To confirm and sign the minutes of the meeting held on 9 December 2020 and 13 January 2021.
The minutes of the meetings held on 9 December 2020 and 13 January 2021 were approved.
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.
Cllr John Cordwell declared an interest as a pensioner of Magnox having worked at Berkeley Nuclear Laboratories and GCC’s representative on the Berkeley Site Stakeholder Group, in respect of any discussion on the nuclear fusion project.
To consider the attached report and discuss whether the Committee want to look into this issue further after today’s meeting.
4.1 The Chair invited James Blockley, Flood Risk Manager, to present this item. The report was taken as read and members noted the following points:
· The report focused on the flood incidents experienced on 23rd and 24th of December 2020, which were reported as the worst flood events for the county since 2007.
· Since the report had been published, the updated figures were 454 flood reports, 207 of which were internal flooding issues.
· The type of flood was very different to 2007 in that it resulted from surface water run off, due to intense rainfall that fell on already saturated ground.
· The report reflected the fantastic multi-agency response that was made to the event; it was quick, effective and focused, and showed very clear evidence of solid partnership working. No one body was working at cross-purposes with another.
· Whilst the Council had always been committed to providing funding for future flood resilience, and the actions taken since 2007 had clearly had a major impact on the results from December’s events, there were a number of lessons learnt during the response which included but not limited to:
o The role of district officers can sometimes be majorly overlooked in a flood response. The district response team are normally very small, and sometimes just one officer and they have multiple actions under their responsibility. We needed to make sure that this role was suitably resourced, as the lead flood authority, we rely heavily on them to discharge this role and we could not respond effectively without them.
o The importance of the community response and support. Residents who live in areas that were vulnerable to flood events were always very realistic about where they live and were essentially the first line of defence. Their vital support helps organisations to raise warnings locally, clear routes for emergency services and offer support to their fellow residents. As a full county response, we should be doing more to support community groups and help coordinate the existing community efforts across the county.
o There were active discussions about a Gloucestershire specific flood recovery funding pot that could be immediately released to residents for the immediate, short term recovery. During national flood events, the Government will occasionally release framework funding but this was not happening for December’s events, and even if it was, it was normally received months after the event.
· The report outlined a number of actions to increase resilience of communities as well as a range of short term actions for the worst hit areas. There was an overall aim to develop a local flood risk management strategy.
· Officers intended to publish this report on the Council website so residents were able to see the benefit of he multi-agency approach.
4.2 Members and Cabinet Members thanked officers across the board for the very comprehensive report.
4.3 In response to suggestions of creating a Gloucestershire specific flood relief fund, a member notified the Committee that there was money leftover in the 2007 flood appeal ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
To review the attached draft one page strategy for the Restoring our Rivers task group.
If this is approved, the task group will seek to convene after the 2021 county election.
6.1 The Chair reminded the Committee that at their meeting in January, members had agreed for a task group one page strategy to be drafted and brought back for the Committee to approve. Cllrs Paul Hodgkinson and Bernie Fisher (the original proposer and seconder of the motion leading to this task group request) were invited to present.
6.2 The Committee noted the contents of the one page strategy focused on the future task group gaining an understanding of the level of pollution that existed in the county’s rivers, the legal context of permissible sewage dumps and the potential road map to achieving bathing water status. Members recognised how the impacts of the previous item on flooding and river pollution were interrelated issues for the county.
6.3 Whilst fully supportive of the concept, members were conscious that the task group would need effective engagement from other partners in the county to make the work worthwhile. It was accepted however that if no action was taken, we would never begin the process of improving our rivers. It would be up to members of the task group to ensure partners and organisations being invited for questioning were fully informed beforehand of the group’s expectations and that the members offer probing and robust questioning.
6.4 Noting that the list of consultees on the strategy document may not be exhaustive and may change as the group moved through their research, it was requested that the following wording be added: “and any other relevant evidence provider”
6.5 With this minor amendment, the Committee approved for the task group to go ahead and be created after the May 2021 local election.
Colin Chick, Executive Director of Economy, Environment & Infrastructure to update the Committee on current issues.
7.1 Colin Chick, Executive Director of Economy, Environment and Infrastructure, updated the Committee on current issues. In particular, members noted that:
· Covid continued to have an impact across the services, not least on the capacity to respond. Services would begin to be brought back online in conjunction with the Government’s road map.
· The Preferred Route Announcement for M5 J10 was due around June this year.
