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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 17th June, 2014.

 

Present:  Councillor Mrs. A.J. Moore (Chairman); Councillor E. Hacker (Vice-Chairman); Councillors P.J. Clarke, G.A. Cox, Mrs. P. Drake, Mrs. M. Kelly Owen, P.G. King, G. Roberts and S.T. Wiliam.

 

 

74        APOLOGY FOR ABSENCE -

 

This was received from Councillor A.G. Powell.

 

 

75        MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 20th May, 2014 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

76        DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

77        REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL, 2014 TO 30TH APRIL, 2014 (DDS AND DVSH) -

 

The Committee was informed of the position in respect of the revenue and capital expenditure for the period 1st April to 30th April, 2014 regarding the Revenue and Capital Budgets within the Committee’s remit.  A graph and table setting out the variance between the profiled budget and actual expenditure to date was attached as an Appendix to the report. The accountant in presenting the report advised that as it was very early in the new financial year and there were currently no variances projected against the full year budget as shown in the table in paragraph 3 of the report. The original budgets for 2014/15 had taken into account the savings required for the current financial year and the budgets would be monitored closely to ensure that the savings were achieved. The savings required for each service area were noted as:

 

         Highways Maintenance & Engineering Design & Procurement – £165k

         Waste Management - £1,020k

         Grounds Maintenance –£40k

         Leisure - £457k

         Planning and Transportation - £161k.

 

For the service area Economic Development again it was very early in the financial year and there was currently no variance to the profiled budget. Although there were continued pressures on the service, it would be closely monitored during the year with a balanced budget anticipated at year end.

 

Appendix 2 to the report detailed the financial progress on the Capital Programme as at 30th April, 2014, it being noted that the Managing Director’s Emergency Powers had been used to approve the inclusion of Section 106 monies into the programme for

 

·         Maslin Park - £43k

·         Footway improvements at Cowbridge - £72k

·         Premier Inn bus layby and shelter - £87k.

 

The Committee was also advised that Appendix 2 did not include any requests for unspent committee expenditure to be slipped from 2013/14 into 2014/15 as any requests would be included in the closing down report to be presented to a future Cabinet meeting.  Where it was also evident that the full year’s budget would not be spent during the year the relevant officers were required to provide an explanation for the shortfall which would be taken to the earliest available Cabinet.

 

In noting that the information provided was early on in the process, and Members being mindful that savings would also have to be made it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the current position with regard to the 2014/15 Revenue and Capital Monitoring be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To apprise Members of the current situation.

 

 

78        PLAY (DDS) -

 

Following a request by the Committee the report provided an update to the Scrutiny Committee regarding the Play Sufficiency Audit and other matters related to the Council’s play service.

 

The report highlighted that significant progress had been made since the production of the play sufficiency audit and although a number of challenges had arisen not all the actions from the audit had been completed.  However, opportunities such as the Welsh Government Increasing Play Opportunities Grant had meant that priorities had also needed to change to ensure maximum benefit had been achieved from the resources available. 

 

A detailed report on progress within the play service during the previous financial year was attached at Appendix A to the report.  The report highlighted that the Welsh Government was the first Government in the world to legislate for children’s play acknowledging that children had a fundamental right to be able to play.  They recognised that the impact of modern society on children’s lives had significantly restricted their opportunities to play freely and had resulted in a poverty of play opportunities in their general environment.

 

Section 11 of the Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010 placed a duty on local authorities to assess and secure sufficient opportunities for children in their area.  In November 2012 the Welsh Government placed a duty on all Welsh authorities to assess the sufficiency of play opportunities in their area and produce an accompanying Action Plan to improve play opportunities.  The Operational Manager for Leisure and Tourism in presenting the report advised that all the work undertaken by the Sports and Play Development Team contributed to the actions identified in the Play Sufficiency Plan.  In noting that a number of actions had not yet been completed due to capacity issues within the Play Development Team, Members were informed that the Play Development Team currently consisted of one Play Development Officer and casual agency staff members who worked on a project basis when funding was available. 

