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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT)

 

Minutes of an Extraordinary meeting held on 24th March, 2015

 

Present:  Councillor Mrs. A.J. Moore (Chairman); Councillor E. Hacker (Vice-Chairman); Councillors P.J. Clarke, G.A. Cox, Mrs. P. Drake, P. King, A.G. Powell and G. Roberts.

 

Also present:  Councillors L. Burnett and Dr. I.J. Johnson.

 

 

            APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -

 

These were received from Councillors Mrs. M. Kelly Owen and S.T. Wiliam.

 

 

            DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

            SECTION 106 LEGAL AGREEMENTS - PROTOCOL FOR CONSULTATION ON IMPLEMENTATION OF SPEND (REF) -

 

Cabinet had referred the report to the Scrutiny Committee for consideration.  At its meeting on 26th January Cabinet’s endorsement had been sought for an updated protocol for Member consultation on the use of financial contributions received from Section 106 obligations.  The report outlined that the Council had the power to enter into legal agreements with developers under Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 seeking contributions from developers to mitigate negative development impacts and facilitate a development which might otherwise have not occurred.

 

The background to the report advised that in February 2008 the then Cabinet and Planning Committee had endorsed a protocol for Member consultation on Section 106 spend, following a review by the Ward Member Consultation Task and Finish Group of the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources).  This had subsequently been reviewed by Cabinet in 2012 following concerns that financial contributions were not being spent quickly enough, once received from developers.  The 2012 amended protocol set out that when financial contributions were received the relevant Ward, Cabinet Members and Officers from the relevant service areas are notified at the same time and options for spend considered and proposed by the relevant service area before further consultation was undertaken with Ward and Cabinet Members and a scheme for implementation agreed. 

 

Following this consultation, the Director of Development Services made the final decision that in the event that the local Member was aggrieved with his decision the decision was to be called into Planning Committee to determine.  Since the introduction of the protocol, this had only occurred on one occasion in respect of an education facilities contribution from the development of the former lower school site at Cowbridge.  As a result of this case, the process had been reviewed and an amended protocol had been drafted to reflect the fact that decisions on capital projects funded by Section 106 contributions were a matter for the Executive and not the Planning Committee.  The amended protocol was attached at Appendix A to the report. 

 

At a meeting on 14th November, 2014, the Community Liaison Committee considered the annual Section 106 Review 2013/14 report and recommended that Cabinet be requested to consider the feasibility of including consultation with Town and Community Councils in the process.  Cabinet considered this request on 15th December, 2014, and resolved “That the comments made about consultation with Town and Community Councils be noted, however, it should be for the respective Vale Councillor for the area to liaise with their Community Council in line with the protocol attached as an appendix to the report’.  In this regard, it was accepted that Town and Community Councils could comment on proposals and potential Section 106 Agreements at the application stage, particularly as officers and Members considered the need for mitigation at that stage.  In addition it was noted that as local Ward Members they were also consulted on proposals for projects once money was received, this then provided another mechanism for Town and Community Councils to comment on proposals.  The approach was deemed to be at an appropriate level of engagement given the need to balance engagement against the timely implementation of capital schemes to mitigate new development.  A letter outlining the process had been sent to all Town and Community Councils in 2011, a copy of which had been attached at Appendix B to the report. 

 

Members concurred that there were no major concerns with the detail contained within the Protocol attached at Appendix A, but suggested that the accompanying letter by Councillor James in 2011 be recirculated to all Town and Community Council’ highlighting the paragraph which includes ‘encourage all Town and Community Councils to consider such matters when they are formally consulted on planning applications in their area’. 

 

Reference was also made to the proposed Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) which was likely to be a replacement for some of the issues currently addressed by the Section 106 process.  The Operational Manager advised that in the future the Council would have to be specific about what it intended spending any monies on advising that consultation would therefore be of primary importance at the planning application stage.  He took the opportunity to further advise Committee of his intention to provide training sessions for Members regarding the Community Infrastructure Levy and how agreements would be made in the future.  Members requested that the training be open to all Elected Members of the Vale Council and similar sessions arranged for Town and Community Councillors.

