ENVIRONMENT AND REGENERATION SCRUTINY COMMITTEE
Minutes of a meeting held on 12th October, 2017.
Present: Councillor V.J. Bailey (Chairman): Councillor M. Lloyd (Vice-Chairman); Councillors Mrs. P. Drake, V.P. Driscoll, S.T. Edwards, G. John, Mrs. A. Moore, A.R. Robertson, Ms. S. Sivagnanam and S.T. Wiliam.
Also present: Councillors G.A. Cox (Cabinet Member for Neighbourhood Services and Transport), N.P. Hodges, Dr. I.J. Johnson and L.O. Rowlands.
375 MINUTES –
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 14th September, 2017 be approved as a correct record.
376 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –
No declarations were received.
377 ANNUAL REPORT: SECTION 106 LEGAL AGREEMENTS 2016/17 –
The Senior Planner, Development Contributions Officer, provided the Scrutiny Committee with a presentation on Section 106 in the Vale of Glamorgan which was also a work programme item for the Committee. A copy of the presentation was circulated at the meeting and would be uploaded to the website in due course.
The Officer commenced by advising that new developments could have an impact on existing community infrastructure. Section 106 Agreements were legally binding agreements entered into between a Local Authority, a landowner and a developer to secure planning obligations. Planning obligations required developers to provide works, services or financial contributions to enhance the quality of their development and to help mitigate the impacts that arose as a consequence of their development.
It was important to note that the Vale of Glamorgan had amongst the highest house prices in Wales, which generated significant land values from which Section 106 contributions could be sought by the Council.
Under Section 106 Agreements the Council may enter into a planning obligation with a developer to:
restrict development or use of land
require operations or activities to be carried out in, on under or over land
require land to be used in a specific way or
require payments to be made to the Authority either in a single sum or periodically.
Section 106 Agreements usually stipulated that the contributions have to be spend within five years following receipt and could only be used to mitigate the impact of a new development to create provision for future occupiers of the new development. Therefore, Section 106 contributions could only be spend in the area where the development had occurred, although there were exceptions i.e. affordable housing and educational facilities, where the catchment area for a school may be borough wide.
Reference was made to the types of planning obligations:
off-site highway works
public open space
training and development.
Where appropriate, and having regard to development viability, the Council would seek to secure new and improved community infrastructure, facilities and services appropriate to the scale, type and location of proposed developments through the use of planning. Community infrastructure may include the provision or improvement of:
transport infrastructure and services for pedestrians, cyclists, public transport and vehicular traffic;
public open space, public art, leisure, sport and recreational facilities;
service and utilities infrastructure;
environmental protection and enhancement such as nature conservation, flood prevention, town centre regeneration, pollution management or historic renovation;
recycling and waste facilities; and
employment opportunities and complementary facilities including training.
The Senior Planner also referred to how Section 106 Agreements were negotiated commencing with pre-application discussions, planning applications received, initially assessed for Section 106 implications, case officer reviews, planning submissions and comments received from service areas. Negotiation with the developer / landowner was undertaken to secure the planning obligations and an assessment of any viability assessments either in house or by the District Valuer Services was undertaken and the planning application report was either considered by delegation or by the Planning Committee itself. Section 106 Agreements were then signed and entered onto a monitoring data base and the planning consent and decision notice issued.
A Section 106 Protocol for Implementation had been developed and the Council’s Committees received information in relation to Section 106 Agreements in the form of an annual monitoring report.
For 2016/17 23 planning permissions had been granted which were subject to Section 106 Agreements. The value of the financial contributions for these Legal Agreements totalled £9,794,952.16 which came in mainly from major residential developments.
During consideration of the report, a number of questions from Members were raised as outlined below.
Have you seen a reduction in single dwelling applications since Section 106?
The Department was currently undertaking a review of the Affordable Housing Policy under the new LDP which had been adopted in June 2017. A full answer could not yet be provided until a full review had been undertaken, but initial officer observations were that a slow-down had not been seen, although detailed conversations with small developers were on the increase.
With reference to Northcliffe, a property in Penarth, a Member queried the reduction in what had finally been accepted and how it had been weighted.
The Officer advised that in terms of viability assessments, officers went through the documents thoroughly and where appropriate engaged with independent consultants such as the District Valuer Services. The Officer concurred with the Member that Northcliffe had indeed been an extreme exception given the site specific issues. The Operational Manager advised that, in her view, it was fair to say that the Council’s Section 106 requirements were quite challenging for some developments which had site specific constraints, although the Vale had been extremely successful in securing results through Section 106 Agreements.
