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VALE OF GLAMORGAN LOCAL ACCESS FORUM

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 17th February, 2015.

 

Present:  Mr. F. Coleman (Chairman); Mr. M. Dunn (Vice-Chairman); Councillor E. Williams, Mrs. V.M. Hartrey, Mr. J.J. Herbert, Mr. C. Lucas, Mr. H.S. McMillan, Ms. E. Nash, Mr. R. Pittard, Mr. R. Simpson and Mr. G. Thomas.

 

Also present:  Mr. J. Wyatt, Mrs. L. Mills, Mrs. S. Thomas, Mr. G. Teague (Vale of Glamorgan Council) and Ms. S. Tindal (Natural Resources Wales).

 

(a) Apologies for Absence -

 

These were received from Mr. R. Traherne, Mr. S. Lait, Mr. M. Parry and Mr. B. Guy.

(b) Minutes -

 

AGREED - T H AT the minutes of the meeting held on 22nd October, 2014 be approved as a correct record.

 

There were no matters arising from the minutes of the meeting on 22nd October, 2014 and the Secretary confirmed that the response to the cross-compliance consultation had been circulated to all Forum Members.

(c) Wales Coast Path -

 

(i) Update - The Public Rights of Way (PROW) Officer informed the Forum that the Rights of Way Team was currently at the end of a two-year development programme and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) would be liaising with Welsh Government (WG) in relation to the forward plan for the Wales Coast Path Development Programme.

 

A number of projects had been delayed due to issues relating to Scheduled Ancient Monuments (SAM), one of which was the surface improvements at Cwm Colhuw. These issues would need to be discussed with CADW.

 

The PROW Officer advised that the team had hoped to roll back a section of the path at Cwm Colhuw; however, they were now returning to their original plan and could not guarantee that this could be completed in this financial year; however, all the necessary specifications had been carried out for it to be completed in 2015/16.

 

It was confirmed that the contractor had completed the work on extending the path and installing a dropped kerb, near to the Captains Wife, Sully.

 

The new ‘Ultitrec’ material had been laid at Porthkerry Park and was supplied free of charge in order for a trial to be carried out. The durability of the new material was currently being monitored by the team.

 

Some exploratory cutbacks had been carried out at Summerhouse Point (East) along the contour of the fortifications. This would need to be assessed and agreed by CADW, following which; a Diversion Order would need to be made to include the new route of the path.

 

The Forum was provided with an update on the progress of work near Ogmore Village. Extensive consultation had taken place, including discussions and agreements with the landowners, the Commons Association and advice from various Council Departments and the Planning Inspectorate, part of the ground works had been started on land owned and consented to by Merthyr Mawr Estates. The works would enable the route of the Wales Coast Path to be lifted off the road and routed over the Common, including a new section of sealed footpaths. It was confirmed that after the works had been completed near Ogmore Village the official route of the Wales Coast Path would be altered to reflect it.

 

Further coastal access work was taking place to connect a path in Rhoose, near the train station, to the Wales Coast Path and involved the roll-back of part of the path, due to erosion caused by water flowing from a drainage channel. There had been cliff falls at a point west of Summerhouse Point where part of the path had collapsed and at Tresillian Bay, west of Llantwit Major. The PROW Officer confirmed that due to the collapse of the path at Tresillian Bay, a section of the fence nearby would be opened up and formalised as part of the Wales Coast Path. He further advised that once the durability of the ‘Ultitrec’ had been tested, and proven, it could be used on other sections of the Wales Coast Path in the future.

 

(ii) Development Programme 2015 Onwards - The Forum was apprised in relation to the proposals collectively agreed by local authorities, (excluding Pembrokeshire) and the NRW’s Wales Coast Path Team (WCPT), for the management and funding arrangements for the Wales Coast Path Programme from 2015. The four Welsh regions comprised of:

  • North - Anglesey, Flintshire, Denbighshire and Conwy
  • Gwynedd - Gwynedd and Snowdonia National Park
  • West - Ceredigion, Powys and Carmarthenshire
  • Pembrokeshire - Pembrokeshire County Council - unless otherwise stated, Pembrokeshire would not be covered by the arrangements for the Wales Coast Path programme from 2015 as it would remain in the National Trail.
  • South - Bridgend, Swansea, Neath/Port Talbot, Vale of Glamorgan, Cardiff, Newport and Monmouthshire.

The PROW Officer confirmed that a successful pilot had taken place within a region comprising the Vale of Glamorgan, Cardiff, Newport and Monmouthshire Councils in relation to sharing a Regional Coast Path Officer. It was likely that these arrangements would be rolled out across the Welsh regions.

 

The officer advised that the main challenges involved with the proposed arrangements in the Vale of Glamorgan’s proposed region was the number of local authorities involved and administration systems used across them. NRW would be the employing organisation for the South Region and the Wales Coast Path Officer would be able to use their procurement system in order to address this.

 

A National Management Group would be created which would consist of the three NRW employed Wales Coast Path Officers, other NRW Wales Coast Path staff, the Gwynedd employed Wales Coast Path Officer, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park employed National Trail Officer and others as appropriate. The National Management Group would meet in order to ensure consistently high quality of all aspect of the programme in line with national policy, established quality standards and best practice.

