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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 6th September, 2011 at the BSC Conference Centre, The Waterfront, Barry.

 

Present:  Councillor C.J. Williams (Chairman); Councillor Mrs. M. Kelly Owen (Vice-Chairman); Councillors R.F. Curtis, J.F. Fraser, G. John, Mrs. S.I. Sharpe, R.P. Thomas and M.R. Wilson.

 

 

317     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -

 

These were received from Councillors Ms. M.E. Alexander, J.C. Bird and Ms. M. Wright.

 

 

318     MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meetings held on 5th July, 2011 and 19th July, 2011 be accepted as a correct record.

 

 

319     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

Councillor R.P. Thomas informed the Committee that in relation to agenda item 8 (Potential Impacts of Extraction and Burning of Shale Gas) he had sought advice from the Monitoring Officer and was able to speak on the matter.

 

 

320     IMPROVEMENT PLAN (CX) -

 

The draft Improvement Plan 2011/12 had been sent under separate cover to Members on 26th August, 2011 however copies were also available at the meeting. 

 

Supplementary information in respect of updates on Performance Indicators

(contained in the report) including the Welsh averages that were within the Scrutiny Committee's remit were also tabled for Members consideration. 

 

In presenting the report the Operational Manager (Corporate Policy and Communications) advised that the Plan contained performance information (data and text) which provided a look back over 2010/11 together with targets and actions for 2011/12.  Whilst the Plan was substantially complete it was accepted that further minor amendments would be required to be made with the final draft to be submitted to Cabinet in September 2011. 

 

In considering the report, Members requested that copies of the minutes of the Retailers Forum be circulated to all Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment) Members.  Discussion took place in relation to signage throughout the Vale particularly in view of the Eisteddfod 2012 taking place in the area and requested that various signs be cleaned, maintained etc. in order for visitors to be aware of the facilities available.  Further discussion also took place in relation to 'Brown' signs for marketing purposes and that a review of such signage should be undertaken.  In particular Members considered that reference should be made to why some signs detailed the names of premises and others only symbols.  Members considered that the Council should be consistent in its approach.

 

Having considered the report it was

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the Improvement Plan 2011/12 as currently drafted and amended by the updated information contained in the tabled supplementary report be endorsed and Cabinet be informed of the Committee's comments.

 

(2)       T H A T the Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment) receives a report on the maintenance cycle for cleaning and repairing signs throughout the Vale.

 

(3)       T H A T a full review of signage including 'Brown' signs be undertaken and reported to the Scrutiny Committee.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To ensure that actions are taken to improve performance and Cabinet informed of the Committee's comments.

 

(2)       In order for the Scrutiny Committee to consider the maintenance cycle for signs throughout the Vale of Glamorgan.

 

(3)       In order for a consistent approach to be maintained throughout the Vale.

 

 

321     THE BIKE PROJECT (DLD) -

 

Following a recommendation by the Scrutiny Committee the Training Manager within the Directorate of Learning and Development provided a presentation in respect of the Bicycle Recycling Workshop at the Holm View Centre. 

 

The workshop had been set up in 2001 as part of the Environmental Task Force on the New Deal Programme which offered training opportunities to young people.  The workshop's Mission Statement was to

 

·         deliver a quality training opportunity to local unemployed and unwaged people, through innovation and resale of old and unwanted bicycles

·         improve the local environment by reducing dumped bikes

·         encourage healthy living through increased cycling.

 

It offered job seekers work experience, employability skills, practical hand tool skills accreditation and personal development. 

 

The project offered the community

 

·         access to reasonably priced bicycles for all ages

·         free bikes to local community groups

·         repairs and servicing

·         reduced amount of scrap bikes going to landfill

·         increased bike usage to improve health and wellbeing of local residents.

 

The bikes were collected from all areas of the Vale of Glamorgan including the two Civic Amenity sites and from local residents. In further advising the Committee of the workshop the presentation outlined the current stock as follows:

 

·         awaiting service - 1

·         completed and awaiting completion - 3

·         bikes in progress - 3

·         bikes waiting for refurbishment - adult 10; children 12.

