Minutes

of the Meeting of the

Strategic Planning and Economic Development Policy and Scrutiny Panel

Monday, 16th March 2009

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

 

Meeting Commenced:  3.30 p.m.   Meeting Concluded: 5.15 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

 

Also in attendance: Councillors Robert Cleland and David Jolley

 

Officers in attendance: Richard Dowding (Development and Environment), David Jellings (Corporate Services Unit), Jo Gadegaard (Corporate Services Unit), Michael Reep  (Development and Environment), Vince Russett (Development and Environment)

 

SPE

55    

Public Discussion – Mr Brian Bradbury

 

Mr Brian Bradbury, Chairman of the Yatton, Cleve and Congresbury Archaeological Research Team (YCCCART) addressed the Panel to express support for retaining the post of Historic Environmental Record Officer.

 

The Panel was advised that YCCCART was extremely concerned that due to financial difficulties, the post was about to be abolished, and that they considered the post to be essential for the following reasons –

 

i)              The officer provided invaluable support to Community in Archaeology in North Somerset (CANS) who were active in supplying detailed information for input to the Historic Environmental Record (HER) and to update records;

 

ii)            Prior to the creation of the post, it was impossible to obtain detailed information or  responses to requests for information from the HER;

 

iii)          It was imperative that the HER record was maintained, up to date, and in compliance with national standards;

 

iv)          Not maintaining the HER record would result in a below expected level of service to CANS, Council directorates, professionals and the public;

 

v)            A poor service may result in North Somerset Council being involved in expensive litigation and claims for compensation;

 

vi)          English Heritage fully supported the maintenance of the post to continue to provide an excellent service.

 

vii)        Without the assistance of the HER Officer, the North Somerset County Archaeologist would be subject to enormous pressure in having to take on work additional to his statutory and other work.

 

The Chairman on behalf of the Panel thanked Mr Bradbury for his address.

 

SPE

56

Declarations of Interest by Members  (Agenda Item 3)

 

Councillor Tony Moulin declared a personal interest in the report on Archaeological Records Service (Minute SPE 55 refers) by virtue of being a member of a community group with close links to the Yatton, Cleve and Congresbury Archaeological Research Team.

 

SPE 57

Minutes of the Meeting held on 9th February 2009 (Agenda Item 4.1)

 

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

SPE

58

Update – Archaeological Records Service (Historic Environment Record Post) (Agenda Item 7.3)

 

The Panel considered a report that provided an explanation of the benefit of having a full-time post of Historic Environment Record Officer in the Economy and Regeneration Service. The Panel also had regard to the address given on this matter under public discussion (Minute SPE 55 refers).

 

The representative of the Director of Development and Environment outlined the role and scope of the post Historic Environment Record Officer, and referred to the history of the current post, highlighting the following significant achievements –

 

i) All records existing in 2006 had been transferred to the national standard software (HBSMR), making the eventual placing of the information on-line possible

 

ii) All Listed Building information from English Heritage had been entered on the record

 

iii) The paper record had been properly sorted, indexed and stored for the first time

 

iv) The huge backlog of ‘grey literature’ (planning-related archaeological reports) waiting to be entered on to the HER had been significantly reduced

 

v) A charging policy for commercial information provision had been developed, and would be implemented from 1st April 2009.

 

The Panel was advised that maintaining a full-time post would achieve the following –

 

i) The time to bring the HER up to full compliance with national standards, with data as complete, up-to-date and accurate would be drastically shortened compared to current arrangements, with significantly less exposure to risk for the authority

 

ii) Further resources could be found for the promotion of projects in the voluntary sector, extending those currently in progress

 

iii) The ability to address the issues of bringing the Historic Environment Record up to full compliance with national standards

 

It was also pointed out that the opportunity in having an Historic Environment Record Officer would significantly reduce the authority’s risk of both loss of heritage resources, and of potential costs through enquiry / compensation, through improvement of both quality and quantity of data from the HER to inform planning decisions.

 

Reference was made also to the additional benefits of the post regarding work programmes with the voluntary sector and commissioning work from the private sector. It was advised that work commissioned from the private sector had significant cost implications. For example, the work of one community group (Charterhouse Environs Research Team - CHERT) between 2002 -2008 alone would have been costed at approximately £350,000 if so commissioned.

