Agenda and minutes

Environment Scrutiny Committee - Wednesday 8 March 2023 10.00 am

Venue: Cabinet Suite - Shire Hall, Gloucester. View directions

Contact: Sophie Benfield 

Items
No. Item

2.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 229 KB

To confirm and sign the minutes of the meetings held on 22 November 2022 and 11 January 2023.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

2.1       The minutes of the meetings held on 22 November 2022 and 11 January 2023 were approved as a correct record.

 

2.2       A member asked for an update on the action to consider co-opting a member of the Gloucestershire Youth Climate Group onto Environment Scrutiny. It was advised that a recommendation had been drafted for the Committee to consider, this would be emailed out to members shortly and if acceptable, scheduled for the next meeting to make a decision.

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:

Cllr Willingham declared that he was Cheltenham Borough Council’s nominated representative on the Cleeve Common Trust in relation to Item 5.

4.

Highways Green Initiatives and Innovations pdf icon PDF 2 MB

Report to follow.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

4.1       Kath Haworth, Assistant Director for Highways & Infrastructure, was invited to present the report. The following points were highlighted.

4.2       The paper outlined a range of green initiatives and innovations which were being developed across the highways industry. The team recognised the importance of the support they had received so far to test these new initiatives, accepting not all would be successful but it was important to try. The report was split into four main sections as outlined below.

4.3       Digital and technology was partly about using data and digital techniques to better inform what the department did and how they did it. For example, a heat defect map could be used to identify heavy pockets of activity arising on the network to help direct resources and identify patterns. It was also about what can and could be captured automatically, in real-time and shared with the public for better self-help and transparency. There was rapid development happening in this area, with some areas on the cusp of providing real opportunities.

4.4       The materials and waste section outlined opportunities to use lower carbon materials, improve efficiencies, and better recycle what came out of the network as well as using recycled and recyclable products. Materials currently used for surfacing took a huge amount of energy to produce, largely due to the high temperatures needed. There were opportunities to explore different materials for use in different weather conditions which could reduce the need for return journeys to refill potholes.

4.5       There was a lot of ‘green estate’ on the network, and this came with opportunities to promote and improve the natural environment through biodiversity. An example was given that as a result of the current Ash Die Back programme, which was removing diseased trees off the network, some areas had flourished with new species establishing themselves in areas where Ash Die Back had previously been dominant.

4.6       The section on plant and operations was around the rollout of electric vehicles and optimisation of equipment. There was a recent trial of an ‘all electric’ site, officers were working through the outcome details, but all initial soundings seemed positive. The technology continued to improve on battery life and discussions around the future of HGVs.

4.7       Members of the Committee welcomed this report and thanked the team for all their hard work in continuing to trial innovations.

4.8       A member shared several other opportunities that may want to be explored, particularly in relation to camera and video footage developments to detect things like potholes, and GPS technology to detect deviations in the road surface and monitor bridges etc. Noting the connections with cyber technology in Cheltenham, there could be opportunities for Gloucestershire to become a leading example in some of these areas.

4.9       Officers welcomed the comments and were happy to continue discussions offline on particular opportunities. They had begun to trial the use of video systems in highways vehicles but shared that the Artificial Intelligence capture was not quite as good as a human yet  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Biodiversity pdf icon PDF 145 KB

Minutes:

5.1       Gary Kennison, Principal Ecologist, presented this item. The report was taken as read and the following points were highlighted.

·         It was advised that considering biodiversity would see a lot of change over the coming years due to legal regulations and associated guidance emerging in relation to the recently passed Environment Act 2021.

·         The Act, amongst other things, strengthened the biodiversity duty on councils, which would involve a review of all policies and operations. It also implemented a requirement to produce a Nature Recovery Strategy for the county, which GCC had been identified as the likely Responsible Authority for its production, monitoring and review.

·         GCC had preliminary accepted the role as Responsible Authority, it was proposed that the Strategy be produced through the already existing Gloucestershire Local Nature Partnership but were awaiting further guidance before continuing.

