Agenda and minutes

Environment Scrutiny Committee - Tuesday 22 November 2022 10.00 am

Venue: Committee Room - Shire Hall, Gloucester. View directions

Contact: Sophie Benfield 

Items
No. Item

1.

Introduction

Today’s meeting will be split into two parts. The first part will be a joint meeting of the Environment and Economic Growth Scrutiny Committees to consider items 4 and 5.

 

There will then be a break to allow members of the Economic Growth Scrutiny Committee to leave the meeting and Environment Scrutiny members to continue with the remaining items on their agenda.

Minutes:

The meeting was split into two parts.

 

The first part was a Joint meeting of the Environment and Economic Growth ScrutinyCommittees to consider Items 4 and 5.

 

There was then a break to allow members of the Economic Growth Scrutiny Committee to leave the meeting and Environment Scrutiny members to continue with the remaining items on their agenda.

3.

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.

Minutes:

No declarations of interest were received.

4.

Strategic Planning pdf icon PDF 164 KB

To consider the attached report.

Minutes:

4.1       Simon Excell, Assistant Director for Planning and Economic Development, presented this report. Members noted the following:

·         Since 2013 when the Regional Strategy for the South West was revoked and in the absence of any further national legislation, district councils have had the statutory responsibility for land use planning in their areas.

·         Tewkesbury Borough Council (TBC), Cheltenham Borough Council (CBC) and Gloucester City Council (GlosCC) took the decision to adopt a Joint Core Strategy in 2017, which would soon be replaced by the Joint Strategic Plan (although this was proving to be a lengthy process to date).

·         Cotswold District Council (CDC) adopted their Local Plan in August 2018, Forest of Dean District Council (FODDC) adopted their Local Plan in 2012 and Stroud District Council (SDC) adopted their Local Plan in 2015. All of these were currently being reviewed.

·         Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) had a number of statutory roles and responsibility in relation to planning. It was required to produce various plans such as the Local Transport Plan (further examples available in the written report), which meant it had an extremely important role to play, in this scenario, as the infrastructure provider for the County.

·         The district authorities determined the vast majority of planning applications and GCC was merely a statutory consultee to this process.

·         In their role as consultee however, there was unfortunately an increasing number of examples where GCC’s representations were being ignored and/or disagreed with. The report explained how this was particularly in relation to funding that would be required to deliver vital infrastructure as a result of the application being approved. Such funding should be drawn from the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) contributions paid by the developers. The introduction of CIL by all district council apart from FODDC, had restricted GCC’s ability to secure S106 agreements directly from the developers to fund such infrastructure.

·         It was the opinion of officers present that GCC was losing out on tens of millions of pounds of financial contributions.

·         Figure 1 in the report outlined the value of CIL collected by each of the CIL Charging Authorities in 2019/20 and 2020/21.

·         Figure 2 showed of the funding received in Figure 1, the very small percentage of contributions that had actually being allocated (with the exception of SDC). Since implementation of CIL, GCC had not received a penny from CBC, TBC, GlosCC nor CDC.

·         Figure 3 summarised the amount of CIL retained by each district council at the end of March 2021 (data for the next financial year would be available soon). In relation to SDC, because any bid to SDC was required to be spent by the end of the financial year in question, this left GCC unable to bid for the majority of its funding needs. Instead, Expressions of Interest are invited to be made.

·         Concerning data was presented in Figures 4 and 5. They showed the trend of the amount of S106 obligations that GCC have entered into and received over the previous 6 financial years. It was very  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Bus Services update pdf icon PDF 103 KB

Members have requested an urgent update on the various ongoing issues with bus services in the county.

 

Report to follow

Minutes:

5.1       Tom Main, Transport Operations Manager, gave an overview of this report and Members noted the following:

·         The bus network in general was a mixture of commercial, services that did not need any council authority to run and just needed to be registered with the Traffic Commissioner, and subsidised services, these were the non-commercially viable services which the council currently spent around £5m per year plus £6m per year reimbursing operators for concessionary fare passes.

·         At the height of the Pandemic, passenger usage was about 5% of pre-Covid level. There had been a significant recovery since then but on average, services had recovered about 70-80% of its passengers. This coupled with, inflation, increase in fuel costs and driver availability, had led to growing pressure on operators to remain viable.

·         The revenue gap due to the Pandemic had been contributed to by the Government via support grants in order to avoid a drastic loss in services that would have otherwise occurred.

·         Part of the response from Stagecoach, the major local operator, was to scale back their offering and cancel services. This would then enable them to reallocate drivers onto the more commercial routes and thus improve their reliability for passengers.

·         It was stressed that at no point had GCC supported these changes, officers had highlighted from the beginning that the proposed scaling back of services would have a significant impact on communities in Gloucestershire.

·         But unfortunately, the council could do nothing to prevent Stagecoach from making these changes, as long as they gave the required notice period to the Traffic Commissioner.

