PUBLIC PROTECTION LICENSING COMMITTEE
Minutes of a meeting held on 3rd October, 2017.
Present: Councillor A.D. Hampton (Chairman); Councillor M.J.G. Morgan (Vice-Chairman); Councillors Mrs. J. Charles, R. Crowley, G.A. Cox , B.T. Gray, O. Griffiths, K.P. Mahoney, Mrs. A. Moore, Mrs. J.M. Norman, S.T. Wiliam, Mrs. M.R. Wilkinson and Mrs. M. Wright.
339 APOLOGY FOR ABSENCE –
This was received from Councillors J.W. Thomas
340 MINUTES –
RESOLVED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 5th September, 2017 be approved as a correct record.
341 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –
Councillor K.P. Mahoney declared an interest in regard to Agenda Item No. 5, Application to waive the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Age Policy Guidelines for the Grant of a Private Vehicle Licence, Volkswagen Crafter. The nature of the interest was that Councillor Mahoney used to be employed by the Applicant.
342 APPLICATION 1/2014 – TO REGISTER LAND KNOWN AS THE CRICKET FIELD OF THE FORMER COWBRIDGE GRAMMAR SCHOOL AS A TOWN OR VILLAGE GREEN UNDER S15 OF THE COMMONS ACT 2006 (OMLS) –
The Operational Manager, Legal Services, presented the report, the purpose of which was for the Committee to consider an application received by the Registration Authority to register an area of land known as or referred to as the former Cricket Field of the Cowbridge Grammar School, Cowbridge as a town or village green.
The Vale of Glamorgan was the Registration Authority for the administrative area of the Vale of Glamorgan Council by virtue of the Commons Act 2006 and had responsibility under the Commons (Registration of Town or Village Greens) (Interim Arrangements) (Wales) Regulations 2007 to determine applications made under the Act. The Council’s statutory functions and responsibilities as a Registration Authority were independent to its other statutory and non-statutory functions and a Registration Authority should not therefore consider any impact upon the Vale of Glamorgan Council when considering applications.
The application was made in respect of land owned by the Cowbridge Comprehensive School Trust. The application was made on behalf of “Friends of Grammar School Cricket Field”.
The Council, as Registration Authority, was under a duty to maintain a Register of Town and Village Greens. There was no legal difference between a town and village green, which merely indicated the physical setting of the green. Registrations under the Act may result from:
1. a new green being dedicated by the owner;
2. 20 years’ use by local inhabitants before the date of application for registrations;
3. corrections to errors made under the Commons Registration Act 1965;
4. corrections under the Commons Act 2006; or
5. an exchange of land.
The application had been made on the basis of 20 years’ use by local inhabitants before the date of the application and was in respect or land shown in the plan at Appendix 1 to the report.
The procedure for dealing with an application of this kind was set down in the Regulations. The original application and supporting documentation was forwarded to those interested in the land. A notice was also placed in a local newspaper and posted on site providing a six week period for objections to be received. Two letters of objection had been received in respect of this application. The Applicant was subsequently invited to provide further comments on these objections. The application had also been the subject of a protracted Freedom of Information request. Further representations had been received from the Applicant. All of the documentation received by the Registration Authority was set out and attached at Appendix 2 to the report for reference.
The application was made on the basis that residents in the locality had used the land for local sports and pastimes “as of right” for more than 20 years from the date of the application.
An objection to the application was received from solicitors acting on behalf of the Cowbridge Comprehensive School Trust as landowner of the land comprised within the application. The basis for the objection was that the use of the land for lawful sports and pastimes had been “by right” (i.e. in exercise of a legal right to do so) and not as of right” as submitted in the application.
The courts had emphasised on a number of occasions the importance of the Registration Authority adopting a fair procedure. Due to the complexity of the evidence and the complex nature of the law relating to the subject, it was recommended that a non-statutory public inquiry be held to test the evidence and to see if the requirements for registration had been met. The use of a public inquiry for such an application had been approved by the courts as being in the interests of openness and fairness.
A public inquiry would provide the opportunity for the Applicant and the objectors to submit further evidence, call witnesses and cross examine the other party’s witnesses. A legally qualified independent Chairperson who had had experience in town and village green applications would be appointed to hear the public inquiry and submit a report on their findings to the Registration Authority, together with a recommendation as to whether to register the whole or any part of the land comprised in the application as a town or village green.
It was recommended that such an inquiry be convened in respect of this application given the disputed evidence.
The independent Chairperson’s costs, including the production of a report, were detailed within paragraph 12 of the report, with it being estimated that the inquiry would cost in the region of £9,950.00.
In clarifying the distinction between “as of right” and “by-right”, the Operational Manager stated that the distinction was that the basis upon which the application had been made would require the applicants to establish that the use of the land for past-times and sports over a twenty year period had been “as of right” with no permission having been required for the use in question. The Trust, as landowners, had asserted that the use of the land by the Applicants had been “by right”, that the Trust had granted or allowed permission for the use of the land in the manner described in the application. The Operational Manager stated a further report would be brought back to Committee, which would set out all the evidence considered during the course of the inquiry, both in support and against the application, together with the Chairperson’s recommendation, to enable the Committee to determine the application.
