Declarations of interest
Members of the Committee are invited to declare any pecuniary or personal interests relating to specific matters on the agenda.
Please see note (a) at the end of the agenda.
Cllr Phil Awford declared an interest as GCC’s representative for the Wessex/Severn Wye at the Regional Flood Defence Committee.
To note this Committee considered a summary report on the December 2020 flood events at its meeting in March 2021.
Members to consider the attached updated version of the summary report and consider a further item on this would be required.
3.1 The Chair invited James Blockley, Flood Risk Manager, to present this item. The report was taken as read and members noted the following points:
· This report was an updated version of the one received at Committee in March this year. It reflected lessons learnt and actions taken from the December 2020 flood events.
· The team had been incredibly busy throughout this year actioning what had been identified. This included officers at GCC but also every other partner that had engaged to make improvements possible.
· Whilst partnerships had mainly been identified in the initial debrief sessions in December, new partnerships had also been identified since then.
· Key lessons learnt centred on the lack of revenue funding to support the critical role of district council colleagues. Also that improvements in releasing Govt. framework funding remained incredibly important in addressing flood response going forward.
· Officers had discussed the funding framework issue at length and felt it desperately needed updating. They felt it would be better for monies to be ring-fenced and allocated by the county councils, as they were often very quickly aware of the overall impacts on the ground.
· Gloucestershire officers knew within days that the December 2020 event it was the most significant the county had seen in many, many years and felt it was completely let down by the lack of national funding coming forward in the aftermath.
· There was currently an open letter being formulated from the English Severn and Wye lead local flood authorities for Govt.
· The report detailed 30 areas of project development and investigation, 20 of which had resulted directly from December. These actions ranged from initial investigations needed (what caused the flooding and what could be done to future mitigate it) through to knowing the issue and how to alleviate it but a need to identify funding.
· There had been a number of multi-agency partnerships formed in specific locations to explore any opportunities for collaboration and pooling resources in order to deliver the needed improvements.
· A case study example was shared for a small village in the Cotswolds, Bledington. During the December floods, it was worst hit community in the county with 29 properties being affected.
· Very early on in the event, the team met with the local flood group and convened a couple of multi-agency meetings to investigate the cause.
· It was identified that a local brook bank had eroded so there was currently a design in development to repair this. The team were also investigating the repair of an existing flood defence mechanism.
· What was key however was to not only understand what happened downstream, but also water management in the upper catchments.
· The team were therefore currently working with a landowner upstream who had shown interest in using their land for flood alleviation and possibly creating a wetland. This would not only have a dramatic benefit on slowing the amount of water that reached Bledington, but also many other environmental advantages such as biodiversity.
· The officer was exceedingly proud of the ... view the full minutes text for item 3.
To consider the attached report.
4.1 Ben Watts, Outcome Manager, presented this item. The report was taken as read and the following points were highlighted:
· GCC was responsible for delivering specific infrastructure and services and ensuring new developments did not adversely impact upon the capacity of existing services or the ability to deliver them.
· Many planning applications / permissions were therefore subject to developer contributions in the form of planning obligations. These could be via planning agreements (S106 Agreements) considered alongside Highways Contributions S278 and CIL.
· CIL was applied on a formulate basis across a CIL charging area i.e. a district planning area, which was different to the application of S106 which was specific to planning areas.
· Whilst CIL and S106 could run alongside each other, there could not be a situation where developers paid twice for the same infrastructure.
· As GCC was only a consultee to the planning process, officers were able to provide comment on the financial requirements for infrastructure but it was the role of Local Planning Authority (LPA) to decide. They were under no obligation to agree with GCC’s consultation response and request the monies.
· This had become a particular concern for GCC in its role as Education Authority. To date no CIL money had been allocated from LPAs for education provision.
· The introduction of CIL had also led to significantly reduced or declined S106 contributions. This meant GCC had lost millions of pounds in developer contributions in recent years.
· Finally, members were informed of a recent criticism of the methodology GCC used for calculating developer contributions for a planning application at Coombe Hill. A detailed review was currently underway on this ruling and due to conclude in 2022.
4.1 Several members queried why it was felt the CIL monies had not been forthcoming, particularly in relation to education.