·         Having been made aware of the proposed changes, Officers at GCC acted quickly to carry out an informal procurement exercise to gauge the market. They received 1 bid out of the 13 contracts they advertised. Unfortunately, the difficultly of this market was a countrywide issue, councils were having to pay more for the same services and replacement operators were hard to come by due to the severe driver shortage.

·         Once the full documentation was received from Stagecoach outlining the withdrawals, the council attempted another procurement exercise to replace the lost services and received only 3 bids out of 13 contracts.

·         Officers had worked very hard since to secure a further 4 contracts. They felt the position as it stood was GCC providing emergency and temporary cover.

·         In October, GCC launched two pilot transport schemes call ‘The Robin’, an attempt to try something different on rural transport. The trials would form part of a business case for potential future expansion.

·         Members would be aware that the council’s Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) funding bid in 2021 was unsuccessful, along with 70% of other councils. Officers continued to work closely with DfT to review the feedback and enhance the BSIP in preparation for any future funding opportunities, with a full review planned for 2023.

·         There was also the creation of an Enhanced Partnership which was an agreement between council and public transport operators in the county on how they will work  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Bus Improvements Task Group pdf icon PDF 135 KB

To consider (and approve if appropirate) the attached one page strategy.

Minutes:

Members welcomed the task group one pager and thanked Cllr Bloxsom and Cllr Thomas for their efforts in producing it.

 

The Joint Committee unanimously approved for the task group to proceed, whilst suggesting the following points:

 

  • To ensure the consultation of bus users covers a wide demographic, including protected characteristics.
  • To make sure as many district, borough and parish councils are allowed to feed in as possible to prompt partnership working.
  • To consider barriers preventing current non-bus users.

 

 

BREAK

7.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 102 KB

To confirm and sign the minutes of the meeting held on 8 September 2022.

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 8 September 2022 were approved, subject to the below amendments.

 

·         4.2 “a tool to reduce improve road safety”

·         4.4 reword to reflect that where 20 mph schemes were in place, communities who had not taken steps to measure the speeds spoke largely in favour of the schemes they had; however where they had gone back and measured traffic speeds, they had found significant amounts of non-compliance.

8.

Annual Climate Change Strategy Review pdf icon PDF 2 MB

To consider the attached report and receive a presentation from the Gloucestershire Youth Climate Group. Report to follow.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

8.1       The Chair invited Pete Wiggins to introduce the Gloucestershire Climate Change Strategy Progress Report 2022, members noted the following:

·         Scrutiny was asked to feedback on the Annual Progress Report prior to it going to Cabinet in December.

·         Gloucestershire’s Youth Climate Group (GYCG) due to present worked with GCC to develop the original strategy in 2019 and since continue to be engaged and review progress.

·         Gloucestershire’s carbon performance was published nationally, 2-years in arrears so the data in this report was the most up to date available. It was clear that the country as a whole benefited from drastically reduced emissions in 2020 due to the various lockdowns, and all local authority areas would expect to see a significant rise on emissions for the next data set in 2021.

·         Members noted the development of Climate Leadership Gloucestershire as a working group of Leadership Gloucestershire, and whose membership included lead portfolio holders at all Gloucestershire councils, as well as senior directors/managers and who aimed to work together to coordinate a countywide approach to climate change.

·         GCC remained on target to achieve its own reduction in emissions by 2030, as set when the council declared a climate emergency.

·         The main challenge now was to tackle the Council’s Scope 3 Emissions which were as a result of procurement to third party suppliers and services and had not been included in the original target scope. The Council was in the early days of working to address these and performance would now be reported alongside the original scope.

·         Annex 1 of the report included a brief accessible summary of the Council’s approach, progress to date and plans going forward, plus feedback from GYCG and the Youth Climate Action Survey which had received views from almost 3000 young people.

 

8.2       This was followed by a presentation from members of the GYCG the detail of which can be found here.

8.3       Members started discussions by paying thanks to members of the GYCG who had given their time and courage to attend and present at today’s session, but also for their input on the Strategy’s progress to date. They commended the Group’s enthusiasm and commitment to the environment and our communities.

Questions to GYCG

8.4       A member asked where the group saw action against climate change in 10 years’ time, particularly considering the results of COP27 which did not rule out the use of fossil fuels. The group remained hopeful that there would be positive change in the next few years. They felt there had been some positive action from the COPs and welcomed this level of communication and engagement at a local level on action and remaining challenges. They stressed that organisations and leaders needed to realise that economic growth should be around the climate and environment, not despite of. Growth could be classed as beneficial in the long term if it did not positively impact the environment. It was also noted that, continuing on this path, the cost of climate change adaptation in the future  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Work Plan pdf icon PDF 60 KB

To review the committee work plan and suggest items for consideration at future meetings.

Minutes:

Members reviewed the current work plan and requested future items on:

 

·         Civil enforcement powers

·         Traffic Regulation Order process