Do you think that the amount of Section 106 the Vale obtains has an impact on the Council’s poor financial settlement from Welsh Government?
The Operational Manager did not think that that is a direct implication. The Officer believed that the good practices in the Vale and the fact that it was an affluent area for development were key to the amount of planning obligations the Council could negotiate.
The Managing Director further stated that Welsh Government considered a number of factors when agreeing a settlement figure. Section 106 monies was used in the main for capital projects e.g. enhancing parks etc. although on occasions it had been used for revenue projects e.g. community transport.
Members took the opportunity to congratulate the officers on the work undertaken in obtaining the Section 106 contributions, with particular reference to consultation that had been undertaken to date and the support and advice received from the relevant officers.
How do you obtain Section 106 obligations in relation to play areas?
Major house builders were encouraged to deliver open spaces on large developments sites but for smaller schemes this could prove difficult to deliver and therefore an off-site contribution may be more appropriate. It was with encouragement and negotiation that the Council worked out what was required.
The Vale of Glamorgan had previously indicated that they were going to pursue a Community Infrastructure Levy. What was the current position in relation to this?
A report was presented to Cabinet on 24th April, 2017 setting out the Council’s most recent position on this matter. In summary, Central Government commissioned an independent review of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) in November 2015, which recommended that CIL needed to be reformed. Not progressing with CIL at the current time would impact on the level of contributions received from developers under the current Section 106 procedures, given that officers had successfully worked within the CIL Regulations to avoid pooling issues and since the introduction of the CIL Regulations in 2010 had continued to secure significant levels of financial contributions (as set out above) from development, despite not having a CIL charging schedule in place. The Vale had thus put the CIL on hold and would continue to negotiate under Section 106. Currently there was no pressure from Central Government for the Vale to develop a CIL, albeit the pooling restriction, which the Vale had been careful with. CIL was a discretionary process. The CIL Regulations would be devolved to Welsh Government as part of the new Wales Act, however, it was not clear on what form CIL would take, whether it would be amended, or scrapped.
The Operational Manager could advise that the three Authorities in Wales that had developed a CIL were Merthyr Tydfil, Rhondda Cynon Taff and Caerphilly, but they had not seen an increase in funding contributions as a result.
How can Councillors get more involved in the process?
Members were notified in accordance with the Section 106 protocol upon receipt of financial contributions. It was up to the relevant Cabinet and Local Ward Members how much they would like to get involved in the implementation of a particular financial contribution. There was more scope with Public Open Space and Community Facilities contributions to consult widely within the community. The officer urged Members to make it clear when considering the planning application what ideas they had for schemes which could benefit from Section 106 contributions.
Some Members found it difficult to suggest ideas as they felt it would be misconstrued that they were predetermining applications.
The officer advised that early ideas would not prejudice or weaken an objection to a planning application. Feeding in ideas earlier within the process could ensure that.
Having considered the presentation, it was subsequently
RECOMMENDED – T H A T officers be thanked for an in-depth discussion on Section 106 and that a copy of the presentation be forwarded to all Members of the Council for their information.
Reason for recommendation
In view of the discussions at the meeting and the need to remind all Members of the Section 106 process and how they can become involved.
378 REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL TO 31ST MARCH 2017 (DEH) –
In presenting the report, the Departmental Accountant advised that the service currently projected it would outturn within target at year end, although expenditure would in part be funded by reserves.
Under Highways and Engineering there was currently a £129k favourable variance against the profiled budget. The main reason being due to vacant posts currently within the department, however key posts had recently been filled on a temporary basis by Agency staff therefore it was currently projected that the budget would outturn on target.
For Waste Management there was currently an adverse variance of £132k to the profiled budget, due to overspends on staffing and transportation costs. The Waste Management budget had been reduced in 2017/18 for further vehicle savings however the department was unlikely to be able to make these in the short term due to the increased distance that had to be travelled as all waste disposal points were now situated in Cardiff. Due to this £200k had been set aside in the Visible Services Reserve, from the underspend in 2016/17, to offset any pressures in 2017/18 within Waste Management. It was currently anticipated that the budget would outturn on target.
