Agenda and minutes
Planning, Transport and Environment Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel
Thursday, 26th July, 2012 2.00 pm
Venue: Council Chamber - Guildhall, Bath. View directions
Contact: Mark Durnford 01225 394458
WELCOME AND INTRODUCTIONS
The Chairman welcomed everyone to the meeting.
EMERGENCY EVACUATION PROCEDURE
The Chair will draw attention to the emergency evacuation procedure as set out under Note 6.
The Chairman drew attention to the emergency evacuation procedure.
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND SUBSTITUTIONS
Councillor David Martin had sent his apologies to the Panel. Councillor Nicholas Coombes was present as a substitute for Councillor David Martin for the duration of the meeting.
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST UNDER THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT 1972
Members who have an interest to declare are asked to:
a) State the Item Number in which they have the interest
b) The nature of the interest
c) Whether the interest is personal, or personal and prejudicial
Any Member who is unsure about the above should seek advice from the Monitoring Officer prior to the meeting in order to expedite matters at the meeting itself.
There were none.
TO ANNOUNCE ANY URGENT BUSINESS AGREED BY THE CHAIRMAN
There was none.
ITEMS FROM THE PUBLIC OR COUNCILLORS - TO RECEIVE DEPUTATIONS, STATEMENTS, PETITIONS OR QUESTIONS RELATING TO THE BUSINESS OF THIS MEETING
At the time of publication no notifications had been received.
Five members of the public had registered to make a statement to the Panel. Three of these were general statements and two were relating to items on the agenda for the meeting.
Mr George Bailey addressed the Panel on behalf of the Radstock Public Transport Group, a copy of the statement can be found on the Panel’s Minute Book, a summary is set out below.
The Halcrow Report on the Frome – Radstock Branch is easily dissected, but today I will study only one particular aspect. The Capital Costs show a range of costs headed Track Infrastructure, Signalling, Station Costs and finally Project Management & Contingency. The first three total about £14m, which is probably inflated but the last is £27m.
I am sure that this Authority would not countenance any quotation for internal work where Management and Contingency constitutes 2/3 of the estimated costs so why permit such a statement in this document? Having developed Project Plans in the distant past, I know that presenting an outline with overheads of such magnitude to a Divisional Director would have earned me a rapid exit.
This Report cannot be approved with such a glaring fault in its structure and should be re-worked with more care.
Councillor Ian Gilchrist asked if he was able to say how much he thought the costs should be.
Mr Bailey replied that the group were working on some cost components but felt that a figure of £7.5m was more reasonable assuming the proposal involved high speed rail. He added that the existing track could be used and that Halcrow had allowed for full possession of the line and to work on the track at night and at weekends. This he said would simply inflict further costs.
Councillor Malcolm Hanney proposed that his comments be passed to the relevant Cabinet Member and Council officer.
Mr Bailey replied that he was due to meet Councillor Roger Symonds, Cabinet Member for Transport on Tuesday 31st July.
The Chairman on behalf of the Panel thanked him for his statement.
Lin Patterson addressed the Panel on behalf of the Save our 6-7 Buses Campaign, a copy of the statement can be found on the Panel’s Minute Book, a summary is set out below.
The 6-7 bus route runs in north east Bath, over 3 wards with approximately 9,000 residents, which is around 10% of the population of the city. B&NES’ statistics show a slightly larger elderly population here than in other areas of Bath.
As you may know, starting in May 2010, our grass-roots campaign succeeded in reversing an ill-advised attempt to re-route the bus service which dismembered the two halves of our very hilly community. But with the reconnection of the route, First Bus removed two of the five buses travelling the circuit and we were left with half the former frequency, plummeting from 20 minutes to 40. That resulting 40 minute gap between buses caused overcrowding and full buses which left people behind at bus stops in freezing ... view the full minutes text for item 20.
The Panel confirmed the minutes of the previous meeting as a true record and they were duly signed by the Chairman.
Cabinet Member Update
This item gives the Panel an opportunity to ask questions to the Cabinet Member(s) and for them to update the Panel on any current issues.
Councillor Tim Ball, Cabinet Member for Homes & Planning addressed the Panel. He informed them that the Inspector had suspended the examination on the Core Strategy for up to a year. He added that the suggested timetable would result in a suspension from now until around June 2013 with anticipated further hearings in July 2013, but that this could easily slip if the re-assessment of the housing requirement indicates that a significant change of strategy should be considered.
Councillor Malcolm Hanney suggested that the Council should withdraw the current strategy. He asked if a year would give the Council enough time to complete the work that was required.
Councillor Tim Ball replied that he was reasonably confident that the Council would be able to meet the new timescales. He added that if the Council had chosen to approve an urban extension this would have provided a solution to the matter.
The Chairman highlighted that the Panel were due to receive an update on the Core Strategy at its meeting in August.
Councillor Nicholas Coombes commented that he had read the Inspector’s report and suggested that the best option may be to withdraw.
