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Agenda Item No 5

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources): 21 April, 2015

 

Report of the Director of Visible Services and Housing

 

Rhoose Point - Management and Maintenance Update

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To advise Committee of future liabilities associated with the maintenance and management of land at Rhoose Point.

Recommendation

1.         That the contents of this report are noted.

Reason for the Recommendation

1.         To apprise Committee.

Background

2.         At the meeting of this Committee on 15th October 2013 a report was requested on future liabilities in respect to Rhoose Point.  This report seeks to address this request.

3.         There have been a large number of reports to various Committees and Cabinet over the years concerning the maintenance and management of highways, drainage and public open space areas at Rhoose Point.  The most recent report to Cabinet was 28th July 2014, where it was resolved to progress, through Council, an application to Welsh Government (WG) for the introduction of a range of bye-laws at the site, aimed at reducing incidence of anti-social behaviour.  (Min. C2416 refers).  Whilst an application has been submitted to WG for consideration, WG has indicated that new legislation is shortly to come into force in Wales which would permit local authorities to impose their own bye-laws and to control bye-law breaches by means of a fixed penalty.

4.         In connection with the implementation of the new byelaws, the Local Government Bye-laws (Wales) Act 2012 is now due to come into force at the end of March, 2015, although this has previously been delayed.  Officers are currently seeking to progress the introduction of bye-laws for public open space areas and a further report to Cabinet on this matter will follow.

5.         Recently a Warden introduced at Rhoose Point to assist with the maintenance and management had to be withdrawn due to budgetary difficulties within the Parks and Grounds Maintenance Division and this has caused some anxiety amongst a small number of residents on the development.

6.         Officers have had discussions with local ward Members aimed at investigating options for improving the management and maintenance of the open space areas in the future in light of the severe financial challenges faced by the Council and such discussions will continue.

Relevant Issues and Options

7.         As with any large area of land that transfers to the Council as a result of a housing development, there are new liabilities. In certain cases the impact of such liabilities can be reduced by the provision of commuted sums by the developer.

8.         Rhoose Point was developed at a time when house building in the Vale was at a low point, and prior to the appointment of a specific job role within the Council's Planning Department aimed at obtaining the maximum benefits to the local community as a consequence of new developments.  Also the infrastructure developer went into administration prior to completion of all the infrastructure works, which meant that foul and surface water agreements with Welsh Water were not able to be progressed and completed in the normal way.  All this detail has previously been reported to Members with the outcome being that a sum of only £76k was made available to undertake environmental improvements on the site, which in terms of reaching full highway adaptable standards was unfinished.

9.         Unlike most areas of land transferred however, land at Rhoose Point abuts the coast and has features such as cliffs and lagoons which not only carry greater liability, they also attract visitors from outside of the general community.

10.      The liabilities essentially fall into three categories, Public Open Space, Cliffs and Coastline and Foul and Surface Water Drainage.  Each of these liabilities will be considered in turn.

 

Public Open Space

 

11.      A plan indicating the areas of public open space on Rhoose Point that are the responsibility of the Council is shown at Appendix A.

12.      The land is managed and maintained by the Council's Parks and Grounds Maintenance Division and in general accord with the document 'Specification for Landscape Maintenance at Rhoose Point' prepared by Tirlun Design Associates Limited for the infrastructure developer Cofton (Wales) Ltd in June 2007.  A copy of this specification is attached at Appendix B.

13.      The specification addresses maintenance tasks on the development across the two main site areas; the Central Quarry and the Eastern Quarry.  These areas are then split into zones based on the character of the landscape.  The maintenance operations for each zone are listed under section 4 of the specification number 1 - 19 (pages 32 - 35).

14.      Whilst the Council's ongoing financial challenges mean that not every task can be undertaken at the specific timescales, maintenance operations are based around this specification and very few complaints have been received in respect to the maintenance of the areas shown on the plan (Appendix A).

15.      The greatest concern in respect to the management of these areas, and in particular the lagoons and their use for fishing and swimming, is problems with anti-social behaviour.  This is currently managed by the Parks and Grounds Division in conjunction with staff in Safer Vale and the Police.  The bye-law process, previously referred to, will be progressed in an effort to address such issues in future.

 

Cliffs and Coastline

 

16.      The coastal cliff and footpath, escarpment and cascade were subject to a detailed independent survey in 2012 with no major issues noted.  Since then the area has been inspected visually, along with the remainder of our coastline, on an annual basis.

17.      Due to the nature of the geology and the location of the footpath on the cliff, a further in depth survey of the cliffs and coastline is scheduled for 2015 / 2016.

18.      Any risks identified by this survey will be addressed as is the case with other coastal areas where the Council is the landowner.

 

Foul and Surface Water Drainage

 

19.      The surface water network remains unadopted by DCWW with responsibility for the network remaining with four large developers and the Vale.  DCWW has failed to formally respond to requests for an update on progress but have indicated that this aspect of the development has not been reviewed in the last year.  A meeting with all parties concerned has been requested and DCWW has indicated they would lead on this process, although no meeting date has yet been arranged.  Defective manhole covers in the adopted highway are an ongoing issue that has cost £4,000 in the past 12 months to rectify.  There are approximately 100 covers across the estate in the highway and 5 repairs per annum would result in ongoing annual costs of £5,000.   The cost of more significant repairs or blockages could be recharged to affected properties using powers under the Public Health Act 1961, Building Act 1984 or Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976), though to date blockages have not been a problem. 