 

The Cabinet Member for Regeneration, with permission to speak stated that the intention was to build on the previous process of Section 106 to ensure that funding was earmarked appropriately and reiterated that local Ward Members were the Council’s conduit for consultation.  In her view, it was important to ensure there was a more strategic approach to distributing Section 106 monies which she considered compared favourably to the approach required under the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).  In referring to the comment that five developments could be grouped together for Section 106 purposes, the Operational Manager confirmed that the legal advice that had been provided to date for the Vale was that the five should be site specific projects. However, he was aware that other Local Authorities were operating a broader approach which he considered was not the intention of the legislation. 

 

Members commented on ‘the wriggle room’ for negotiation with developers with the Operational Manager advising that there was some room but it was unfortunately less than previously. 

 

Following a query from a Member as to whether the community of Rhoose should establish a Community Council to ensure they had another voice in planning considerations, the Operational Manager advised that that was a question for the residents of Rhoose.

 

Following the discussions it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T training for Elected Members be arranged as outlined above and that similar training for Elected Members of Town and Community Councils also be arranged via the Community Liaison Committee.

 

(2)       T H A T the letter dated 5th August, 2011 be recirculated to all Town and Community Councils reminding them to engage early on in the process and prior to the application being determined.

 

(3)       T H A T the contents of the report be noted and the recommendations of the Committee forwarded to Cabinet for information.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To apprise Members.

 

(2)       To remind all Town and Community Councillors of the contents of the letter dated August 2011.

 

(3)       To inform Cabinet of the views of the Committee.

 

 

            PUBLICATION OF REVISED WELSH GOVERNMENT TECHNICAL ADVICE NOTE (TAN) 1 JOINT HOUSING LAND AVAILABILITY STUDIES (2015) (REF) -

 

The purpose of the report was to advise Members of the publication of a Technical Advice Note.  Committee was informed that a copy of the new guidance had been placed in the Members Room for reference.  The background to the report advised that Joint Housing Land Availability Studies (JHLAS) was the principal mechanism for monitoring the supply of housing land through the planning system.  JHLAS demonstrated whether local planning authorities have a deliverable, five year supply of land for housing as required by Welsh Government Policy.  Failure to have a five year housing supply was an important material consideration which was taken into account by Planning Inspectorates when determining planning appeals for residential schemes.  The Council’s formal response to the consultation on the draft TAN 1 had been reported to Cabinet on 8th September, 2014 and the Planning Committee on 2nd October, 2014.  In that response, serious concerns had been raised regarding the proposals to change the manner in which housing land supply was calculated and that only authorities within an adopted LDP would be able to undertake a JHLAS calculation.  Following that consultation process, the Welsh Government had now issued an interim copy of revised TAN 1 guidance. 

 

It was noted, that previously local Planning Authorities without an up to date Adopted Development Plan were able to calculate housing land supply using a ten year average annual past build rate.  However, under a new TAN 1 guidance the use of the past build rates methodology which was based on the past performance of the building industry was not accepted and those LPAs without an up to date Development Plan were unable to demonstrate a housing land supply for determining planning applications. 

 

The Vale of Glamorgan’s UDP expired on 1st April, 2011 and officers were currently preparing for submission of the LDP to Welsh Government for independent examination by an appointed inspector which was timetabled to take place throughout August 2015.  Therefore, local planning authorities that did not have either an Adopted LDP or UDP would be unable to formally demonstrate its housing land supply position and would therefore effectively be considered not to have a five year housing land supply.  However, Members were also informed that the Council was required to undertake an annual objective assessment of its housing land supply in preparation of its LDP.