For transportation – There was currently a favourable variance of £16k against the profiled budget. Staffing costs within the division were lower than budgeted to date. There was also a slight underspend within the supported buses budget which was assisting the current favourable position. At this stage of the year it was currently anticipated that this service would outturn within budget.
Visible Services Reshaping Services Savings Target – In 2017/18 there was a savings target of £525k allocated to Visible Services from the current Reshaping Services programme. The proposed means of achieving this saving had been approved by Cabinet on 24th April, 2017 and was through the introduction of a new target operating model for the service. This savings target had yet to be allocated to specific services and was being held centrally within Visible Services. Staff consultation ended on 31st July, 2017 and a number of changes were currently being considered as a result of the consultation. It was anticipated that the structure would start to be populated from late October 2017. It was envisaged that the shortfall in savings for 2017/18 would be met from the Visible Services Reserve.
The Regeneration budget covered the Countryside, Economic Development and Tourism and Events functions. There was currently a favourable variance of £23k against the profiled budget for August, due mostly to staff vacancy savings whilst re-appointments were being made. Income due to be generated from commercial opportunities at Country Parks and car parking at Cosmeston had not yet been implemented. All non-urgent repair works at the Council’s Countryside sites were on hold as a consequence in order to achieve a balanced budget at year-end.
Development Management – There was currently a favourable variance against the profiled budget for August, due mainly to higher than anticipated building regulation and planning fees to date. It was anticipated that the position would level off going into the winter period so at this time it was forecast that this service would outturn on target.
Appendix 2 to the report detailed a list of savings to be achieved in the current year and Appendix 3 detailed financial progress on the Capital Programme as at 31st August, 2017.
A Member commented on the work required for the Coastal Path and what would happen in the future if the grants were not available, acknowledging that having delivered the schemes, they would be only as good as maintaining them.
Another Member commented that when the All-Wales Coastal Path was being drawn up, it had been obvious that some of the work detailed had been undertaken via a desktop analysis and that he would not want to see a section of the Coastal Path in the Vale being “dumped” on the Vale with the responsibility for maintenance falling to the Council. He suggested that all types of funding were looked at in order to maintain the Coastal Path and that, in particular, the Welsh Government’s attention be brought to this being an issue for the Council. The example referred to related to the recent erosion of the coast and the road that had to be moved at Dunraven Bay at a significant cost.
In noting that 20k had been earmarked for Llandough cycle stands and was a considerable sum, the Officer agreed to look into the matter and report to Members on the detail of the scheme.
For the Visible Services Reshaping Services savings targets, Committee was advised that staff consultation had ended on 31st July, 2017 for the service restructure and a number of changes were currently being considered as a result of the consultation. It was anticipated that the structure would start to become populated from late October 2017, however Members were concerned as to the impact this would have on targets. The Officer advised that the main costs within the Department were in relation to Agency staff and filling the posts was proving difficult. Members stated that they wished to receive a report to Committee as soon as it was possible.
Following a query as to the Neighbourhood Services Model, Committee was advised of the new approach. It being noted that £200k had also been set aside from the Visible reserve in relation to Waste Management, the Accountant advised that this was in the main in relation to the number of journeys and the cost from getting the recycled waste from A to B. Currently co-mingling was going to Cardiff for a number of years and the compost tender had recently been retendered and this was also going to Cardiff, which had had considerable impact on the budget. The Council was looking to develop a new waste strategy which would, together with a WRAP report, come to a future meeting of the Committee.
In referring to the work being undertaken at the Merrie Harrier junction, a Member queried the end date with officers advising that it was due to finish that weekend. With regard to work at Culverhouse Cross, this was due to commence on 22nd October, but would be undertaken at night.
It was reported that the Coldbrook Catchment Flood Management Scheme was substantially complete, which was anticipated for late October. However, Members queried the reference to the scheme being substantially complete with the Head of Service advising that she would provide a written response to all Ward Members on the detail.
Following consideration of the report, it was subsequently
(1) T H A T the Chairman on behalf of the Scrutiny Committee, write to Welsh Government seeking clarification on the plans Welsh Government had in relation to the Coastal Path, with particular regard to maintenance issues and that Cabinet be requested to do the same.
(2) T H A T the position with regard to the 2017/18 revenue and capital monitoring be noted.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) In order to raise with Welsh Government the issue of finance for the maintenance of the Coastal Path.