 

Members spoke in favour of the principle of retaining the post. They referred to the benefits previously mentioned, and the risks of not having the post. In addition, Members commented on utilising the charging policy, increasing the involvement and support of parish and town councils, utilising existing programmes to achieve pump-priming, and investigating linkage with other sources of Council funding.

 

Concluded: that the Executive Member for Strategic Planning, Highways and Economic Development and the Executive Member for Finance, Property and Human Resources be advised that this Panel expresses its support for retaining the post of Historic Environment Record Officer in the Economy and Regeneration Service, and in connection with this, it is recommended that the following be pursued -

 

(i) greater utilisation of charging policy

(ii) increased involvement and support of parish and town councils

(iii) utilising existing programmes to achieve pump-priming

(iv) investigate linkage with other sources of Council funding, in particular funding that supported activities by young and older people.

SPE

59

Strategic Risk Register (Agenda Item 5.1)

 

The Panel received a reference from the Executive Meeting of 17th February 2009 (EXE 115 refers) regarding regular monitoring and review of the Strategic Risk Register.

 

Concluded: that consideration of this matter be deferred for one cycle to allow for a short guidance report to be prepared.

SPE

60

The Panel’s Work Plan (Agenda Item 6)

 

The Panel considered the current work plan together with the following highlighted suggested topics for investigation –

 

i)               Employment and Economic Development

 

Members agreed that Green Infrastructure Policy and Strategy be included as part of this topic, with reference to the need to be proactive in looking at the impact on the Council’s budget.

 

It was further agreed that there should be a focus on what the Council could do to help small businesses, and the rural economy should be addressed also.

 

ii)      Working closer with the private sector to improve the Council’s leisure facilities

 

iii)     Highways Maintenance

 

Members were concerned about the quality and cost of highways reinstatement following work carried out by utility companies.

 

The Panel was informed that the Roads Maintenance Working Group was due to meet next on Wednesday, 18th March 2009 to consider outstanding issues.

 

iv)           Parking

 

It was noted that this incorporated several issues such as parking charges and transfer of parking services.

 

v)             Improving the carbon footprint to save on energy bills

 

Members commented on the importance of this topic.

 

vi)           Traffic Accidents – Road Safety

 

It was considered that this was a topic of community concern.

 

Discussion also focused on the topic of Section 106 monies. Members expressed particular concern that the Panel’s recommendations on consulting local members, and which had been agreed by the Executive Member did not appear to have been implemented. It was understood that a report was forthcoming.

 

It was considered that a meeting of the Section 106 Monies Working Group be arranged as soon as possible, to enable officers to update officers on implementation of the Panel’s recommendations.

 

Concluded:

 

(i)            that the Work Plan be agreed to reflect work in progress ;

 

(ii)          that the Panel receives brief presentations on three of the additional topics at its next meeting, and for the Panel to then decide which topics to investigate in depth as work plan items;

 

(iii)    that a meeting of the Section 106 Monies Working Group be arranged as soon as possible, to enable officers to update officers on implementation of the Panel’s recommendations, particular with regard to consultation with local members.

SPE

61

Final Report of the Core Strategy Working Group (Agenda Item 7.2)

 

The representative of the Director of Development and Environment drew attention to the recommendations in the report, and highlighted the principles underpinning the conclusions of the working group, including enhancing the environment, a thriving local economy and jobs, and good transport links. He considered that the report provided a good basis for a first draft policy document.

 

The Panel was advised that the next steps would be

 

·        Inform and update Members of the four Area Committees

·        A workshop for Parish Councils to be held on 24th April 2009

·        Separate discussions with the four Town Councils (Clevedon, Nailsea, Portishead and Weston-super-Mare)

·        Stakeholder events to take place between now and the Summer 2009;

·        Workshop for North Somerset Council Members in May 2009.

 

Discussion ensued with Members raising  particular concern regarding the South West Bristol Urban Extension, and the number of houses proposed.

 

The Panel thanked Jo Gadegaard, Scrutiny and Performance Officer for her work in co-ordinating the production of the working group’s report.

 

Concluded:

 

(1)   that the Strategic Planning and Economic Development Policy and Scrutiny Panel agrees with the recommendations of the Core Strategy Working Group as set out below, and that they be referred to the Executive for consideration:

 

1) Core Strategy: General

We should avoid phrases such as “should, seek, aim for, strive, ought, aspire and try to” in the strategy. They should be replaced with “must, have to, need to, and required to”, to underline that good quality design; enhancement of the environment; mixed uses and local jobs, and good facilities and infrastructure from day one is a requirement – not an aim.

