SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT)
Minutes of a meeting held on 1st November, 2011.
Present: Councillor C.J. Williams (Chairman); Councillors Ms. M.E. Alexander, J.C. Bird, R.F. Curtis, G. John, Mrs. A.J. Preston, Mrs. S.I. Sharpe, R.P. Thomas, M.R. Wilson and Ms. M. Wright.
Also present: Councillor R.L. Traherne.
555 APOLOGY FOR ABSENCE -
This was received from Councillor Mrs. M. Kelly Owen (Vice-Chairman).
556 MINUTES -
RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 4th October, 2011 and the extraordinary meeting on 17th October 2011 be approved as a correct record.
557 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -
No declarations were received.
558 TRAFFIC ISSUES A48 ST. NICHOLAS TO BONVILSTON (DEER) -
Councillor J.C. Bird had requested that the matter be considered by the Scrutiny Committee in view of the speed of traffic on the A48 between St. Nicholas and Bonvilston, the accident rates and what measures could be put in place to reduce both.
The Head of Service advised that the speed limit on the A48 was generally the National Speed Limit which for the class of road was 60 mph for single carriageway and 70 mph for dual carriageway sections unless otherwise indicated. The National Speed Limit had however been reduced at certain locations along the route as detailed below:
· 40 mph from Culverhouse Cross to the Tumble
· 30mph through St. Nicholas
· 40 mph through Bonvilston
· 50 mph through Pentre Meyrick.
The limits had been set in accordance with current directives and advice notes and reflected the changes in the environment through which the route passed. Members were advised that the Wales Road Casualty Reduction Partnership currently operated their mobile camera at a site just to the west of the Sycamore Cross junction and the Council's mobile Vehicle Activated Driver Feedback Signs had been utilised on both approaches to Bonvilston. The data collated by the Wales Road Casualty Reduction Partnership following a mobile site at Bonvilston in July 2010 had indicated that on average speeds of 42 mph were recorded with the 85th percentile being 47 mph. 71% of vehicles were found to be exceeding the speed limit and 3% of vehicles were exceeding the speed limit by 15 mph or more. The Council had speed data at St. Nicholas which was indicated as site 3 on the Plan attached at Appendix A to the report. This detailed the following:
· Westbound - average speed 28 mph, 85th percentile = 33 mph
· Eastbound - average speed 30 mph, 85th percentile = 34 mph.
The Council had also commissioned further speed data surveys at sites 1 and 2 detailed on the Plan. The speed data for site 1 had however not yet been received but it was agreed would be e-mailed to Members when available. For site 2 the information was tabled at the meeting with the Head of Service advising that in his opinion the data for site 1 when received would probably be similar. He also advised the Committee that a further camera site would be requested at Bonvilston to ensure that information for both sides of the road was collected.
The report also detailed the following for various sites:
Speed data through St. Nicholas did not indicate that there was a significant problem with both average and 85th percentile speeds below the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) prosecution levels. No further action was proposed.
There was an accident cluster at this location and further analysis of speeds/accidents would be undertaken with a view to possibly reducing the speed limit if appropriate. However, historical data and previous investigations indicated that free-flow speeds were too high to introduce a reduced speed limit, which could be enforced.
This location had been identified in the Five Mile Lane Highway Improvement study as requiring highway improvement works. Capital funds would be sought to undertake feasibility studies, detailed design and construction of a new junction.
Vehicle speeds were still of concern at this location and the WRCRP camera would remain in operation at this location. Following further investigations, discussions would be progressed with a view to identifying an additional camera site, possibly to the west of the settlement.
Members were further informed that a bid had been submitted for Council Capital Funds to progress with feasibility studies for a new junction at Sycamore Cross. However, this was subject to resources being made available. Members welcomed the report and Councillor Bird took the opportunity to thank the Head of Service for the detail provided. One of his main concerns was in relation to late night speeding through the Bonvilston area and he particularly requested the possibility of flashing signs in the area and the possibility of realigning the road to accommodate a cycle route. The Head of Service concurred with the idea that flashing signs were seen as good deterrents for speed but further resources would be required. Members noted that in the documents it was noted that the number of vehicles speeding was apparently higher on a Sunday and this was considered to be reflected in the fact that throughout the rest of the week the traffic was self-governing due to the sheer number of vehicles on the road.