(2) That Members are aware of the position with regard to the 2017/18 revenue and capital monitoring relevant to the Scrutiny Committee.
379 DISPOSAL OF DREDGED MATERIAL ASSOCIATED WITH THE CONSTRUCTION OF HINKLEY POINT C POWER STATION (REF) –
The Chairman had requested that the report be placed on the Committee’s agenda for consideration and the reference from Cabinet of its meeting on 9th October, 2017 was tabled for Members’ consideration.
Cabinet had, on 9th October, 2017 resolved
(1) T H A T the contents of the report be noted.
(2) T H A T the Leader of the Council writes to the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs and the Chief Executive of Natural Resources Wales (NRW), expressing this Council's concerns to the proposal to dispose of dredged radioactive material at the Cardiff Grounds disposal site, given the time that has elapsed since issuing of the licence in July 2014.
(3) T H A T within the letter referred to in resolution 2 above, consideration is requested to be given to the methodology to be used for the new radiological assessment of the material, suggesting greater sampling of the material, to full excavation depth and over the entire excavation area.
(4) T H A T within the letter referred to in resolution 2 above, NRW be requested to formally consult this Council on the details of the new, more thorough, radiological assessment prior to any disposal works progressing.
(5) T H A T the Leader of the Council seeks a meeting with the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, the Chief Executive of NRW and the Leaders of all neighbouring authorities along the Severn Estuary to seek the necessary support for a review of the position by Welsh Government and NRW as detailed in resolutions 2 to 4 above.
(6) T H A T the report be referred to the Scrutiny Committee (Environment and Regeneration) for further consideration and discussion.
The Chairman had also requested that an invitation be extended to a representative from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to attend the meeting to respond to Member queries and advised that an Independent Marine Research Consultant, Mr. Tim Deere-Jones, was present to provide the Committee with an overview on “Dumping of radioactive wastes at Cardiff Deep”.
The Managing Director, in presenting the report, advised that following an application made in August 2012 a Marine Licence was granted in 2014 by NRW to NNB Genco, a subsidiary of EDF Energy, to dispose of the dredged materials arising from the above works. The Licence was valid until 4th March, 2019 and permitted a quantity not exceeding 304,885 tonnes to be deposited.
The Council had been consulted as Local Planning Authority by Welsh Government on the application, the application at that time being for 200,000m³ of material. The conclusion of the Planning Officers had been that without detailed expertise and in the limited timescale for making comments, it was difficult to make an informed conclusion of the application and hence no objection was raised. However, it was noted that it appeared that the major issues of concern to the Authority and of wider interest had been the subject of detailed research, conclusions of which seemed to indicate that the proposal could be carried out without significant impact.
As part of the application a full radiological assessment had been undertaken which concluded the proposal was acceptable and this was further reviewed by internal experts in NRW who agreed with that conclusion. No material from Hinkley Point had yet been deposited and due to the time that had elapsed since the Licence was granted, a further radiological assessment must now be undertaken before this could occur.
The assessment to be undertaken must be based on a new set of sediment samples taken as part of a structured sampling programme agreed by NRW and would include all relevant radiological determinants.
The Managing Director further advised that there had been concerns expressed by individuals about the adequacy of the radiological assessment undertaken and the potential health implications of the proposed deposit of material. There was currently an e-petition to the Welsh National Assembly calling for NRW to suspend the Licence pending a Public Inquiry, a full hearing of independent evidence and a Public Consultation.
Following the presentation of the report the Chairman then invited Mr. Tim Deere-Jones, Marine Radioactivity Research and Consultant, to provide evidence to the Committee.
Mr. Deere-Jones commenced by referring the Committee to the map of the Bristol Channel, advising that core studies elsewhere in the Irish Sea had shown that 0-5cm surface samples held the lowest concentrations of man-made radioactivity and that increasing depths showed increasing concentrations. At approximately 20cm depth, concentrations were five times higher than at the surface. In his view, the use of the surface samples was therefore inadequate.
In referring to Hinkley Point, he advised that there were two sub-stations, A and B, and that there had been 50 years’ worth of discharges from the Point into the sea. The discharges had built up and held radioactivity which was slowly released in the area. The concern was that radioactivity was slowly releasing and once 200,000 tonnes was “dropped”, it would eventually disperse into the environment. All studies showed that radioactivity would re-concentrate and deposit out in the Estuary and the coastal mud flats, which were the main areas of concern.