With regard to the appeal process, the Operational Manager advised that it was possible for the decision to be appealed through the appeal process, and she referred to recent decisions in relation to Town and Village Green applications having been considered by the Supreme Court and the House of Lords.
A Committee Member then raised two points. The first was that from their calculations, the highest estimated cost of the inquiry came to £9,950. The Member also queried the involvement of the Vale of Glamorgan Council, which was land owner to an adjoining piece of land and also the Registration Authority. In reply the Operational Manager advised that in the interests of impartiality, and to ensure that the Vale of Glamorgan Council in its capacity as Registration Authority for its administrative area determined the application in accordance with the relevant legislation and regulations, Committee was advised that an independent Barrister should be appointed. The Council’s legal services department would arrange and facilitate meetings in respect of setting up the inquiry. The Operational Manager also advised that the Council had not as far as she was aware submitted any representations objecting to or in support of the application.
Discussion then took place following a suggestion by a Committee Member as to whether the Committee could make a ruling on the application. The Member stated that this would save money and remove the need for an inquiry. Further to this point, the Chairman expressed caution as this was a complex legal matter, which had been ongoing since 2014.
The Committee also discussed a proposal put forward as to whether this application could be put to Counsel, in order to mediate common ground between the two parties. This proposal, having being seconded, was voted upon and did not receive the Committee’s support.
There being no further questions, it was
(1) T H A T on the basis of the evidence submitted in support of and against the application, a non-statutory public inquiry be convened to consider the Application.
(2) T H A T the Operational Manager, Legal Services, be given delegated power to appoint a legally qualified and suitably experienced independent Chairperson to hold a non-statutory public inquiry to consider the application.
(3) T H A T the costs of appointing Counsel to chair the non-statutory inquiry, and his costs ancillary thereto, be met from central funds set aside for specific matters, including legal challenges brought against the Council and other ancillary matters.
(4) T H A T at the conclusion of the non-statutory public inquiry, the Chairperson shall be requested to produce a report for the Registration Authority which considers the evidence submitted in support and against the application, together with the evidence heard at the inquiry and to provide a recommendation for the Licensing Committee whether or not to register the land as a Town or Village Green under the Act.
(5) T H A T a further report be presented to Licensing Committee upon receipt of the Chairperson’s report following the non-statutory public inquiry in order to determine the application.
Reason for decisions
(1-5) In order for the Council as Registration Authority to discharge its obligation to adopt a fair and transparent procedure and to determine the application in accordance with the relevant legislation.
343 APPLICATION TO WAIVE THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL'S AGE POLICY GUIDELINES FOR THE GRANT OF A PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE LICENCE, VOLKSWAGEN CRAFTER (DEH) –
The Team Manager – Licensing presented the report, the purpose of which was to consider a request by Mr. C. Mort of C J Contract Travel to waive the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Age Policy Guidelines in respect of a Private Hire Vehicle Licence application for a Volkswagen Crafter, registration number LJ56 ABK.
Mr. Mort was present at the Committee meeting.
The relevant Age Policy Guidelines were attached to Appendix A to the report. Class Two vehicles must be under 10 years old to have a licence granted. The date of first registration for the vehicle registration LJ56 ABK was 15th November, 2006.
On 19th September, 2017, Mr. Mort submitted an application for a Private Hire Vehicle Licence for LJ56 ABK. The application was accompanied by a letter requesting that the Licensing Committee consider waiving the Age Policy Guidelines in respect of the grant of a licence for this vehicle. A copy of Mr. Mort’s letter was attached at Appendix B to the report. Photographs of LJ56 ABK had been produced and were attached at Appendix C.
The Operational Manager advised that if Members were minded to approve the waiver of Age Policy Guidelines in respect of this vehicle, the vehicle would be presented for testing at the Alps Depot. A licence would only be issued from the date the vehicle received a satisfactory pass certificate.
A Committee Member commented on the number of applications received to waive the age policy guidelines. In reply, the Team Manager –Licensing advised that generally, Local Authorities did not adopt an upper age limit on vehicles. Vehicles over 10 years of age would undergo more frequent testing, requiring a license renewal every four months. This was acceptable as long as the vehicle was fit for purpose.
The Committee queried whether Mr. Mort intended to purchase an additional vehicle. In response, Mr. Mort stated that following the summer contracts and for September, he had invested £85k for three new vehicles, two for Ysgol Y Deri and one for Rondel House. Since this, two additional wheel chair users had been added to routes, for which, the minibuses used were full. Mr. Mort added that he agreed with how the licencing system worked and that he was happy to come back to Committee every four months to renew his licence. The licensing plates for the vehicle in question had been removed, so this had come under DVLA requirements. Mr. Mort also stated that he would be encouraged to purchase a new vehicle, as there would be ongoing costs for the four monthly checks. Mr. Mort advised that this application was a short term measure.
RESOLVED - T H A T the request to waive the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Age Policy Guidelines in respect of vehicle Registration No. LJ56 ABK, be granted.
Reason for decision
To take account of the report and Mr. Mort’s request.