Councillor Geoff Ward commented that he was concerned over the revised timescale and asked if the departments involved had enough resources.
Councillor Tim Ball replied that the Local Development Framework Steering Group would be discussing the matter next week. He added that if further resources are required he would seek them.
The Chairman on behalf of the Panel thanked him for his update.
The centre of Bath offers a wide range of employment with a high percentage of retail and hospitality such as restaurants and hotels. A large volume of people travel into the city every day/night to go to work using public transport and long stay car parks. It is important that we understand the needs and requirements of those business/ organisations/ individuals that travel into work to help to continually improve the travel options available whilst benefiting the local economy. The review investigations will therefore hope to provide a greater understanding of the current travel to work options available and how best that we can work together to ensure Bath & North East Somerset’s future Travel Strategy reflect these, but also support the wider promotion of greener and cleaner travel choices for everyone.
The Policy Development & Scrutiny Manager introduced this item to the Panel.
Councillor Malcolm Hanney commented that he felt the current scope of the review to be quite inward looking.
The Chairman commented that the Panel could decide the review requires a second element to it that would involve the whole of the Panel.
Councillor Caroline Roberts replied that she felt that the input of the whole Panel would be required.
Councillor Ian Gilchrist commented that the main element of the review should be to tackle congestion at rush hour.
The Chairman asked for volunteers to join herself and Councillor Caroline Roberts on the steering group.
Councillor Geoff Ward agreed to join and Councillor David Martin was nominated to join by Councillor Douglas Nicol and Councillor Ian Gilchrist.
The Panel RESOLVED to:
(i) Note the Draft Terms of Reference and agree that a full Panel review would take place later in the year.
(ii) Agree to undertake the review within the timescales set out in the terms of reference.
The Draft Allotments Strategy has been developed with the full involvement of representatives of the Allotment Association. Its key purpose is to maximise participation in allotment gardening. The Draft Strategy recognises the importance of allotments as a leisure and recreational facility and for their benefits to local communities, green spaces, health and well-being wildlife, as well as their role in producing low-cost healthy food produced locally in a sustainable way.
The Parks and Estates Manager introduced this item to the Panel. He stated that extensive work had been undertaken with the Allotments Association and subsequently the Allotment Forum to jointly create the draft strategy. He added that the strategy incorporates best practice from other authorities as well as guidance from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
Mr Geoffrey Dart, Chair of the B&NES Allotments Association addressed the Panel, a full copy of his statement is on the Panel’s Minute Book and a summary is set out below.
I’m here today with my colleague Virginia Williamson, the Association’s Secretary who drafted much of the Strategy presented in your agenda.
Despite Allotments being a statutory responsibility B&NES does not currently have a strategy for allotments or a consolidated operations manual setting out its responsibilities or relationship with tenants. This absence leads to widespread confusion and dis-satisfaction amongst tenants and does not allow the quality of service to be monitored against an agreed standard. This is compounded by poor communication.
Over the last three years the Association has worked with Officers and Councillors on four initiatives. The first is the draft strategy before you. The second is an annual site inspection report to record agreed actions between site representatives and the allotments officer and to monitor their implementation. The third is a six monthly public forum chaired by Councillor David Dixon and finally a ‘More Plots for Bath’ initiative to begin to tackle the waiting list of over 500 people.
Whilst we see a strategy as a necessary and long overdue first step, we are disappointed that Officers have made no progress in costing it – we are concerned that after so much hard work a strategy without costs could be kicked into the long grass.
In conclusion we ask that the draft strategy is accepted and that statutory responsibilities are addressed urgently.
Councillor Malcolm Hanney commented that the strategy really did require some costing within it.
Mr Dart replied that the Association would be happy to go forward and work on some costs.
Councillor Geoff Ward asked if he could give a judgement on the likely costs required.
Mr Dart replied that one full time employee dedicated to the matter would solve a number of issues.
Councillor Geoff Ward asked for further information on the allotments database.
Mr Dart replied that it was well overdue and would cost between £6,000 - £7,000.
The Neighbourhood Environment Manager commented that there was bespoke software available but a decision had not yet been made as to whether it could be integrated with the incoming CRM system.
Mr Dart commented that there was a need to bring vacant and derelict plots back into use. He added that he felt let down by the officers as they had been working on the strategy for around 15 months.
Councillor Douglas Nicol asked how many plots were currently derelict.
The Parks and Estates Manager replied that it was almost impossible to give that figure ... view the full minutes text for item 24.
This paper provides an update on the current position in regard to the agreed 3 year plan for parking charge increases. It also sets out the actions proposed or being undertaken to ensure that the service continues to provide value for money whilst supporting the council’s wider transport policies.
Councillor Michael Evans addressed the Panel. He stated that he was concerned over the use of the word anomaly in paragraph 4.6 of the report in relation to the pressure placed on the Council to keep low cost or free parking outside of Bath to ensure the competiveness of the town centres.