 

The current prices for bikes was reported as

 

·         revamped bikes for sale - adult bicycles £20.00 - £35.00; children's bicycles £5 - £15.00

·         servicing and repairs - full service £15.00 plus parts; puncture repair £2.50.

 

Members congratulated the Training Manager on the service and considered that further publicity to raise awareness of the facility was essential.  Committee was also advised that anyone could volunteer to assist in the facility as long as they were over the age of 18 years.

 

Councillor Curtis, who had initially requested the presentation be made to the Committee, urged the local reporter present at the meeting to publicise the service as it was considered to be an excellent facility for the community.  Members also considered further ideas for other areas e.g. toys and the Training Manager advised the project would be pleased to receive any ideas that could enhance the service. 

 

Having considered the presentation, it was

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the Training Manager be thanked for attending the meeting and that the Committee’s congratulations be also extended to the staff on such an excellent service.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To offer the Committee’s congratulations.

 

 

322     ANNUAL REPORT - SECTION 106 LEGAL AGREEMENT 2010 - 2011 (REF) -

 

Cabinet had, on 6th July, 2011 referred the Annual Report on Section 106 Legal Agreements for 2010 - 2011 to the Scrutiny Committee for information.  The report outlined the progress on Section 106 (Planning Obligation) matters in the financial year April 2010 - March 2011 which stated that a total of 15 planning permissions had been issued which had been subject to Section 106 Legal Agreements.  A list was attached at Appendix A to the report and the value of the financial contributions in the legal agreements was reported as £5,700,691.50.  Members were informed that the year 2010/11 had seen a significant increase in the total value of planning gain from the previous year which had been £993,270.50.  The financial contributions secured through the legal agreements would be utilised to provide or enhance facilities off site such as sustainable transport facilities, public open space and community facilities.

 

The Scrutiny Committee was further advised that when contributions were received consultation was undertaken by the Head of Planning and Transportation with the relevant Service Areas, relevant Cabinet Members and local Ward Members to agree how the contributions could be spent in accordance with an established Section 106 protocol.

 

The Section 106 officer referred to the Pencoedtre Lane, Barry application where 30% of affordable housing had been secured on site and this was reported as the first scheme in the Vale of Glamorgan to achieve such a level of affordable housing in order to satisfy the revised Affordable Housing SPG.

 

In considering the report further the following issues were discussed:

 

Question

Response

1.         Rhoose Point - had the land transfers been completed ?

The land transfers had not been completed as yet as a result of legal issues.  Charges had been applied to the land in relation to the Bank of Scotland and the previous owners, Lafarge which had to be settled before the land could be released. 

2.         What is the current situation at Penarth Heights?

There was currently an enquiry in relation to the CPO proceedings which was to be considered in October 2011. 

3.         What was the current position following the public consultation that had taken place at Sully Hospital regarding the use of £10,000 for public art.

The Section 106 officer agreed to discuss the issue with the Council’s  Arts Officer and report back to Members on the current situation.

 

Members queried the input / powers that Town and Community Councils had in stating where they considered monies should be spent in their localities in relation to section 106. The Principal Officer advised of the protocol that was in place for dealing with applications.

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the Annual Report on Section 106 Legal Agreements for 2010 - 2011 be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To apprise Members.

 

 

323     REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL, 2011 TO 31ST JULY, 2011 (DEER) -

 

In presenting the report the Head of Accountancy and Resource Management advised that there was currently an £11,000 adverse variance for the profile budget for Visible Services, Highway Maintenance and Engineering Design and Procurement which was mainly due to the increased spend on potholes due to the condition of the highway.  Members were advised that the budget would be monitored closely to ensure savings were met and the budget out-turned on target. 

 

In respect of Visible Services Waste Management there was a current £72,000 favourable variance which had been mainly due to an underspend due to tonnages to landfill dropping as the food waste programme was rolled out thereby saving on costly landfill disposal.  Officers had also managed to re-negotiate the contract for the recycling treatment which would mean a lower spend than that which had been budgeted for. 

 

With regard to Grounds Maintenance a £59,000 adverse variance was reported as due to the increased spend on utility bills and repair costs to buildings owned by Grounds Maintenance. 

