Colin Chick, Director of Economy, Environment & Infrastructure to update the Committee on current issues.
6.1 Colin Chick, Director of Economy, Environment and Infrastructure, updated the Committee on current issues. In particular, members noted that:
· The new contracts under Ringway and Atkins were now stabilised and running well.
· There was an announcement due shortly on the new structural maintenance contract.
· There were delays on the Gloucester South West Bypass scheme due to land acquisition issues and negotiations.
· Only two out of the five advertised posts for the Highways Development team had been filled. It would suggest that due to the shortage of this particular skill base for a number of years now, the salaries for the higher positions were out of kilter with other local authorities.
· In relation to the Climate Change Strategy, GCC were currently working hard across Gloucestershire to understand how to move forward in a joined up manner.
· Work continued to finish the outline business case for Government on the Junction 9 scheme. It was highlighted that considering a year ago this scheme wasn’t being considered under any funding pot, there had been a lot of work behind the scenes to reach this stage.
· Junction 10 scheme was still awaiting a decision from Government.
· The Rail Strategy report will show the ground work for future improvements to the network. The further detail will be being discussed at the Gloucestershire Economic Growth Joint Committee with Chief Executives and Leaders from the six District Councils.
· GCC will now become a formal partner of the JCS process from April 2020. The Council will have more influence in this position but members were reminded they were still only 1 of 4 around the table, and would not become a decision maker or planning authority.
· Javelin Park was now generating electricity on a fairly standard basis but it has experienced a few stops during its monitoring. Therefore, at the moment, the electricity is being sold at a fluctuated market rate rather than locking into a contract until the electricity production is constant.
· Cllr Nigel Moor, Cabinet Member for Environment and Planning, advised members that the visitors centre at Javelin Park will be completed this month and an opportunity all members to visit the facility would be arranged in Spring 2020.
6.2 A member questioned whether, during the 2020 JCS process, there would be scope to revisit highways issues from previous planning applications. It was advised that the creation of the JCS will still be the responsibility of the district authorities and that GCC will be consulted to comment once a draft was available. This draft and any comments would be shared with members also.
6.3 It was stressed, that the consideration of highways issue in the JCS has been an ongoing issue for the Council and that it needed to be taken much more seriously. The problem beginning to present itself is that developments are layering around a ‘core’ which is an unsuitable use of land and does not allow sufficient access to public transport meaning cars are remaining a necessity. Officers at GCC would prefer to see a transport strategy produced which connected with transport concerns or show plans to mitigate against them.
6.4 It was suggested that many previous JCS (running to 2031) may be found unsound against inspection in 2020 on this matter.
6.5 Responding to these comments a member, in their district councillor capacity, added that GCC joining the JCS was a welcomed move and had hoped to be in a situation where things had massively improved by having highways/county directly involved in the planning process. Reference was made to the issue of how national funding for transport infrastructure was low and it was an issue district authorities struggled to understand how they could overcome.
6.6 It was recognised that these comments were only a statement of situation and that all parties would need to be involved to drive forward a more sustainable way for planning in the County, which delivered growth without causing harm to the environment.
6.7 A member questioned how far away the Junction 9 decision would be, it was explained that following the submission of the business case, officers would expect a response within 6 months to a year of that date. Junction 10 was still awaiting a decision on funding; the project was currently progressing on a ‘minimum expenditure’ approach to keep it on time, as currently all expenditure was ‘at risk’.