Members took the opportunity to consider other methods of deterrent ie 'rumble strips' which they were aware were effective in some areas. The Head of Service however advised that in his opinion they were not the most effective but could be considered in some areas.
Having considered the report, the Scrutiny Committee concurred with the Head of Service that a feasibility study should be undertaken in order to establish the correct method to be addressed, within limited resources and charged the Head of Service with the responsibility to provide a further report to the Committee in due course.
It was therefore
(1) T H A T the Department considers the use of flashing speed signs in Bonvilston , a re-design of Sycamore Cross and the feasibility of a cycling route to be established on the A48.
(2) T H A T a report incorporating 1 above be presented to the Scrutiny Committee following a feasibility study/review of the area.
Reason for recommendations
(1&2) To consider proposals for addressing the issue of speed on the A48 within the Vale of Glamorgan.
559 VALE OF GLAMORGAN RETAILERS FORUM AND TOWN CENTRE LOYALTY CARD SCHEMES (DEER) -
Following a previous report to the Scrutiny Committee on 2nd November, 2010 it had been requested that a further report be submitted to include details of the trial of the loyalty card scheme by Penarth Greening Group, the use of given to such a scheme in other Towns in the Vale and any other funding streams that may be available. The Committee had also requested in May 2011 a report on the Retailers Forum. The report therefore provided Members with details of the work of the Vale of Glamorgan Retailers Forum and an update following the trial of the loyalty card scheme.
It was noted that the Vale of Glamorgan Retailers Forum had been set up during 2010 at the request of the Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Regeneration with the intention that the Forum met on a quarterly basis to include a number of representatives from the retail sector and from the four principal town centres in the Vale of Glamorgan. Some of the primary concerns that had been considered at the meetings to date included Business Rates, future Council budget constraints which could impact on town centres, restricted future Welsh Government business support and the future of the St. Athan MoD training site following the retreat of the METRIX consortium bid. The Cabinet Member could advise that the general consensus among Forum members was that the format and structure of the meetings was working well with real progress being made between meetings to ensure key town centre issues were being dealt with.
With regard to Town Centre Loyalty Card Schemes the Penarth Greening Group had organised a scheme which had been running for over a year with the purpose being to support local businesses and the local economy. The report highlighted that the scheme in operation had shown over 50% of retailers had found the scheme very useful with a few finding it difficult to promote because they were unsure about its aims. The Operational Manager advised that over 50% of people asked in the street were aware of the scheme although the GPG felt the scheme very labour intensive and had since decided that largely on the basis of enthusiasm of the majority of retailers the evaluations and the high profile it had given GPG it would continue with the scheme but on a modified basis. They were currently creating a unified brand which they hoped would be more memorable and they intended to re-launch the shop in Penarth in November with greater emphasis on attractive offers, more eye catching articles, greater use of Facebook, the web and an e-newsletter. They would however be abandoning the monthly update of offers and working on a rather retro-style simple leaflet promoting Penarth as the place to shop with hand drawn maps, information on shops and major attractions.
The Committee was informed that Creative Rural Communities had also been involved in similar schemes as detailed below:
Llantwit Major - Loyalty Scheme / Voucher Book
In 2007, through the former Rural Community Action programme (RCA) in partnership with the town centre manager had supported a voucher scheme for retailers in Llantwit Major. This had been a small pilot project with limited success. The scheme had been initiated following a request by the Llantwit Chamber of Trade who wanted to stimulate footfall and increase turnover for the town's retailers. The cheque book scheme had been operated on a nationwide basis and proved successful in many areas. The key to its success was the creativity of the offer/discount i.e. how it encourages the shopper to make a return visit and also the pro-activity of participating retailers to "sell" the scheme. Tourism operators in the area and local retailers were provided with a quantity of books to circulate to their customers. Unfortunately, following an evaluation of the Scheme by the Chamber of Trade, the overall project had not proved successful as there had been limited take up on the offers themselves and little evidence to show that shoppers had made return visits. As a result of this no other voucher scheme had been trialled in other towns due to the Llantwit scheme not demonstrating a return on investment.
Following the Penarth scheme and that of the trialled scheme at Llantwit Major, it was evident for schemes to be successful they needed to be innovative and targeted specifically at individual town centres. For this reason, it was unlikely that a generic scheme across the Vale of Glamorgan would be acceptable given that the town centres in the Vale each had different characteristics, customer base and retail offer.