 

There was currently a favourable variance of £9,000 to the Visible Services Support budget which would be used for any cost pressures within Visible Services throughout the financial year. 

 

With regard to Economic Development and Leisure the adverse variance of £80,000 as detailed within the report was mainly attributable to pressures on both expenditure and the continuing fall in income within the leisure centres. For Planning and Transportation the favourable variance of £7,000 was attributable to savings on employee costs that were off-setting the adverse variance on the Transportation budgets.  In referring to the adverse variance for Leisure Centres the Director advised that tenders had been invited and these were due to be received by October 2011.

 

Some Members referred to the current economic situation and the impact that this could have on people's affordability to visit leisure centres. The Director reiterated his view that private sector partners he hoped would take advantage of the current facilities and provide further services in order to assist with the current economic situation.

 

Members also requested to receive further updates in relation to Waste Management and the process of co-mingling in particular that they be provided with the information in relation to the position prior to the changes and following implementation.  It was considered appropriate that an in-depth report be presented to the Scrutiny Committee in approximately 6 months. 

 

In relation to the Capital Programme, the details of which were attached at Appendix 2 to the report, the Head of Service could advise that a sum of £150,000 had been requested to be transferred from the Highway Maintenance budget to the Visible Services Asset Renewal budget in order to proceed with refurbishment works at Harbour Road Bridge.  Members were further advised that agreement had also been achieved with Network Rail to allow the Barry Island Footbridge scheme to proceed.  The Council had in place £171,000 of funding as match funding for a Department of Transport grant bid of £500,000 which would provide a total scheme budget of £671,000.  A grant bid had been submitted and an outcome was expected in September 2011.  It was reported that should the grant bid prove successful works could potentially commence in late October with a 30 week contract period with a view for completion April/May 2012.

 

Members referred to the previous grant which had been made available but that had not been able to be utilised due to the delays by Network Rail's in agreeing to allow the scheme to proceed over their land.  Members queried whether any action could be taken against Network Rail should the new grant bid prove unsuccessful.  The Director, however, advised that the Council had no option but to wait for Network Rail's decision who did not have to adhere to any timescale and now that the agreement had been received the Director was hopeful for successful with the bid and Members would be informed as soon as possible when confirmation was received. 

 

Having fully considered the report it was

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the position with regard to the 2011/12 Revenue and Capital Monitoring be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T a report evaluating the co-mingling service be presented to the Scrutiny Committee in approximately six months.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In order that Members are aware of the position with regard to the 2011/12 Revenue and Capital Monitoring.

 

(2)       That Members can be apprised of the outcomes of the co-mingling service.

 

 

324     REQUEST FOR CONSIDERATION OF MATTER - POTENTIAL IMPACTS OF EXTRACTION AND BURNING OF SHALE GAS (DEER) -

 

Councillor R.F. Curtis had requested that the Scrutiny Committee investigate the local and global environmental impact from the extraction and burning of shale gas.  In presenting his request Councillor Curtis stated that the “potential discovery of a huge shale gas field below the South Wales coalfield could mean that the Vale of Glamorgan needed to urgently develop a local policy on such extraction practices such as 'fracking'.  The areas around Llandow Trading Estate had been identified by one energy firm and residents of the Vale of Glamorgan need an evidence based policy which would help protect the local environment and avoid another 'Rape of the Fair Country' scenario.”

 

The report before Committee provided the background in respect of shale gas extraction which was a hydraulic fracturing technique known as 'fracking'.  This was where a well was drilled through the upper strata into the shale bed generally 1.5 - 6 kms below the surface and a mixture of water and solid particles, often sand, sometimes manmade ceramic beads pumped down into the shale at pressures up to 100 MPa (145,000 psi).  This results in fractures of the rock, with the solid particles holding the crack open and gas released for capture.

 

The report further highlighted that throughout the world there had been concerns raised about the possible health risks associated with 'fracking' with exploitation of proven shale gas resources elsewhere in the world receiving mixed publicity and with some developments in the USA allegedly having had detrimental effects on water resources.  In the Blackpool and Lancaster areas there had also been recent publicity about such exploration and the potential links to earth tremors.  One of the key potential hazards identified by opponents was the risk of ground and surface water contamination by gas and chemicals based on evidence gathered from the USA where tens of thousands of shale gas wells were thought to exist. 

