unitary authorities in the West of England each contributed £28,998 to the Partnership, as part of a total budget of £193,155 that included fees and income. The monetary value of programmes managed by the Partnership in 2007/2008 amounted to £313,000. Mr Clark added that in addition, the Partnership sought to access grants and other sources of funding in order to help deliver projects.

 

Reference was made to skills development, the Partnership’s work with disadvantaged groups, and also, the help being given to farmers and landowners to diversify and achieve income through conservation schemes.

 

In response to a Member’s query, Mr Clark referred to the continuing commitment by the Partnership to ensure its long-term sustainability by establishing the Forest of Avon Trust, supported by the West of England unitary authorities. It was intended that the Trust would develop to access additional grant resources, donations, membership income and corporate support for its work.

 

The Chairman on behalf of the Panel thanked Mr Clark for his informative presentation.

 

SPE

33    

Implementation of the Natural Environmental Review (Agenda Item 8.1)

 

The Panel considered on progress with the implementation of the Natural Environmental Review and the development of the Green Infrastructure Strategy.

 

The representative of the Director of Development and Environment highlighted the following areas –

 

(i) Natural Environment Review

(ii) Green Infrastructure Strategy

(iii) Relationship between the Strategy and the Natural Environment service area

(iv) Environmental Partnerships

(v) Progress with implementation of the review.

 

It was explained that the new Natural Environment Service would help with more flexible and collaborative working. It was emphasised that there had been considerable staff and Union consultations

 

The representative of the Director of Development and Environment responded to Members’ questions and queries. He advised that the Service Plan would help to highlight how relatively small resources would be best

deployed in order to achieve key objectives.

A Member expressed concern that about the limited resources available, and that savings of £25,000 had still to be achieved. He commented that it was critical that the Council geared up those limited resources in order to be able to efficiently manage the Green Infrastructure typology.

 

The representative of the Director of Development and Environment advised that the aim was to ensure an efficient organisation so that better gearing was achieved and additional funding was secured.

 

Concluded: that the progress with the implementation of the Natural Environmental Review and the development of the Green Infrastructure Strategy be noted.

SPE

34    

Draft Regional Spatial Strategy (Agenda Item 6.1) and Matters of Local Interest raised by Members (Agenda Item 6.3)

 

The Committee considered these references from the West Area Committee meetings of 16th October and 13th November 2008 (Minutes WAC 96 and 104 refer) requesting the Panel to include consideration of issues relating to the Regional Spatial Strategy and Core Strategy on its work plan.

 

Concluded: that the issues raised by the West Area Committee relating to the Regional Spatial Strategy and Core Strategy be considered as part of the Panel’s discussion on those topics.

SPE

35    

Councillor Working Group for Gypsy and Travellers Site Indentification Process

 

 

 

Concluded: that Councillors Bob Cook, Dr Mike Kellaway-Marriott and Tony Moulin be confirmed as the Panel’s three representatives on the Joint Councillor Working Group with the Adult Services and Housing Policy and Scrutiny Panel on the Gypsy and Travellers Site Identification Process.

SPE

36    

Financial Planning 2009/10 and Beyond (Agenda Item 6.2)

 

The Panel received this reference from the Executive of 9th September 2008 (Minute EXE 42 refers).

 

Panel Members commented on the need to make savings whilst providing services more efficiently. The need to avoid reductions in service provision was emphasised. 

 

A Member commented that whilst the Council must be efficient and seek to make savings where possible, there was a need to be more imaginative in securing sources funding particularly through partnership working and through non- governmental organisations.

 

Another Member commented that the Council should be seeking to be more efficient, and expressed particular support for the following strategic principles –

 

(i) Identify those activities from which we will withdraw or pull back, in order to ensure that spending is focused on doing the important things well.

 

(ii) Lobbying the Government to improve the funding available to North Somerset.

 

(iii) Challenging the Government where its funding for initiatives comes with long-term liabilities to local taxpayers.

 

The representative of the Director of Development and Environment referred to the pressures on the budget, and commented that at this stage, it could not be stated that there would not be any reductions in services.

 

Concluded: that the report be noted.

SPE

37    

The Panel’s Work Plan (Agenda Item 7)

 

The Panel considered the current Work Plan and agreed the following changes –

 

Section 1 – Current Work

 

(i)      Highways Maintenance – Insert “For future consideration” in the column headed timescale;

 

(ii)     Review of Portishead Open Air Pool – Executive’s response to the working party’s recommendations expected in February 2009;

 

(iii)    Section 106 Contributions – It was noted that the Vice-Chairman was particularly concerned about the apparent lack of implementation of the recommendations. Amend timescale to read that the working group would probably reconvene in January 2009;

 

(iv)    Transport and Young People – Councillor Keating reported that the young people involved had been requested to carry out market research and come back with specific information on what may be achievable. Nothing further had been heard. The Panel agreed to delete this topic, and to reinstate it at a later date, if necessary;

 

(v)     Urban Extensions and Core Strategy - that consideration of

the Regional Spatial Strategy issues identified by the West Area Committee (Minute SPE 33 above refers) be included in the work plan.

 

Section 2 – Issues Awaiting Response from Executive

 

Highways Maintenance – Amend answer expected to January 2009.

 

Section 3 – Ongoing Issues

 

(i)      Finance and Performance quarterly report – Delete as this is a standard reference from the Executive;

 

(ii)     Motorway Junctions – Councillor Keating reported that the Highways Agency had rejected his request that they meet with the Panel to discuss problems relating to junctions 19 and 21 of the M5. It was agreed that the item remain on the work plan.

 

(iii)    Cabstand - Delete from the work plan.

 

Concluded: that the Plan be updated and agreed to reflect work in progress.

SPE

38    

Verbal Update – Core Strategy (Agenda Item 8.2)

 

The representative of the Director of Development and Environment updated the Panel.

 

The Panel was informed that it was intended that a report would be submitted to the Executive in February 2009. However, because of the wish to align local development schemes more closely with the Regional Spatial Strategy, it was possible that the Core Strategy would be delayed until April or May 2009.

 

In response to a Member’s query, the representative of the Director of Development and Environment commented applications for judicial review by some other local authorities in the South West could lead to further delay.

 

Panel Members reaffirmed their view that infrastructure and the provision of jobs must precede housing development.

 

 

                                                                                    ________________________________

                                                                                                                Chairman

                                                                                    ________________________________