20.      The foul drainage network down to the pumping station is now the responsibility of DCWW following the transfer of private sewers and lateral drains on 1 October 2011.

21.      The sewage pumping station (SPS) is currently under the control of the Vale and a Vesting declaration was submitted on 27 June 2012.  DCWW is required to transfer all private pumping stations into their responsibility by 1 October 2016.  Therefore the maximum period for which ongoing costs will be incurred is 1 year 7 months.  An inspection of the pumping station was undertaken with DCWW on 11th February 2015 in preparation for handover of the station.  The station was found to be in good condition and the pumps performing well.  The earliest transfer can occur is now the 25th March 2015 due to a statutory notice period relating to easements for the rising main crossing private land.  Both pumps in the SPS have recently been refurbished and upgraded.  These works were completed in January 2015 and a new telemetry system was also installed at the station.  An external contractor is providing a 24/7 monitoring and callout service for the pumping station until handover to DCWW.

22.      The rising main from the SPS runs 800m west to a DCWW pumping station.  No repairs have been required on this element of the system to date but it remains the responsibility of the Vale until transferred to DCWW with the pumping station.

23.      Since 2009 the costs associated with the sewage pumping station are as follows:

 

932547 RHOOSE POINT COSTS AS AT 25-02-2015

 

 

Type of spend

Amount

 

Electricity Costs Total

24790.61

 

Land Registry Total

66

 

Legal advice Total

1862.5

 

Professional Advice Total

3510

 

Repairs/Maintenance Total

67534.97

 

Total Paid to date

97764.08

 

 

 

 

Plus Committed sums for repairs

£10,000

Estimate

 

 

 

Total Committed & Paid

£107,764

 

 

 

24.      These costs include the professional and legal work required to prepare the pumping station and land for transfer to DCWW.  When Cofton (Wales) Ltd went into administration and the Council took responsibility for the pumping station, its transfer to DCWW was expected to be imminent.  However, despite the best efforts of officers DCWW has not been prepared to accept the transfer until the provisional date advised (16th March 2015).  Costs have increased due to the delays in transfer to the position shown above.

25.      Such costs could have been re-charged to individual residents on the developments from 2009 but at the time it was expected that the £76k provided via the administrators would have covered all these costs and the provision of certain environmental work on the development, in particular the costs of a warden service for a limited period.  Unfortunately this hasn't been the case due to circumstances beyond the control of officers, namely the pumping station transfer, which is now hopefully imminent.

26.      If for some reason DCWW refuse to take responsibility for the pumping station it will transfer to them, due to current legislation, on 1st October 2016.  If this is the case it is estimated that the additional pumping station running costs that will be borne by the Council could be up to £10k.  There should be no requirement to replace either of the pumps during this period and there is also a level of guarantee that could be relied upon if there was a premature failure.

 

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

27.      The additional cost of the warden service, including a vehicle and accommodation, was approximately £25k per annum. This was being funded from the Grounds maintenance revenue budget however in view of budget pressures, the high pumping station costs over the period and the capped £76k contribution this could no longer be funded.

28.      It is likely that the £76k contribution will be used to offset the pumping station costs that as yet have not been charged to a revenue budget thereby reducing the deficit overall.  It is likely that any remaining deficit will be funded from Visible Services reserves and this amount will very much be dependent on the date for the transfer of the sewage pumping station to DCWW.

29.      The additional expenditure incurred in the case has helped to ensure the continued integrity of the foul and surface water drainage systems serving this large development.  It should however be remembered that the specific circumstances in this development involving the developer DCWW and the function of the pumping station were somewhat unique.

30.      The Local Government Act 2000 enables local authorities to generally use their powers, and incur expenditure, in pursuit of the wellbeing of communities.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

31.      None.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

32.      As referred to in this report.

33.      In connection with the management of the public open space.  The introduction of bye-laws will assist with and may reduce the antisocial behaviour at the site.

34.      In connection with the foul and surface water drainage, it should be noted that any failure of the pumping station will cause sewage to be discharged into the lagoons at Rhoose Point, which are the responsibility of the Council.  Natural Resources Wales are the regulatory body for such matters and the Council could be faced with financial penalties and even prosecution if the pumping station was not appropriately managed so as to avoid such discharge.

Crime and Disorder Implications

35.      None.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

36.      None.

Corporate/Service Objectives

37.      The Corporate Priority and service aim is 'To achieve a quality of the environment through the promotion and use of sustainable practices and by making the best use of current and future resources'.

38.      The Service Objective is 'To provide, manage and maintain Parks, open spaces and play areas'.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

39.      The Local Members of the Ward have been consulted.

Background Papers

None.

 

Contact Officer

Phil Beaman - Operational Manager, Park and Grounds Maintenance

Tel: 01446 709 543

 

Officers Consulted

Legal Services - Committee Reports

Group Estates Officer

Accountant Visible Services and Building

 

Responsible Officer:

Miles Punter - Director of Visible Services and Housing.

 

 

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