2) Core Strategy: Visions

The Core Strategy should incorporate the Working Group’s visions for North Somerset (see section 2.2 of the report).

3) Core Strategy: Key Policies

The policies should include the following:

3.1 Prosperous Economy

a) New developments must be mixed use, and to be truly walkable, new developments must include a local/neighbourhood centre for each 1000 residents with facilities such as retail, quality jobs, public houses/cafes and play- and sports-grounds.

b) Actual jobs must be provided before new houses are built.

3.2 High Quality Design and Place Making

(under Developing Strong and Inclusive Communities)

a) Any large development must have a design code to enable North Somerset Council to be in the driver’s seat.

b) Local distinctiveness and iconic aspects of the built and natural environment must be reflected in new developments.

c) New developments must have an intelligent highways design with natural traffic calming features, to ensure safe and inclusive roads, which appear less cluttered.

d) All new developments must adhere to the following principles for parking solutions:

·        adequate provision

·        parking solutions that remove cars from the street scene

·        a road network that incorporates street parking in specific areas

·        a road network that allows safe use by pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders.

e) To ensure an open and spacious feel, new high-density developments must have:

·        A permeable road network

·        Vistas

·        Few solid walls

f) Characteristic buildings, workplaces and art must be provided from the outset of a new development to avoid conflict by introducing them after people have moved in.

3.3 Affordable Housing

(under Developing Strong and Inclusive Communities)

Affordable housing should be seamlessly integrated into new developments so they are indistinguishable from market housing, and limited to small groups (no more than six dwellings).

3.4 Living within Environmental Limits

a) A new development must enhance the natural environment through area biodiversity action plans.

b) Existing green infrastructure must be the starting point for all new developments and we must create wildlife corridors throughout.

c) Our Core Strategy should indicate the proportion between hard-surface sites and green space, which the council aims for within new developments. The Working Group believes we should aim for 1 ha of green space for every 2 ha of hard-surfaced sites.

d) Path network must link with green infrastructure where possible.

e) Public transport and a comprehensive, strategic path network must be provided throughout new developments from day one.

f) In light of their size and impact on the local carbon footprint, new major development schemes should be zero-carbon from day one.

3.5 Governance (not included in current draft policies)

New developments cannot take place without a management structure that clearly places responsibility for maintaining public spaces and facilities. There should be a plan for involving residents in the management structure.

4) Other Planning Documents

The working group recommends that the council considers whether supplementary planning documents are the best format for providing details for the developments. The working group have the view that area action plans might be better suited.

 

 

(2) that the Executive be requested to consider the recommendations and respond to them in time for the Panel’s first meeting in the new Council Year (2009/2010);

 

(3) that a working group be set up to consider the Council’s economic strategy to attract labour-intensive and high skill employers in 2009/2010.

SPE

62

Response of the Executive Member to Recommendations on Portishead Open Air Pool (Agenda Item 7.1)

 

 

The Executive Member for Strategic Planning, Highways and Economic Development had provided a written response. This advised that following your consideration of the issue he had noted the recommendations of the Panel. The Executive Member added that the Panel would be aware of the major review currently taking place of cultural services which included both the contracted sports centres and the dual use sports centres controlled by the council.  This review also included the Playhouse Theatre and the Museum service.  In part, this review covered the requests from the Panel contained in the recommendations.  However, the scale and complexity of this major review was such that it would not be possible to guarantee its conclusion in time to feed back to the Panel in April 2009.   Once the work was complete the Executive Member advised that he would be happy to bring the conclusions to the Panel.

 

The Vice-Chairman referred to a report in the local press on 14th March 2009 stating a decision had been taken to allow the Portishead Pool Community Trust the opportunity to manage the pool for one year.

 

It was explained that it was the proposed decision of the Executive Member for Finance, Property and Human Resources that had been published, and that the decision had not yet been signed off. The proposed decision included entering into an initial short term lease with the Trust up to 4th April 2010 subject to provisions enabling the Trust to call for a longer term renewal lease.

 

Concluded: that the report be noted, and that the responses of the Executive Member for Strategic Planning, Highways and Economic Development to the Panel’s two outstanding recommendations be awaited.

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                    ________________________________

                                                                                                                Chairman

                                                                                    ________________________________