 

The Forum was informed that NRW had recommended a two-year programme, however, this could be extended to five years and Ms. Tindal, Senior Recreation and Partnership Officer at NRW advised that, although the budget had yet to be approved it was potentially more positive than previously thought. She expressed appreciation for the letter sent from the Vale of Glamorgan Local Access Forum to Welsh Government in relation to short term funding agreements.

 

The PROW Officer advised that, if a five-year programme was to be agreed, the priorities of the programme may change over its duration. There would be a shift towards maintenance of the Wales Coast Path and marketing of the Path in order to maintain a long distance trail.

 

The proposals in relation to financial arrangements would see the Wales Coast Path infrastructure budget split into three categories. NRW would issue guidance on the types of projects which would fit into each category. In terms of maintenance funding, 75% would be funded by NRW and this would be determined by a formula and distributed as a grant to local authorities. The officer expressed the view that it would be more effective for NRW to hold on to improvement monies as the region would be using one procurement system which would enable the region to employ economies of scale. Maintenance money allocated by formulae would be preferred to be distributed directly to authorities.

 

A discussion ensued in relation to the proposals as follows:

 

 Queries Responses
Would the Regional Management Group be an unnecessary tier of management? The PROW Officer advised that for 2014 a Steering Group had been established which allowed local authorities to maintain connections across the regions. Certain pressures had resulted in the Regional Coast Path Officer being in one area more than others and these were the type of issues that could be dealt with by the Regional Management Group in future.

If Natural Resources Wales was the employing authority, should the Regional Coast Path Officer be the officer from NRW.

Concern was also expressed that if the officer was looking after a large part of the Coast Path a large part of their time would be spent travelling.

Ms. Tindal advised that unfortunately there was not the budget to employ a Regional Coast Path Officer for each local authority. The employment of the Regional Officers had been discussed at length and difficulties had been identified with the Officer being required to follow the procedures of each local authority. It was therefore proposed that NRW would be the employing authority. NRW had formulated a generic recruitment process for each Regional Wales Coast Path Officer with a view to the officers becoming embedded in each local authority to ensure that they were able to pick up upon local issues.

 

All local authorities in the South Region wanted the officer to be hosted by Natural Resources Wales in order to avoid the use of different systems.

 

Ms. Tindal expressed the view that it would be beneficial for the officer to have a desk in each authority and this approach would be run on a trial basis and be subject to change if necessary.

Who would be funding the Regional Coast Path Officer. Ms. Tindal confirmed that NRW would fund the officers.
How would the programme of projects be determined?

The Vale of Glamorgan Council maintenance allocation was proposed to be £19,000 in grant against £26,000 total costs for the maintenance of the Wales Coast Path in the county.

 

Outside of the maintenance allocation each local authority would be required to submit their bids for projects, and these would be taken to the Regional Management Group for a decision. If there was no decision from the Group this would be made by NRW.

 

The Regional Management Group would look at the submissions from each authority against the priorities of the programme and look to distribute the funding accordingly. In the future the funding allocation and prioritisation of funding would be carried out from the view point of the user of the Coast Path. There would be more emphasis on the quality standards and aspirations for the Wales Coast Path. There was the possibility that, due to employing a regional approach, the majority of funding could go to one local authority for certain projects if necessary.



Further concern was expressed in relation to the need for the Regional Management Group and the Chairman expressed the view that planning would be very difficult in the future due to budgetary issues and officers would be unable to make these decisions without discussions across the local authorities. Furthermore, these arrangements would provide an opportunity to discuss priorities prior to any decisions being made.

 

The PROW Officer expressed the view that these proposed arrangements were not too different from the approach taken in managing National Trails, for example, Offa’s Dyke. Ms. Tindal confirmed that these arrangements had been modelled on the Offa’s Dyke approach and expressed the view that working together via a regional approach was best practice.

 

The Chairman expressed the view that as there were now seven local authorities in the South Wales Region, rather than the previous four, the Coast Path Officer would need the support of the Regional Management Group in order to facilitate decision-making.

 

Part of the role of the Wales Coast Path Officer would be to survey the Coast Path in order that the maintenance issues could be flagged up and it was confirmed that this was the first time the authority had been allocated monies from NRW for maintenance.

 

Mr. Pittard asked what processes were in place if there was an emergency, for example, part of the Coast Path collapsed. The PROW Officer advised that they would feed this back to NRW as it was not explicitly stated, however, he was of the opinion that they would look at projects where there had been an underspend which could possibly be used in these cases. The Chairman advised that part of the proposed funding arrangements stated that NRW would consider realignment and improvement priorities on a case by case basis with regard to national priorities and available funding. Ms. Tindal confirmed that in the past underspend monies had been reallocated to other projects, following permission from Welsh Government. However, if there was a very significant issue it was likely that a separate request would be made to Welsh Government. The PROW Officer expressed the view that the discussion of these types of issues was one reason why the Regional Management Group was required.