 

In this regard officers were of the view that the requirement to keep under review the housing land supply retained the ability for the housing land supply to be a material consideration in the determination of planning applications, particularly given the emphasis on evidencing a five year supply on adoption of its LDP.  However, Welsh Government had advised that since the assessment would not be subject to the normal JHLAS process it would not carry the same weight for planning purposes as a formal study.  Nevertheless, officers would need to assess how planning proposals would contribute to both supporting delivery of the emerging LDP and the provision of a five year housing land supply on its adoption, and these were themselves considered to be important material considerations.

 

In this respect, Planning Policy Wales (section 2.6) remarked on what happens in instances where the local development plan is not yet adopted.  Paragraph 2.6.2 of PPW advised that in development management decisions the weight to be attached to an emerging draft LDP would in general depend on the stage it had reached.  In considering what weight to give to specific policies in an emerging LDP that applied to a particular proposal, local planning authorities would need to consider carefully the underlying evidence and background to the policies.  National planning policy could also be a material consideration in these circumstances (see section 4.2 of PPW).

 

Therefore, the determination of planning applications for residential development in advance of the LDP Examination would need to fully consider all other material considerations, such as the LDP background evidence and the wider environmental, social and economic benefits of the scheme (such as meeting local housing needs and the provision of local infrastructure).

 

Given that the Council was faced with a less than five year housing land supply, and its inability to formally participate in the JHLAS process, it was inevitable that until the Council had formally adopted its LDP, the Vale of Glamorgan would be at risk of speculative development applications as was the case during 2012/13 when the Council’s JHLAS had a less than five year housing land supply.  This concern was clearly raised by the Council in its formal submission to the Welsh Government draft TAN1 consultation in the autumn 2014, as referenced via the following link:

http://www.valeofglamorgan.gov.uk/en/our_council/council/minutes,_agendas_and_reports/reports/cabinet/2014/14-09-08/Welsh-Government-Consultation-Draft-Technical-Advice-Note-.aspx|.  Of note was the fact that similar concerns had also been raised by the Welsh Local Government Association during the consultation period (Appendix 1) and the Royal Town Planning Institute (Appendix 2).

 

Committee was further informed that both the Leader and the Cabinet Member had sent a letter setting out the concerns of the Vale which was read out at the meeting for the Committee’s consideration.  The guidance had raised concern for officers within the Vale and although officers would continue to fight unacceptable developments the guidance placed the Council in a difficult position.  The Cabinet Member reiterated that the work that had to date been undertaken in relation to the LDP could very well be undone as a direct consequence of the TAN advice and she awaited the Minister’s comments.

 

Following a query as to whether other local authorities would be in a similar position to the Vale, the Operational Manager advised that a number of authorities would definitely be in a similar situation.  It was therefore suggested that a collective group of local authorities should consider taking the TAN guidance to judicial review.  In acknowledging that the letter sent on behalf of the Council was an excellent response to the Welsh Government guidance it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T Cabinet be requested to consider undertaking discussions with other local authorities with a view to conducting a judicial review in respect of the TAN 1 guidance. 

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In view of the difficult position the TAN 1 guidance has placed on local authorities in Wales.

 

 

            BARRY: A CENTRE OF GROWTH AND OPPORTUNITY - PROGRESS REPORT (REF) -

 

The report provided the Committee with an outline of how the various initiatives and proposals contained within the Council’s Vibrant and Viable Places Stage 1 Strategic Outline Programme Bid Barry: A Centre of Growth and Opportunity had been progressed with Cabinet referring the report for information to the Committee.

 

In December 2013 Cabinet had considered a report on the work being undertaken on the Council’s Vibrant and Viable Places Bid.  However, the Council had eventually been notified that the Stage 1 bid had not progressed to Stage 2 but that the Welsh Government had announced that the Council should be eligible for a ring-fenced fund aimed at tackling poverty.  In April 2014, the Minister for Housing Regeneration had announced that the Council would be eligible for £1m in capital funding over the three financial years, 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17.  Attached at Appendix 1 to the report was a status report in the form of a table which set out each investment aim and the proposal that had been included in the Stage 1 Strategic Outline Programme Bid submitted in July 2013.  Appendix 1 also identified where it had been possible to take forward a proposal and if so by what means.  With regard to the projects that were noted as not progressing at this stage, further work would be undertaken to determine if a funding stream could be identified or whether the project was still considered as being required or viable. 