Whilst considering the above, there were nevertheless schemes in existence in the Vale that could go some way towards indirectly assisting businesses in the town centre.
Rural Attractions Voucher Scheme
To ensure that accommodation providers were aware of the range of attractions available in the area, CRC invited them to experience first hand what was on offer so that they could pass on their knowledge to visitors to the Vale. The voucher scheme offered entry to 20 top attractions and activities and a promotional flyer highlighting the attractions had been produced and distributed to all the participating attractions and accommodation providers in the Vale.
By encouraging business to business trading and cross promotion of local attractions, visitors to the Vale were introduced to the wealth of attractions on offer and encouraged to make regular and longer trips to the area and as such hopefully visiting the town centres as they do so.
Whilst there was no specific budget or project within CRC to support a loyalty card scheme a possible tourism project developed through the local action group could directly benefit rural town centres.
With the Eisteddfod coming to the rural Vale in 2012 the report noted that this was likely to be seen as an event to showcase such longer term schemes rather than short term projects. In addition, the Council had recently sought tenders from consultants to a produce a framework for the future of the Vale of Glamorgan Town Centres and it was anticipated that this work would progress either side of the Christmas period and would involve stakeholder engagement. Earlier in 2011 the National Assembly for Wales Enterprise and Business Committee had established an Inquiry into the Regeneration of Town Centres where they had asked a series of questions relating to the role of different agencies and organisations as well as the factors affecting the health and vitality of town centres. Responses of the Vale of Glamorgan Council dated September 2011 to the Inquiry were attached at Appendix 1 to the report.
In considering the report Councillor Traherne ( Cabinet Member ) with the permission of the Committee advised on the reasons why he had decided to set up the Forum stating that he had been particularly concerned about the health of the retail sector in the Vale and in his opinion the high street in general was in crisis. In view of the decline of the high street both Councillor Traherne and Rob Thomas, Head of Planning and Transportation, had agreed to also provide evidence to the Parliamentary Select Committee on the matter. He referred to the proliferation of out of town shopping centres, the competition from the internet, the high rental levels and Business Rates that retailers had to pay and that he was in regular discussions with the Minister ( Welsh Government) and was hopeful that the matter would be addressed.
The Operational Manager referred to the loyalty card schemes that had been trialled in various areas but that there had been little evidence of significant benefits which could be applied elsewhere. There had also been little enthusiasm to take them forward in a similar style as the work undertaken by the Penarth Greening Group. It was however, suggested that Members of the Penarth Greening Group should be invited to attend a future meeting of the Committee to advise on the work of the Group and how the loyalty card scheme currently operated.
Members also referred to the transferring of court work from the magistrate's court to Cardiff which would leave the Magistrates Court building in Barry empty and their concern related to the possibility of the building not being utilised and becoming an 'eyesore' in the area. The Cabinet Member also advised that he had written to the Minister requesting that the building be transferred to the Welsh Government and used for other purposes. Officers within the Council stated that were very aware of the need to ensure the future development of the building.
Although agreeing with Councillor Traherne that the issues identified above were significant and that the internet was having a detrimental affect on provision Members also suggested that local retailers could consider other ways of addressing the matter and develop other initiatives. Reference was made to recent adverse comments that had been printed in the press relating to the public art in Thompson Street. Members, however agreed that having an interesting and pleasing street scene that enhances an environment can encourage people to visit.
Having fully considered the report, discussed the issues contained therein and following the use of the Chair's casting vote the following was
(1) T H A T the Penarth Greening Group and any other groups (e.g. Creative Rural Communities) with similar interests be invited to a future meeting to discuss how to regenerate town centres using loyalty card schemes.
(2) T H A T the minutes of the Retailers Forum be made available on the Vale of Glamorgan website in order to inform the public.
(3) T H A T the past minutes and agendas of the Retailers Forum be e-mailed to all Members of the Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment) for information.
(4) T H A T future minutes of the Retailers Forum when available be sent to the Members of the Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment) for information by e-mail.
(5) T H A T the contents of the report be noted.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) To apprise Members on the use of loyalty card schemes.
(2) In order to inform the public.
(3&4) To inform Members of the Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment) and provide them with up to date details of any progress made.
(5) To inform Members.
(With regard to the second recommendation contained in the report, this was put to Members of the Scrutiny Committee with the Chairman using his casting vote to reject the recommendation).