· All highways delivery contracts continued to move forward, despite the considerable pressure placed on the services through the winter months. The teams had effectively been in emergency response mode since before Christmas with the various snow, flood and freeze events taking place. It was estimated that the winter maintenance budget could see an estimated £300,000 overspend this financial year due to these weather events.
· The Ash die back programme continued, for every one tree removed, the Council were committed to planting two more. It was estimated that 7000 trees would be planted by the end of the season.
· The Ashchurch Bridge over Rail programme now lay with Tewkesbury Borough Council’s Planning Committee to make a decision at their March meeting.
· A lead cabinet member decision was planned for March to approve the ULEV Strategy and procurement of a provider to implement a countywide investment in EV charging points.
· Funding for the B4063 / A40 Highways England Cycling Scheme was within £3m of full funding; unfortunately the scheme had experienced an increase from its original funding forecast due to new guidance on the delivery of cycle schemes coming into force.
· The A417 Missing Link project was now progressing again following a delay experienced from last minute objections to the scheme.
· The Local Transport Plan Review was due to be considered at full Council in March.
· Household Recycling Centre booking systems would remain in place for now. Officers were looking at ways to refine and upgrade the online system in order to increase capacity and make the process more efficient. The service would also benefit from daylight saving at the end of March meaning all the sites will be open for longer.
· Some members may have attended a briefing on the Fusion Project. Gloucestershire was preparing to bid for the first fusion plant in the world and the accompanying technical centre to be based at the former nuclear plant sites at Berkeley and Oldbury. Fusion energy was clean, green and safe, and did not include any of the risks that traditional nuclear stations did such as nuclear meltdown. The process only used a very small amount of nuclear fuel to run and helium was produced as a by-product which is a sought after gas that could be captured and used efficiently. Hydrogen can also be produced in large quantities which is also a potential zero carbon energy source. The project aimed to have a plant onsite from 2030 onwards and if selected, would have a phenomenal impact on the surrounding area of the county for skills and future funding.
7.2 There was a discussion regarding the high ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
To consider the attached update report.
5.1 The Chair invited Rob Niblett, Senior Planning Officer, to present this item. The report was taken as read and members noted the following points:
· The impact of Covid on passenger numbers had been catastrophic; they had reduced in proportion to the level of restrictions in place.
· As a result, the Government put all franchises into emergency measure agreements where they take the risk on revenue and the train operating companies were paying just to run the services.
· Cancellations and reductions in services have had a major impact on school pupils travelling to and from school in the county, which continued for forest residents returning from schools in Cheltenham and Gloucester.
· The long term impact of the pandemic on rail passengers and services was very difficult to foresee. It was very unlikely that commuter levels would return to pre-Covid levels due to the increase of working from home, and the morning/afternoon peaks we used to see were likely to be more spread throughout the day, if experienced at all.
· There was likely to be some form of bounce back in leisure travel, which we experienced to some extend last summer when restrictions were eased.
· The industry was in a state of flux, similar to many others.
· It was highlighted that rail played a significant role in tackling climate change/reducing carbon and congestion on our roads and as such Network Rail were continuing their long term planning for demand post-Covid and GCC have been heavily involved in this.
· The Council were very keen to remain engaged in future planning as any prediction on future demand could have an impact on critical routes for the county.
· The recent Network Rail traction strategy document highlighted all the rail lines in the county for future electrification but no dates/timescales were given for this work and it was clearly going to be a very expensive exercise.
· GCC was also a member of the North Cotswold Line task force which dealt with services from Worcester through to Oxford that residents in the Cotswolds relied on.
· In terms of new stations, in line with the LTP, officers were committed to working with rail industry to explore any possibilities.
· Unfortunately officers had recently been advised that the improved half hourly service from Gloucester to Bristol that was due to be implemented in December 2021 had now been delayed until May 2022, as well as the hourly service to Worcester (which was currently only every 2 hours) being delayed until 2022. Operators had advised this was due to one of the unseen impacts of the pandemic, train driver training.
6.2 A member welcomed information on the possibility of a new station south of Gloucestershire but noted that it relied heavily on the rail companies agreeing to use it and there was a significant lead time between this being agreed/built and making its way onto the timetables. It was also questioned whether existing lines could have their capacity increased to allow more services to use them.
6.3 Officers agreed ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
This is the final Committee of this Council term. Members may wish to suggest future items for the next Committee to consider.
No additional items for the future work plan were suggested.
Members took this opportunity to share thanks for the Committee’s work and achievements over the last 4 years.