 

The Operational Manager for Countryside Services stated that the Council had also recently received an additional grant as a result of underspends elsewhere, which was required to be spent by the end of the current financial year.

 

Having considered the report it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the proposals contained within the Barry: A Centre of Growth and Opportunity Progress report be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In view of the progress undertaken.

 

 

            REGENERATION PARTNERSHIP WORKING ARRANGEMENTS IN BARRY - PROGRESS REPORT (REF) -

 

The report provided a progress update in relation to Regeneration Partnership working in Barry and had been referred to the Committee by Cabinet for information at its meeting on 23rd February 2015.

 

The background to the report advised that the Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment) had received a report in 2014 on options for future regeneration and partnership working and had requested that updates be forwarded to the Committee on a regular basis, as and when available.  The report outlined the main headlines that had arisen over the last 12 months under the following headings:

 

·         Barry Regeneration Advisory Group

·         Programme Board

·         Cross Party Group (Group Leader Briefing)

·         Barry Regeneration Annual Forum.

 

The Cabinet Member for Regeneration advised that the Barry Regeneration Annual Forum had been a successful event and had brought different elements together. Following extensive consultation the administration had also been encouraged by the appetite for involvement in the process and regeneration projects and activities and of note was the fact that one of the themes to emerge from the forum event was that more could be achieved by working together and that the right people needed to be involved. 

 

Following a query from a Member regarding the proposed fairground for Barry Island, Members were informed that the Council was keen that the site was developed but that discussions needed to be held between the developers. 

 

It was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the progress update report on Regeneration Partnership Working Arrangements in Barry be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In recognition of the appetite for involvement in regeneration projects and activities.

 

 

            FEES AND CHARGES, COUNTRYSIDE SERVICE (REF) -

 

At its meeting on 9th March, 2015 Cabinet approval had been sought for the proposed changes to charges levied at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park, Porthkerry Country Park and the Glamorgan Heritage Coast Centre.  The proposed charges were set out at Appendices A, B, C and D which were attached to the report.  A further resolution made by Cabinet was that the charges be the maximum with the Director of Development Services having the ability to vary for promotions and that the Managing Director in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Regeneration be able to agree fees, charges, terms and conditions for new commercial activities in respect of Countryside Services or on land managed by Countryside Services and to authorise the Head of Legal Services to enter into the appropriate legal agreements on behalf of the Council in this regard.

 

In referring to the Cosmeston Medieval Village site, the Operational Manager for Countryside and Economic Projects stated that a number of improvements had been made over the last few years and the report had also recommended the reintroduction of an entry price for part of the day. He had also considered that there were a number of opportunities available to generate income which could be realised from fetes and trade events. 

 

With regard to Porthkerry Park he referred to the new charge for the use of the main meadow for events and activities but noted that they would have to be compatible with the Country Park. 

 

Members queried whether there were guidelines available in relation to the charges, particularly in respect of equality issues, with the Operational Manager advising that he would give consideration to that suggestion.  In referring to the restructure of the Countryside Service that had been undertaken, the Operational Manager further stated that he had created a new short term post (namely a Commercial Opportunities Officer) to be based at Cosmeston for two years to attract activities to country parks to enhance experiences for visitors and generate income. 

 

With regard to the Heritage Coast Centre he stated that there were minor changes to the prices and referred to the considerable amount of work that had been undertaken in relation to tourism projects and the installation of interpretation panels which had been supported by the Creative Rural Communities programme.  As a result of a Coastal Communities grant there was also to be a refurbishment of the slipway at Dunraven Bay, installation of storage units at the Centre together with an officer position to help develop businesses around coastal activities.