 

The Head of Service for Planning and Transportation advised that the Welsh Government had not provided any technical advice in respect of the process.  In February 2011 the Vale of Glamorgan received an application from a company known as Coastal Oil and Gas Limited to “drill and test the insitu lower limestone shale and associated strata in Llandow.”  In excess of 120 individual letters of objection had been received from local residents as well as objections from Llandow Community Council.  The reports stated that , prior to consideration by Members of the Planning Committee, the application was withdrawn given the need to undertake further noise monitoring in respect of the potential impact of the exploration drilling process on a nearby residential property.  However, the Head of Service further advised that since the report had been written a revised application had been submitted which would be considered by the Planning Committee in due course.

 

In response to local concerns, the Leader had written to the First Minister to request that consideration be given as to whether all such applications relating to test drilling and shale gas extraction should be matters for the Welsh Government to determine because of the significant sensitivities on such applications and the perception of potentially significant environmental impacts.  At the time of writing the report, save for an acknowledgement, no response had been received from the First Minister.  The Leader had also issued press statements, appeared on television and radio interviews to call for clear guidance and policy from the Welsh Government.  At the meeting, Members were advised that to date no response had as yet been received.  However, the Head of Service could advise that a second application had been made to the Council for exploratory drilling which would be considered within the next eight weeks. 

 

In considering the report Councillor Curtis requested that Louise Evans (No in the Vale campaign) be granted permission to speak at the meeting. However, following consideration of the report Members considered that the topic was of significant importance for discussion at an extraordinary meeting of the Scrutiny Committee.  Councillor M. Wilson had also recently submitted a request for consideration on the same matter and advised Members to view the film Gaslands. It was suggested that all Members of the Council be also invited to the extraordinary meeting which it was suggested be held in the Council Chamber in order to hear evidence for and against the process. Councillor Curtis accepting that an extraordinary meeting should take place also requested that the Committee write to Assembly Members, MPs, the Welsh Government and the Local Government Association expressing concern in relation to the implications for the Welsh and National Environment and requesting guidance on the matter.

 

The Chairman took the opportunity to thank Louise Evans for her attendance at the meeting and extended an invitation to the extraordinary meeting, which was duly accepted, the details of which were to be forwarded in due course.

 

Councillor Chris Pearce, local Town / Community Councillor from Cowbridge and Llanblethian, stated that his Town and Community Council had views on the matter which he considered should be fully appreciated by the Committee and he also accepted the invitation to the extraordinary meeting.  

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T an extraordinary meeting of the Committee be arranged in the Council Chamber, at a date to be determined by the Chairman, to hear evidence on shale gas extraction and that the film Gaslands be shown.  

 

(2         T H AT invitations to the extraordinary meeting be extended to key stakeholders and all Members of the Council.  

 

(3)       T H A T a letter be forwarded to the Assembly Members and MPs, Welsh Government, the Local Government Association and Welsh Councils requesting guidance on the matter because of the significant sensitivities around such applications and the perception of potentially significant environmental impacts for the whole of Wales.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In order that the Scrutiny Committee can fully investigate the process of shale gas extraction.

 

(2         In order that evidence can be heard from all sides and to apprise all Members of the Council.

 

(3)       To advise of the Scrutiny Committee's concerns and to receive guidance in relation to the shale gas extraction process.

 

 

325     1ST QUARTER PERFORMANCE MONITORING REPORTS (DEER) -

 

The 1st quarter Performance Monitoring reports for the service areas Leisure and Tourism, Visible Services, Strategy and Support and Planning and Transportation were presented to the Scrutiny Committee. 

 

Members in considering the reports referred to the lack of detail in the comments boxes for various service areas where the status was reported as red or amber, it being noted that at a previous meeting Committee had requested that comments be inserted prior to presentation to Members. 

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the quarterly Performance Monitoring reports for the service areas be noted and officers be advised to ensure that the comments boxes were completed in all future reports that were presented to the Scrutiny Committee.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In order that Members can be informed appropriately of the reasons why targets had not been met and / or progress made.