(d) Modification and Legal Orders Update -

 

The Forum was updated on the Evidential Modification Order Tracking and the Legal Order Tracking Chart. Two new Legal Orders had been received, one in St. Brides Super Ely and one in Lavernock with a consultation start date of 13th February, 2015. It was confirmed that there was realignment work to be carried out at Gileston Farm which was within the consultation period following confirmation of the Order.

(e) Maintenance Update -

 

The Forum received a Maintenance Update which detailed the number of issues logged since 22nd October, 2014, the number of issues resolved since 22nd October, 2014, the number of issues resolved since 27th January, 2011 and the number of unresolved issues remaining.

 

It was confirmed that the figures for the number of issues logged and resolved included all issues from the very minor to the very major. The increase in the logged issues was most likely due to the PI issues from the last quarter being updated onto the system.

 

The PROW Officer informed the Forum that they were close to resolving the smaller issues and the remaining issues would be collated using a project-based approach; these projects would then be passed out to external contractors. Some of the issues remained unresolved due to the nature of the ground condition or building obstructions.

 

The Chairman expressed the view that the general trend was good and the PROW Team should be commended for their work.

(f) Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP) Update -

 

The Forum received a report detailing the Rights of Way Improvement Plan Update as follows:

 

Project Heading Update
Preparation of the new Definitive Map and the analysis and reporting of CAMS data Rhys Buckley had been taken on as a Foundation Modern Apprentice and was assisting with the work in this area.
Creation and Improvement of PROW links between communities and within Coastal Zone to the Wales Coast Path, including ecological surveys and biodiversity interpretation where necessary. ROWIP match funding of Rural Development Plan improvements was completed though some work remained in concluding agreements at Penllyn Estates for new bridleways
Improvement of the path surface through a wildlife trust, near Llantwit Major, to the Wales Coast Path Work programmed by Glamorgan Wildlife Trust
Review and support of the annual clearance arrangements Completed
Establish focus group including Communities First and Health Agenda representatives to develop and deliver improvements for Low Use groups. Reallocated to improvement of the surface near St. Dyfan and St. Teilos Church.
Improvement of the surface near St. Dyfan and St. Teilos Church Work had been instructed to improve a stretch of path, forming a muddy shortfall of sealed surface from the end of the new tarmac to the existing concrete outside the Church.

 

The Forum was informed that work was due to start on this project.



The Forum was informed that it was anticipated that the ROWIP funding would be granted at a similar level for the next financial year to to that provided for the current year (£31,000).

 

The PROW Officer informed the Forum that the Legal Agreement for the bridleway at Penllyn Estate was currently with the Legal Department and hoped that this would be resolved shortly. He further advised that they hoped to carry out some publicity for the bridleways once the legal agreement had been finalised.

(g) Coastal Access Improvement Programme Funding -

 

The Chairman apprised the Forum in relation to the recent letter that had been sent to the Minister for Natural Resources on behalf of the Local Access Forum and the response from Welsh Government. The letter pertained to the short term nature of the funding for the Coastal Access Improvement Programme. Ms. Tindal advised that the potential funding for the programme was potentially more positive than previously anticipated.

(h) Draft Rights of Way Deregulation Bill (England) -

 

The Forum received a brief summary of the provisions on public path changes in England as part of the Deregulation Bill, which was currently at report stage in the House of Lords and had implications for Public Rights of Way work in England.

 

The changes would not affect Wales at present and the PROW Officer expressed the view that, with devolved powers, England and Wales were starting to diverge on how they dealt with Public Rights of Way legislation. He further informed the Forum that the most important provisions within the Deregulation Bill in terms of Public Rights of Way were Schedule 7 within Clause 26; the introduction of which would make changes to the procedure for examining Public Rights of Way in England on the basis of evidence.

 

The Forum was informed that there was a possibility of a Green Paper in Wales to change PROW legislation. The PROW Officer expressed the view that there needed to be some reform of the legislation in Wales as some was outdated, and this could either take a form similar to the changes to be introduced in England or be something completely different.

(i) Section 106 Monies -

 

The Forum received a document which detailed the Section 106 financial contributions, which could potentially be used towards PROW improvements.

 

The PROW Officer advised that he had been in discussions with the Section 106 Planning Officer in relation to potential opportunities for the Local Access Forum to contribute to the Section 106 discussions, about how these monies could be spent. He expressed the view that a small Working Group could be established in order to facilitate these discussions and this could help focus the work of the PROW Team.

 

The Forum was informed that if any monies were left over once the project use-by date had expired; these would be returned to the developer.

 

It was agreed that the Section 106 Planning Officer would be invited to attend the next meeting of the Local Access Forum to provide further information and advice in relation to Section 106 contributions.

(j) Announcement -

 

Mr. Wyatt, Secretary, advised that due to the expiration of the current term of the Local Access Forum, there would shortly be a recruitment process for the next Forum, and confirmed that the lifespan of the new Forum would begin from the date of the next meeting.

 

The Chairman took the opportunity to thank the current Local Access Forum Members and officers for their time and valued contribution over the last three years.



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