4.2 It was advised that firstly, there was an overall issue with the amount of money raised initially. It was not enough to cover the costs to begin with, let alone after 30% was taken for admin and neighbourhood plan charges. There were also issues of viability, Gloucestershire was an expensive place to develop and therefore required a high level of CIL monies to provide the necessary infrastructure. It was up to the LPA’s Planning Committee to make decisions on the application and it was felt there may be other more pressing financial priorities, leaving CIL as a non-viable charge to add on top of the other costs charged to the developers. Finally the two tier system of local government in Gloucestershire meant the county council did not have a voice or a role in the decision making process and could only provide comment.
4.3 It was questioned whether councils should be looking at other ways to raise the money for education if this avenue was clearly failing, for example, through council tax.
4.4 Officers advised that the council did receive a level of funding from Government for education places, but this was in terms of natural growth need, rather than additional ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
Colin Chick, Executive Director of Economy, Environment & Infrastructure to update the Committee on current issues (includes Quarter 4 2020/21 performance data).
5.1 Colin Chick, Executive Director of Economy, Environment and Infrastructure, updated the Committee on current issues. In particular, members noted that:
· The council’s offer on the ash die back programme of planting two trees for every one felled had received a positive response, but it was then vital that the right tree was planted in the right place, taking into account the required upkeep and safety concerns of planting large trees on the highway network.
· The J10 Preferred Route had been announced on 16 June, GCC was therefore currently in process of contacting people and working with land agents to address any land impact issues.
· The Gloucestershire South West Bypass project was moving forward following delays from Covid impacts. A bid had been submitted into the Levelling Up Fund to make up the shortfall in funding and the aim was to be on site by the end of this year.
· West Cheltenham scheme was due to have Phases 1 & 2 finished this summer, with Phases 3, 4 and the cycle scheme element due to finish in spring 2022.
· The Emergency Active Travel Fund was currently being used to complete the cycle route ‘spine’ through the county. The London Road Gloucester section was complete, the next section would then link from the end of London Road through to Arle Court in Cheltenham. This was due to be on site by the end of the year if not earlier.
· Once this section was complete, it would link up to the A40 West Cheltenham cycle scheme and would result in a cycle route from the edge of Gloucester to the train station in Cheltenham.
· The next phase would then be to link from Black Dog Way in Gloucester to the Canal path and out towards Stroud.
· GCC had secured £1.3m national funding to trial the responsive public transport system in Cotswolds and the FOD. Four mini buses would be purchased with the money and run a two year test trial.
· The appointment times at all the HRCs had improved, additional spaces were able to be released due to Covid restrictions reducing. A booking system was still being favoured by resident to continue.
· The reopening of the Energy from Waste visitor and education centre was due imminently. It had been closed through the pandemic with outreach work being completed virtually.
5.2 An action was taken to look into the delay in signing off the Lydney cycle scheme that had been funded via the LEP.
ACTION: Colin Chick
5.3 It was questioned whether the county had an overarching tree strategy document that detailed numbers, areas, timelines, costs etc. for the county’s future tree planting.
5.4 It was advised that GCC’s 1m tree planting target had originally had hooked onto the Gloucestershire Local Nature Partnership Strategy for tree planting. It continued to be a battle to find the appropriate land for this level of tree planting and the funding to deliver. It was added the strategy was mentioned in a number of other documents such as ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
To review the committee work plan and suggest items for consideration at future meetings.
Members considered the draft work plan that had been circulated and the following was discussed:
· The extraction of minerals and its environmental impacts would be added to the November meeting agenda.
· A request was made for an update on the progress made on the Biodiversity Task Group recommendations.
· There was a lengthy discussion about the positioning of the climate change item. Officers had requested for the item to be delayed from October to November due to capacity issues, but members felt strongly they did want to delay this important discussion.
· It was accepted that moving the item to the November meeting would allow a more detailed report to be produced, time for new officers to settle into their roles and start delivering against the strategy, and adequate Committee time for a detailed discussion.
· A Member requested an update on the cycling strategy group, which officers advised was in the process of being reconstituted and would update councillors on the progress as soon as possible.