Mr. Deere-Jones had also analysed the CEFAS document advising that he was clear that you could not quantify the amount of radioactivity in the mud using only 0-5cm of surface sampling. To this end, in his profession, calls had been made for a change in monitoring standards. He stated that once dredged in Cardiff, the deposits would run the risk of increasing pollution and dosage. He was also of the opinion that you could not work out the risk if you did not have sufficient data and, in particular, he stated “don’t dump until you have the information”.
There were not many studies in Wales as there were insufficient resources to undertake such work with reliance therefore on the Government for such work. Mr Deere – Jones stated that he had previously been involved in the Tidy Estuary Study where it was found that there were ten times more levels in the estuary inland, which was much higher than in the normal open coast. In referring to the Towyn storm surge flooding years previously, samples had been taken and a consultant had advised that given the presence of aneurism it was deemed certain plutonium would also be there.
With regard to breaches of standards, he referred to
the precautionary principle re transport movement of RAD materials - he advised not to engage in unnecessary transport movement as this runs the risk of increasing population and environmental doses
the precautionary principles also invoked when available that scientific data was “so insufficient, inconclusive or imprecise as to make it impossible to determine with sufficient certainty the risk in question”.
With specific reference to Bridgewater Bay, he stated that the Bridgewater Bay sediment was now a major deposit of sequestered RAD waste after 50 years of input. Radioactivity in Bridgewater Bay had been subject to slow leaching due to storms, tidal surges, etc. and the dredging invoked a major and rapid disturbance of settled and consolidated sediments. The disposal at the Cardiff ground would invoke a major and rapid distribution of radioactivity into Welsh coastal waters which would disperse into water columns and then re-concentrate in sedimentary deposits (coastal mud flats along Gwent levels estuaries and tidal areas of South Wales rivers). Studies had also shown that marine RAD transferred across the Welsh coastline impacted the terrestrial zone and on the Ceredigion coast sea to land transfer via marine aerosol sea spray in onshore winds.
Mr. Deere-Jones concluded by stating that he thought the science was inadequate and he urged the Council to lobby NRW and Welsh Government to get assistance in order for further studies to be undertaken.
Mr. Wheadon, representing NRW, advised that he could not comment on the expertise that Mr. Deere-Jones was presenting, but he could advise on the process undertaken for the Licence and that the data itself was a matter for technical experts.
Councillor N.P. Hodges, with permission to speak, stated that he was pleased that the Cabinet had considered the matter but referred to the Council constantly seeking to defer to expert advice that was not available in house. He therefore requested that the Committee consider recommending to Cabinet that a pot of money be made available in the future for such applications and referred to the Barry incinerator proposal where again, the Planning Department he advised had stated they had little expertise to make comments on the matter. Cllr Hodges stated that it was important that the Council had adequate resources to fund the purchase of such expertise when it needed to. He further stated his abhorrence at the fact that it appeared to be a fait accompli that 300 tonnes was going to be deposited on the Welsh side of the estuary for no financial gain whatsoever for the Vale. He stated that with regard to the incinerator at least that had a potential for 15 jobs that may materialise as a result, but for the dropping of such waste there was no incentive for the Council whatsoever.
Members of the Committee also concluded that they were appalled that such deposits were likely to be dropped in the Welsh region when English counties did not want it. Members were very appalled by the proposal and requested that Welsh Government be requested to look into the matter as a matter of urgency.
Following further questions about the possibility of damage to marine life, Mr. Deere-Jones advised that there had been less work done on the health impact to marine life, but there was evidence in the Bristol Channel of the impact on marine birds.
The Managing Director queried the risks involved which related to disturbance of the material and where it was to be deposited and asked whether the Licence covered both. In response, the officer from NRW advised that for any dredging another Licence would need to be agreed. The Licence that had been issued was specific to the deposit. However, in order to commence with the deposit, further samples would need to be undertaken.
Following on Mr. Wheadon advised that with regard to the sampling, he could share such information with the Committee, but if the Committee had any further concerns about the adequacy of the sampling programme, that NRW would welcome looking into the issues.
A number of Members also considered it important that representatives from Welsh Government and the MP should be present to provide the Scrutiny Committee with their thinking in relation to the issue and to answer any questions and concerns of the Committee.