 

The Sports and Play Development Manager who was also present at the meeting  detailed further for the Committee the work of the team which included that 792 children aged between 4 and 11 years were registered on the open access inclusive play schemes which had taken place  over 30 days during school holidays with a total of 2,509 participations.  It was further noted that the Vale of Glamorgan Playschemes are inclusive to both disabled and non-disabled children.  These had been highlighted as good practice within the Welsh play profession due to their inclusive nature and the level of service offered. 

 

In referring to the Play Aloud project, this was a partnership project between the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Sports and Play Development Team, Cardiff Council’s Children’s Play Services and Recreate Cardiff and the Vale Play Association.  It was funded by the Big Lottery and was supported by the Regional Advisory Group which consisted of the above three partners in addition to Cardiff and the Vale Parents Federation, the Vale Centre for Voluntary Services and the Cardiff Third Sector Council.  The aim of the project was to create sustainable community based play opportunities and the project successfully achieved the outcomes identified for the project with the Play Aloud scheme being operated in 29 areas across Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan. 

 

In January 2014 the Welsh Government had also announced the release of funding to local authorities to support their preparations for securing sufficient play opportunities for children.  The Vale received a grant of £48,630 which was used for a number of initiatives including the delivery of the St. David’s Day Family Fun Day to raise awareness of Article 31 of the United Nations Rights of the Child, the Child’s Right to Play.  Fixed play equipment had also been purchased for parks in Lewis Road Penarth, Llysworney and Seel Park, Dinas Powys. 

 

Consultation had also been undertaken during the year where a number of consultation activities and events had taken place, the aim being to discover where children enjoyed playing, what they enjoyed playing and who they enjoyed playing with.  Events had also been held and examples noted were the Vale Sports and Play Family Fun Day, National Play Day, Vale of Glamorgan Show and the Rotary and Sunshine Club Kids Day Out.

 

In referring to the Appendix the Play and Development and Play schemes staff also undertook a comprehensive range of training which included:

 

·         Introduction to Play

·         play

·         child protection

·         Stepping into Play

·         outdoor play workshop

·         Active Young People Sports Organisers

·         arts and crafts workshops

·         paperwork training

·         e-learning course - working with disabled children

·         manual handling

·         Makaton and sign language

·         working positively with autistic children.

 

The Play Development Officer stated that the service had also provided mentoring opportunities to a number of young volunteers who had assisted with the play schemes.  The final part of the report referred to partner organisations that worked with the Vale of Glamorgan team which were detailed at Appendix A to the report.

 

Members congratulated the officers on the report and the work that was being undertaken within the limited resources available, they also referred to the work of the Community Chest and the efforts and support that were being provided.  It was indicated that further work needed to be progressed in relation to undertaking consultation into the demand for play in the medium of the Welsh language and that the Play Development Team were currently working with Mentor Bro Morgannwg to undertake this consultation.

 

In referring to activities undertaken in the medium of Welsh, Members asked if any further information could be provided on such activities via e-mail. The Operational Manager also advised that a Sports Development Report  was due to be presented shortly which would also include reference to sport within the medium of the Welsh language.  In response to a query regarding the use of disabled apparatus for access to beaches the Committee was informed that this service was available and further detailed information on this service would be obtained from the relevant officer and e-mailed to Members of the Committee for their information.

 

In conclusion, the Chairman thanked the officers for a comprehensive report and congratulated them on the work to date.

 

It was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the report be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In recognition of the work carried out by the Council’s Play Service within the resources available.

 

           

79        MATTER WHICH THE CHAIRMAN HAD DECIDED WAS URGENT -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the following matter which the Chairman had decided was urgent for the reason stated beneath the minute heading be considered.

 

 

80        LOSS OF SAND FROM THE VALE’S BEACHES (DDS) –

 

Matter which the Chairman had decided was urgent by reason of the need to avoid undue delay in advising Committee about this matter.