·         Officers envisaged the shortest timeframe to produce the Strategy would be about 18 months. Gloucestershire was in a positive starting position due to the strong evidence base and Local Nature Partnership relations.

·         Government was aware of the significant resourcing concerns for councils in implementing the Act. The finance and resource implications and current position were outlined in Part 3 of the report.

·         The report included sections covering next steps, summary points and recommendations for the Committee to note.

5.2       It was confirmed that district councils had already given agreement for GCC to be the responsible authority, they and parish councils would be involved in contributing ideas and content for the strategy via the Local Nature Partnership. The Partnership was keen to be a key player and that this would help ensure a Gloucestershire wide and inclusive approach. Guidance on implementing the new legislation was awaited before proceeding to understand what should happen in situations where there might be potential disagreement and how to deal with this before final adoption of the Strategy.

 

5.3       In response to a question, it was confirmed that the strategy will refer to land but regulations or guidance may suggest the exclusion of marine areas. The County Council and Local Nature Partnership however would make sure that  rivers, water courses and the upper Severn Estuary were included for consideration in the Strategy as they were such important parts of Gloucestershire’s natural environment.

 

5.4       There was a flavour in the initial guidance of urban biodiversity being important. The Local Nature Partnership had already done some work on green infrastructure and had considered how urbanisations can provide corridors for species to move through and this would certainly form part of future discussions.

 

5.5       In reference to Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a member stressed it was important to make sure the rare species that had been identified within these areas were clearly highlighted in the strategy, and to ensure any future work continued to try and protect these. There should also be consideration of how we could better enforce against organisations who were not protecting these areas. It was advised that monitoring and enforcement for SSSIs was a responsibility for Natural  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR'S REPORT: ECONOMY, ENVIRONMENT & INFRASTRUCTURE pdf icon PDF 151 KB

The attached report is to be taken as read and members have 30 minutes allocated at the meeting to ask questions. Members are encouraged to pre-submit questions beforehand if they are able via Sophie Benfield in Democratic Services.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

6.1       The pre-submitted questions and response are attached as an appendix.

6.2       Another member shared further concerns from residents around changes to the F bus service, particularly in relation to elderly and physically disabled residents who were unable to walk to use another service.

6.3       In response, officers advised that they had received no further update from the Traffic Commissioner to date. Gloucestershire would not achieve service access per 400m (as detailed in some best practice guides) due to its rurality, and even London struggled to achieve this in some areas. Whilst accepting services had changed, the Council had done the best it could with the public money available to patch up the services cut by Stagecoach, and support as many residents as possible. Those who were greatly disadvantaged also had access to other types of services such as dial a ride, hospital transport etc. A member requested to carry the dialogue on in relation to changes of the F bus service.

6.4       A member requested further information on the grant schemes available under the Fastershire Programme. They referenced concern, in relation to the community grant, as to how communities were engaged with, particularly if they were not known to each other or geographically close enough.

6.5       It was explained that the detail of the ongoing programme was subject to a Lead Cabinet Member decision in December and the report can be accessed here. The officer was happy to continue discussions should the paper not provide the relevant detail.

6.6       In relation to the Quarter 3 performance data, a member was concerned to see some targets seemed to be set against progress and what the end goal was to achieve. For example, the residual waste per household in December 2021 was 440kg and yet the target for 2022 was 479kg. Similarly, for highways, December 2021 to September 2022 reported 99-100% performance for defect repairs but the target was 96%. In addition, such high performance for highways was not coming through in the overall resident satisfaction rates.

6.7       Officers advised that waste figures were set based on previous year’s performance and population growth, the target had to be realistic in line with this, but they had been pleasantly surprised in how rapid the reduction for residual waste had been, regardless of growth in population.

6.8       For highways, the 95/96% target rates were built into the contractual requirements for the provider in 2019, to achieve at least those rates throughout the contract life. The dilemma on customer satisfaction was one of the things being investigated as part of the new Highways Transformation Board. 

 

7.

Work Plan pdf icon PDF 56 KB

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

Minutes:

Members confirmed they were happy with the current work plan.