Following a further query from the Managing Director to the representative from NRW that the fact that the Licence had been granted, did that hold NRW responsible, Mr. Wheadon advised that if the sample results were unacceptable then the Licence could be revoked. The Company had to follow a number of constraints and they would not be able to deposit in the location if the sample results were unacceptable.
The Chairman enquired as to whether it was within the gift of NRW to make the sampling more stringent and was advised that the methodology had been agreed in January 2017 but any person could make representations to NRW who would have the ability to make changes if appropriate. Mr. Wheadon informed the Committee that he would be happy to look into the depths and range agreed and get back to the Committee.
In referring to the issue of the Council possibly establishing a pot of money to pay for expert advice for a number of aspects, the Managing Director made the suggestion that in the first instance the Council investigated undertaking such work on a collaborative basis with Newport, Monmouthshire and Cardiff and that following such discussions a report be brought back to Committee for consideration, with the intention that also hopefully Welsh Government would fund such expertise in view of the issue at hand.
Having fully considered the report, the resolutions of Cabinet, the presentation to Committee and the comments made at the meeting, it was subsequently
(1) T H A T Natural Resources Wales be requested to provide the Committee with the scale of sampling that had been agreed and for that scale to be expanded.
(2) T H A T the resolutions of Cabinet be noted.
(3) T H A T the relevant Minister and the Vale of Glamorgan MP be invited to attend a future meeting of the Scrutiny Committee in order for the Scrutiny Committee to voice its concerns and raise issues.
(4) T H A T the results of the meetings with the Cabinet Secretary for Environmental Affairs, the Chief Executive of Natural Resources Wales and the Leaders of all neighbouring Authorities along the Severn Estuary be presented to the Scrutiny Committee for consideration in due course.
(5) T H A T, if a collaborative approach in relation to funding expert advice for such projects was not forthcoming, the Committee consider a further recommendation for the possibility of a Vale funding pot for such matters.
(6) T H A T Cabinet be advised of the Committee’s comments and recommendations as outlined above.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) To consider the scale of sampling agreed and to expand it.
(2) In recognition of the Cabinet decisions
(3) For Members to seek for information.
(4) For consideration
(5) To ensure monies are made available for future advice.
(6) In light of information obtained during the debate.
380 PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN THE VALE –
The Chairman welcomed the Bus Operator representatives from Cardiff Bus and New Adventure Travel and thanked them for their attendance.
The Passenger Transport Manager for the Vale commenced by advising the Committee of the current commercial services within the Vale. A copy of the presentation slides was tabled at the meeting for information, it being noted that it would be uploaded to the Council’s website after the meeting.
Current commercial services: Cardiff Bus Services
92, 93 and 94 (Penarth, Dinas Powys, Sully and Barry)
95 (Llandough, Dinas Powys, Barry)
95a and b (Llandough, Penarth, Cogan)
96 (Barry, Wenvoe, Culverhouse Cross)
97 (Barry circular)
X91 (Llantwit, St. Athan, Rhoose, Barry, Culverhouse Cross).
The Manager then drew attention to the services financially supported by the Council as outlined in the presentation as below:
88 (Barry, Sully, Penarth) operated by Easyway
89a/89b (Dinas Powys, Llandough, Cogan, Penarth) operated by NAT
100 (Barry) operated by Cardiff Bus
320/321 (Hensol, Pendoylan, Peterston Super Ely, St. George’s, Llantwit, Cowbridge, Ystradowen) operated by NAT
B3 (Barry) operated by Easyway
and to the services partially supported by the Council:
91 (summer service) operated by Cardiff Bus
94/96 (evenings) operated by Cardiff Bus
95 (UHW extension) operated by Cardiff Bus
95a/95b (Penarth Heights) operated by Cardiff Bus
98 (Christmas week) operated by Cardiff Bus
303/304 (various) operated by NAT
905 (airport rail link) operated by NAT
X2 (Sunday and BH/Mon-Sat late evening) operated by First Cymru.
The Council also ran a service for those who could not access regular public transport which was known as the Greenlinks Community Transport Service. This had been initially funded by European funding but was now fully funded from Section 106 monies. There were currently seven vehicles with one paid driver and 11 volunteer drivers. It was a G1 registered service with an additional two office staff. Aware that Section 106 was not an endless pot of money, there were concerns for the future of the Greenlinks service but currently the monies were being obtained via this method.