 

Councillor S.T. Wiliam had requested that the matter be considered by the Scrutiny Committee for the following reasons:

 

"The issue of sand loss was a serious one that would have adverse effects on our local environment and economy.  Already its effects are visible on our coast.

 

The report needs to investigate the causes of sand loss from our beaches such as storms and dredging (and any other causes).

 

Any available data measuring how much sand has been lost and at what rate needs to be provided.

 

The future implications of sand loss from our beaches also needs to be contained in the report. The report needs to conclude with recommendations on implementing policies and practical measures to prevent or minimise this loss."

 

The report before Committee outlined that the coastal zone was a highly dynamic environment and beach levels varied in response to various forces imposed on them by wind, waves and currents.  The Vale coastline was also subject to a very large tidal range which had a strong influence on the wave action dependent on the state of the tide.  The volume of sediment available to be mobilised and deposited by these forces was key to the presence of beaches, along with the interaction with both natural and man-made structures in the coastal zone.  The impacts of climate change, particularly sea level rise and increased storminess and human intervention would all have a role in modifying the Vale’s coastline in the future.  The Severn Estuary (SE) SMP and Lavernock Point to St. Anne’s Head (LPSAH) SMP contained a comprehensive review of how the Vale coast functioned including coastal processes, defence assessments and the impact of marine aggregate extraction.  In referring specifically to dredging the report highlighted that this had the potential to affect the shoreline through either affecting the flow of tides and waves towards the coast or through the removal of sediment which may otherwise contribute to the natural development of beaches.  For this reason, dredging around the coast of the UK was strictly controlled with government control and licensing of Marine Aggregate Dredging in Wales administered by the Welsh Government. 

 

Details of the active dredge zone for the south west, which included the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary, were attached at Appendix A to the report.  It had also recently been announced that dredging had ceased at Holm Sands, the closest dredge site to the Vale coastline effective from 1st May, 2014. 

 

The report referred to the fact that the Vale of Glamorgan Council was defined as a Coastal Erosion Risk Management Authority under the Coastal Protection Act 1949 as amended by Schedule 2 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 and that the Council was under no obligation to construct defences to prevent coastal erosion but had permitted powers to do so if it considered it necessary.  It was noted that the monitoring of coastal erosion was managed at three different scales in Wales.  At a national level the Welsh Coastal Monitoring Centre co-ordinated by Gwynedd Council was leading in the development of a programme of on-going monitoring funded by Welsh Government.  At a regional scale the coastal groups co-ordinated the collection of data on behalf of the Member Local Authorities which was partly funded by Welsh Government and at local scale individual maritime local authorities would need to develop monitoring in key areas or on a scheme specific basis aiding the delivery of duties as a Risk Management Authority.

 

The Welsh Coastal Monitoring Centre (WCMC) was also currently developing a national programme for coastal monitoring.  The Vale was represented on the project team which received Welsh Government funding which had been currently been allocated until March 2015.  The Business Case had been submitted to Welsh Government including a LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) flight of the entire coast which would capture a baseline survey of the current beach levels and would act as a baseline against which to compare future changes in the coastline. 

The Swansea and Carmarthen Bay Coastal Engineering Group currently commissioned Spring and Autumn profile surveys at 25 locations around the Vale coastline including two profiles in Whitmore Bay.  A licence for SANDS (Shoreline and Nearshore Data System) had recently been purchased which would enable the Vale to carry out an analysis of this data set. 

 

Different monitoring techniques were available to suit the different beach morphologies and site specific monitoring would be required to establish the status and vulnerability of beaches to future change in key areas.  A technical report would be produced identifying such areas and the proposed monitoring regime to be taken.  This report was to be developed in conjunction with the WCMC over the next 12 months. 