Councillor Paul Myers addressed the Panel. He stated that Midsomer Norton and other small market towns were concerned about the prospect of parking charges being increased or introduced. He called for the evidence of any need in such action to be shown to the Panel.
Councillor Geoff Ward commented that he was pleased with the report as no actual increase in charges was shown. He added that a comprehensive plan on car parking in Bath was required.
Councillor Malcolm Hanney agreed with the comments made by Councillor Ward and stated there was a need for a Parking Strategy and Parking Business Plan.
Councillor Caroline Roberts commented that a Parking Strategy was long overdue and she wished to alleviate the concerns mentioned by the Councillors representing Midsomer Norton.
The Panel RESOLVED to:
(i) Note the decision of Full Council on 14th February 2012 that the parking charges in Bath & North East Somerset should not be increased.
(ii) Ask that a report on the Council’s Car Parking Strategy and Parking Business Plan be submitted to its October meeting.
The Panel will receive a presentation on this item from the Group Manager for Transport and Planning Policy.
The Chairman announced that the presentation would encompass the next two agenda items – 12 (Transport Strategy) & 13 (London Road Congestion).
Patrick Rotherham, Federation of Bath Residents Association (FoBRA) addressed the Panel. He stated that transport was a top priority for the group and welcomed the conference that was planned to take place on 18th September. He added that a version of a strategy does exist as FoBRA had commented upon it.
The Chairman thanked him for his comments and suggested he could be considered as a stakeholder in the upcoming Single Day Inquiry on Travel to Work.
The Group Manager for Planning Policy & Transport gave a presentation to the Panel. A full copy can be found on the Panel’s Minute Book, a summary is set out below.
He said that an articulate strategy was in place, but currently over four separate documents.
Traffic levels to the City of Bath are stable.
Bath retains a large catchment area for its commuters and visitors.
The majority of traffic on Cleveland Bridge is not through traffic except for HGV’s. HGV’s tend to avoid the morning peak of travel.
The Highways Authority, Somerset CC & Wiltshire CC are appealing the proposed HGV restriction. The DfT will decide in next couple of months whether to support the appeal or not.
Councillor Malcolm Hanney suggested the increased revenue from bus and train use could be used for the wider benefit of the Council. He asked if there were still plans to have a Park & Ride to the East of Bath.
The Group Manager for Planning Policy & Transport replied that the Council was still committed to having one and was looking for the best site. He added that there may be a fuel rebate offered to Local Authorities with a view to attempting to increase bus patronage.
Councillor Geoff Ward asked if the duration of visits to the City were recorded.
The Group Manager for Planning Policy & Transport replied that the length of time that cars spent in the car parks was recorded during the study. He added that a balance was required so that commuters did not use the spaces within the City as they needed to be available for shoppers.
Councillor Geoff Ward commented that there should be more routes in and out of the City.
The Group Manager for Planning Policy & Transport replied that ideally visitors should use either the bus or train as the City is quite constrained. He added that the Council may need to be brave in its future decision making.
The Chairman on behalf of the Panel thanked him for his presentation.
MoD Sites - Concept Statements
The Panel will receive a verbal update on this item from the Policy & Environment Manager.
The Senior Planning Policy Officer gave an update to the Panel on this item. He informed them that the consultation had been very comprehensive and had been well attended by the public. He added that all of the comments that had been received during the consultation period were due to be placed on the Council’s website by the end of the month.
He explained that the Cabinet had requested Officers to investigate the implications of increasing the proportion of homes meeting the Code for Sustainable Homes Level 5 or above (zero carbon).
Councillor Douglas Nicol commented that the Council should push hard on sustainability issues when in discussions with the developers.
The Chairman asked if a report could come back to the Panel prior to a decision being made at the September Cabinet meeting.
The Senior Planning Policy Officer replied that it could.
Councillor Nicholas Coombes commented that he agreed with the proposition that the number of Level 5 homes could increase on the sites.
Councillor Geoff Ward asked if anybody present could comment on a rumour he had heard regarding the MOD site of Ensleigh. He said that he had read in the local paper that plans for the site may attempt to spread onto the land of Kingswood School.
The Senior Planning Policy Officer replied that it was very much a live issue and concerned an area of land adjacent to the playing fields. He added that the land in question was outside of the Green Belt and not within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The Divisional Director for Planning and Transport added that they were assessing the area in advance of any potential enquiries from developers.
The Chairman on behalf of the Panel thanked the Senior Planning Officer for the update.
This report presents the latest workplan for the Panel (Appendix 1).
The Chairman introduced this item to the Panel. She announced that a date for the August meeting had been set for 10.00am on Thursday 23rd August.
She also reminded them that earlier in the meeting they had agreed to receive the following reports.
Core Strategy Update – August
MoD Concept Statements – September
Bus Tendering Process – September / October
Car Parking Strategy – October
Allotments Strategy – November
Councillor Malcolm Hanney reiterated his earlier comments that the Panel should look to add some elements of Joint Scrutiny to its workplan.
The Panel RESOLVED to agree with all of the above proposals.