More work needed to be undertaken in relation to the infrastructure, for example bus shelters, etc. but unfortunately there was no pot of money available and any works had to be undertaken as and when appropriate.
In referring specifically to the Greenlinks service, Members asked whether it was a free service, it being noted that membership was a one off fee of £5 and the overall total budget for the service was £100k which included the two admin office staff. In referring to demand and the process for availability, the Transport Manager advised that all requests were taken by lunch time the day before the trip. He stated that it was important for the Council to get as many people on the bus as possible in order for it to be a viable service. In situations where someone was unable to book a seat, their name was kept on a reserve list and the officers strived to ensure that they were placed as soon as possible.
With regard to other services that were provided, these were noted as schools’ fare paying services, the Vale Agricultural Show, bus services were funded by the Tourism Department and the T9 Airport Express was funded by Welsh Government.
The Bus Operators were then afforded the opportunity of speaking to the Committee, with the Chair asking them to provide an overview of their impression of the service in terms of financial support, whether Welsh Government was providing enough funding and the impact of the service in the Vale.
Both Bus Operators advised that fundamentally and predominantly their funding streams were fares with funding from Welsh Government and the BSSOG. However, in 2014 the BSSOG had been cut by 25% and the reimbursement concessionary fares were also cut. It was important to note that most bus operators had a very small profit margin with the most important factor for them being a sustainable funding stream. Funding was a big concern together with congestion issues which was having a direct affect as passengers were not happy with the time taken to get from A to B as a result of congestion issues.
They both appreciated the efforts the Vale had done to increase ways of looking at funding and priority measures and they hoped that the good partnership working they had would continue as they had good relationships with Vale officers. However, of the utmost importance for them as operators was the need to provide reliability to their customers and congestion was a massive issue. As a result of that they could not construct a logical bus timetable because of the network and its delays.
Following a query from the Chairman regarding the 98 service which only ran in the morning, he stated that he had had a number of residents in the locality who would not use the bus due to the fact that they could not actually get back in the evening. They said they would use it for work if they could, but this was impractical as it only operated one way. The Bus Operators advised that due to the limited demand that was the main reason it did not run after 2.00 p.m. The Operators also stated that the issues that were raised at the meeting were not just specific to the Vale. They had also had to rationalise the timetables over a seven day period and this now appeared to be working at present. All in all, they advised that congestion and the infrastructure were the main issues, but the lack of bus stops, shelters, since bus deregulation had had an impact to the service.
Following a query as to when the Council last undertook a thorough review of the service, Committee was informed that a review had taken place just before the tender exercise. The Transport Manager advised that, in his view, the service that was provided by the Vale was as good as it could possibly be in the circumstances the Council found itself.
With specific reference to the T9 service Cardiff Airport service, a number of Members queried the lack of usage of the service, with the Officer advising that this was funded entirely by Welsh Government as a means to encourage the Cardiff Airport network for people travelling in and out of the country. Early indications for July to August showed figures were up by 4% although aware that on weekends to March 2018 the transport on the Traws Cymru Network of buses was free.
During the discussion it was suggested that it would be a good idea if a Welsh Government representative could come to a meeting to speak on the issue. Officers stated that in their opinion it was quite well used and there were up to depending on the season three services per hour. The free weekend travel initiative had been good for people travelling to and from the airport and for those also who lived in Rhoose as officers were aware that more local people were using the service. It was important also for the Vale to maintain a good relationship with Welsh Government, in particular regarding future funding support for other projects.
The representative from New Adventure Travel, who ran the T9 service, stated that passenger numbers had increased but that they had also had difficult conversations with Welsh Government as they too had faced difficult questions from the public over the free weekend travel initiative. The Chairman queried that if the bus service was performing well the subsidy should be reduced. The Head of Service in response advised that a previous study undertaken by a Professor Cole had determined that the subsidy was value for money. It was also important to bear in mind that even if the service was cancelled, it would not necessarily mean that the Vale would receive any further bus funding as the service was a specific service to assist the airport. The Council also had no influence over whether the T9 service ran or did not run as it was all about promoting the growth of the airport and maximising the number of passengers that travel to and from it by means other than the car.
Following full consideration of the report, the presentation and the comments made at the meeting it was subsequently
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the presentation be noted and that the Committee’s thanks be extended to the Bus Operators for attending and undertaking a frank and open discussion.
Reason for decision
Having regard to Public transport issues in the Vale and to maintain a watching brief.