 

The Principal Engineer for Flood and Coastal Risk Management in referring to  monitoring regimes stated that an appropriate coastal monitoring regime would be developed and implemented by the Vale of Glamorgan in conjunction with the groups identified above for the Vale coastline.  He also referred to the beach levels in Whitmore Bay which had dropped on the upper beach following the Winter storms in January and February 2014.  These beach levels, however, had subsequently recovered and were anticipated to recover further over several months.  Improved monitoring in the area would provide a basis for future management decisions including the potential impact on tourism and the wider economy.  He further stated that a terrestrial laser scan topographic survey of Whitmore Bay and Jacksons Bay was undertaken on behalf of the Vale in April 2014 following the severe Winter storms earlier in the year.  The survey when received should provide a baseline against which to assess the recovery of beach levels and improve the Council understanding of the sediment dynamics in the area.  The survey would capture data on the promenade structures and adjacent cliffs to inform the ongoing management of erosion and waves overtopping in the area.  The survey is to be repeated annually subject to suitable funding to establish the long term trends in sand volumes in the embayment.

 

The Principal Officer considered that in order for the Council to be able to assess what measures it needs to take in the future regular monitoring surveys are essential in order to develop the required strategies.  However, in making these decisions it was also important to note the cost and frequency of the service to be undertaken and that the Council needed to identify the specific areas where it considered it was imperative that the service be undertaken. 

 

In response to a query regarding dredging he stated that the dredging industry was heavily regulated in the UK and that Welsh Government policy since 2002 had been in general to move dredging further off-shore where possible.   In referring to Paragraph 9 of the report and the comment that beach levels had recovered and were anticipated to recover further over the Summer months, Members queried the information that was available for statement.  The Principal Engineer advised that based on sound engineering judgement and the fact that the beach levels had already recovered it was generally expected that the upper beach would grow as tide levels and wave energy would be lower in the Summer months allowing sand to build on the upper beach. 

 

Councillor Wiliam stated that his main concern in raising the matter was about the holistic effect on all the beaches in the area with the response being that regular monitoring would assist the Council to manage the situation.  A Member in referring to the Nash Bank at Llantwit Major stated that it appeared to be that since dredging had ceased the sand appeared to be returning.  The officer reaffirmed that his strategic aim would be to ensure that a robust monitoring scheme was put in place in order for the Council to build sound data information to make strategic decisions. 

 

Reference was then made to the Penarth Headland Link and concerns of coastal erosion the Principal Engineer advised that the latest landslide had initially been initiated at the top of the cliff, probably due to weathering and groundwater levels in the upper layer of the cliffs.  He was himself not overly concerned in relation to the area, due to the relatively low long-term erosion rates in this area in combination with the distance back to the properties, but would be considering additional surveys to assist in establishing the rates of erosion in this area.  He also took the opportunity to inform the Committee that the Cwm Colhugh site in Llantwit Major had been selected as a site for research into the effect of sea level rise on the erosion of cliffs and that a number of other organisations were in contact with the Council and were undertaking various surveys around the coastline. 

 

In conclusion some Members considered that the erosion and shifting of sand was inevitable. The Principal Engineer however, stated that the purpose of the monitoring regime was to provide a robust evidence base which the Council could then use as a basis for undertaking its role as a Coastal Erosion Risk Management Authority.  If it was established that works to prevent erosion were not feasible or justified the data would be used to inform affected parties of the likely rate of erosion and potential impact on their interests. 

 

Members then took the opportunity to thank the officer for a comprehensive report and for the detailed explanations provided at the meeting.

 

It was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the contents of the report be noted and be referred with the minutes to Cabinet for information.

 

(2)       T H A T it be noted that a report will be presented on an annual basis to Cabinet and the Scrutiny Committee detailing the progress of coastal monitoring in the Vale and any issues identified.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In consideration of the contents of the report which apprised Members of the current situation regarding sand loss and coastal monitoring along the Vale coastline.

 

(2)       To deliver the requirements for monitoring identified in both Shoreline Management Plans (SMP), develop an improved understanding of beach levels to inform future management decisions and to apprise Members.

 

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