 

The Cabinet Member, in referring to the Council’s Reshaping Services agenda, stated that from a number of surveys, residents had tended to be very supportive of the Council introducing new activities and exploring ways to encourage visitors to the area.  The Council needed to corporately promote the Vale and Tourism was now a key part of economic development. 

 

Members, in supporting the resolutions of Cabinet

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the report be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To reflect costs, opportunities and market conditions in view of the contents contained therein.

 

 

            VALE OF GLAMORGAN DESTINATION ACTION PLAN (2014-2017): FEEDBACK FROM CONSULTATION EXERCISE AND FINAL DESTINATION ACTION PLAN (AS AMENDED) (REF) -

 

The Operational Manager for Leisure Services, advising that Cabinet had referred the report to the Scrutiny Committee for information, stated that the report outlined the feedback received following the consultation exercise that had been undertaken and which identified the main priorities of the Destination Action Plan as follows:

 

·         Raising the profile (Promoting the Vale)

·         Improving the public realm and tourism infrastructure (Place Development)

·         Enhancing the tourism products and experience (Product Development)

·         Enhancing the sense of place (Place Promotion).

 

A summary of the responses that had been received from the Scrutiny Committee the Business Breakfast event and the Youth Cabinet had been included in the consultation feedback report which was attached at Appendix A to the report.  Consultation had also taken place with stakeholders, who had been invited to comment on the draft Plan between 28th November, 2014 and 23rd January, 2015.  Of note was the fact that during this period, five responses had been received and had been included in the consultation feedback.

 

In referring to the report a Member raised an issue of the significant amount of people who cross the Cardiff Bay Barrage into Penarth on a regular basis and how the Council intended to capture those visitors within the Vale.  The Cabinet Member, in response stated that she was fully aware of the considerable numbers that crossed the Barrage and that this was an ongoing objective for officers in considering what options could be feasible for capturing visitors within the Vale.  The Cabinet Member also referred to the shuttle bus that had been established over the years but unfortunately had not been economically viable to sustain although other bus companies were now looking into the matter further with the possibility of an interim shuttle. 

 

A number of Members in referring to the overall state of public conveniences and being advised that a number had been recently refurbished, it was also suggested that private owners for example, cafe owners,  be requested to consider allowing visitors to be able to use their facilities if required.  A Member made reference to when holidaying abroad there appeared to be no problem for the public to frequent toilet facilities in cafes and restaurants without having to make any purchases. This appeared to often be encouraged rather than discouraged and that further work should be undertaken to try to encourage such arrangements within premises throughout the Vale.  The Cabinet Member confirmed that she was aware that the Waste Management and Cleansing Officer was currently looking into this aspect in order to encourage visitors to the Vale and to remain in the Vale.

 

In response to a query from a Member that the role of Cardiff Airport should also be considered in the Destination Action Plan, Members were informed that the Council was keen to explore with Cardiff any opportunities.  The Chairman reminded Committee that a representative of Cardiff Airport / Gateway Wales was also to be invited to a Scrutiny Committee in due course as part of the Committee’s work programme.

 

The Cabinet Member in commenting on the role of the Scrutiny Committee in the  process also advised that the Vale’s Youth Cabinet had fed into the consultation process had had provided constructive and welcome comments.

 

Having considered the report it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the report be noted and the Youth Cabinet be congratulated on their comments and advised that the Scrutiny Committee appreciated their involvement in the process.

 

(2)       T H A T an overall report on regeneration across the Vale be brought to a future meeting of the Committee to apprise Members and consider the impact of regeneration on other areas in the Vale.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In view of the contents contained therein and in acknowledging the comments and involvement of the Youth Cabinet on behalf of the youth of the Vale.

 

(2)       In order for the Committee to receive information on regeneration work throughout the Vale.

 

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