Venue: Council Chamber, Civic Offices, High Street, Epping
Contact: Mark Jenkins (Directorate of Governance) Tel: 01992 564607 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
1. This meeting is to be webcast. Members are reminded of the need to activate their microphones before speaking.
2. The Chairman will read the following announcement:
"I would like to remind everyone present that this meeting will be broadcast live to the Internet and will be capable of repeated viewing and copies of the recording could be made available for those that request it.
If you are seated in the lower public seating area it is likely that the recording cameras will capture your image and this will result in the possibility that your image will become part of the broadcast.
This may infringe your human and data protection rights and if any member of the public wishes to avoid this they should move to the upper public gallery"
The Assistant Director of Governance and Performance Management reminded everyone present that the meeting would be broadcast live to the Internet, and that the Council had adopted a protocol for the webcasting of its meetings.
Remembrance of Councillors Mrs Penny Smith and Ken Avey
The Vice Chairman of the committee asked the committee to stand for a moment’s silence to remember the contribution made to this committee by Councillors Mrs Penny Smith and Ken Avey who died last month.
To confirm the minutes of the last meeting of the Committee held on 6 March 2014 (previously circulated) and matters arising.
(a) Minutes of the Last Committee Meeting
That the minutes of the last Committee meeting held on 6 March 2014 be agreed subject to an amendment under “Members Present,” “Representing Local Councils” – Town Councillors R Witham and P Price (Lambourne Parish Council) had not been recorded.
(b) Matters Arising
Under Item 24 (2) Collection of Rubbish and Recycling from Community/Village Halls, Councillor C C Pond requested information on recycling collections and its costing. The Deputy Chief Executive advised that he did not currently have an update but would send the information on to the Councillor.
Invite to Essex County Council Portfolio Holder for Transportation and Highways
At the last committee meeting, Members requested that an invitation to this meeting be passed to County Councillor Rodney Bass, Portfolio Holder for Highways and Transportation to discuss the general condition of the roads, in particular potholes. Councillor Bass has confirmed his attendance.
The Chairman welcomed County Councillor R Bass, Essex County Council Portfolio Holder for Transportation and Highways.
County Councillor R Bass congratulated the Chairman on being recently appointed as Chairman of Council and hoped that he would have a happy year in office. County Councillor R Bass stated that it was a great privilege to attend this meeting, the county of Essex had 5,200 miles of roads and 6,000 miles of public rights of way. The county was one of the biggest local authorities in Europe which illustrated the size of the problem which his portfolio was tasked with tackling. He received 300 emails per day regarding highways issues and although he had been criticised in the press for not always responding to enquiries, it was impossible for him know every detail of the county’s road problems.
There was a 2 year programme to improve the county’s road. Because of the back log of work, officers were playing catch up with the workload. He acknowledged that the situation was getting worse. It would take 2 years to make the improvements he intended to make.
The roads would be re-prioritised to:
(1) Priority Route 1 – A roads;
(2) Priority Route 2 – B roads; and
(3) Local routes.
The local routes were suburban estate type roads.
Defects on Priority 1 and 2 roads would be repaired within 28 days. Every defect on these roads would be repaired this year. He emphasised that estate roads were not the same priority and therefore would wait longer for repair work. Priority 1 and 2 made up 40% of the county’s roads, there were too many roads to repair.
He advised that he would repair all defects including footways, drainage, road markings on the worst 100 roads in the county, 10 of which were within Epping Forest. 60 of the worse estate roads would be comprehensively repaired this year. The County Council website would contain these highways earmarked for priority. He added that these priorities were not determined by himself but by the severity of the road conditions.
The Portfolio Holder informed members that there were conflicting financial priorities with other services. Sacrifices by other County Cabinet Portfolio Holders had been made in order to support Transportation and Highways. However, he said that his portfolio had made important savings by switching off street lights between midnight and 5.00a.m., £1.3 million would be saved per annum.
The Government had awarded £8 million to spend on defects, with the County Council awarding a further £9.5 million, making £17.5 million extra for repairs, the grand total being £32 million.
The County Council had expanded the 4 man work gangs repairing defects from 16 to 38. An extra £1 million was being spent on white road markings. Although these would only be spend on Priority 1 and 2 roads.
The Chairman thanked the Portfolio Holder for his presentation. The committee went on to ask questions.
(a) Ongar Town Councillor B Surtees asked about the poor repair work in rural ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
To discuss the following matters raised by Local Council’s:
A report from planning officers on the paperless scheme is attached with appendix.
2. EFDC Staffing Structure
To receive an update on the recent staffing re-structure.
3. Community Agents
Please see the attached report.
The Committee received a report regarding the Parish Councils iPlan User Group from the Planning Business Service Manager.
The ratio of electronic planning applications to manual paper planning continued to increase. The District Council currently received 46% of all applications in electronic format which was expected to increase to over 60% in the next twelve months. It was advised that nationally 82% of all planning applications were being processed in electronic format. Some urgency was needed to support Parish and Town Councils in moving from receiving manual paper planning applications to receiving them electronically.
Notification had been given at the March 2014 committee, that as of 1 October 2014, the District Council would no longer be in a position to print and distribute electronically received planning documentation to local councils due to resource limitations. It was advised that copies of plans received in paper format would continue to be distributed to local councils.
Members were informed that Development Management intended supporting local councils through this process with the following measures:
(a) Provision of a limited number of small projectors to assist in presenting applications electronically. This would take the form of a one off grant to the local councils concerned and the District Council would not be responsible for the maintenance or replacement of equipment provided;
(b) Parish and Town Council feedback was being actively encouraged both from the iPlan User Group and individual councils;
(c) Parish and Town Councils had been encouraged to visit planning services to gain familiarity with planning processes and an understanding of the electronic processing of applications. Further visits throughout 2014 would continue to be supported;
(d) The District Council’s ICT section had raised the issue of connectivity with BT Superfast Broadband as there were on-going problems with Broadband access in some areas. ICT had communicated to Buzzcom about Broadband service to some of the Town and Parish Councils, they were also checking services for North Weald and Chigwell; and
(e) A pilot project was in the process of investigating whether it was feasible to provide access to planning documentation held by the District Council on their in-house ICT system for Parish/Town Council clerks. The benefits of this would improve image quality of plans and quicker downloading times.
That the following be noted:
(1) That a meeting of the iPlan User Group held on 29 May 2014 discussed the difficulties in accessing Broadband with slow speeds creating downloading difficulties;
(2) That the District Council is assisting Parish and Town Councils move towards paperless planning meetings by providing a number of support measures;
(3) That further meetings will take place during 2014 with Parish Clerks for training and support;
(4) That Development Management (Planning) has allocated projectors/screens for the display of planning information at Parish Council planning meetings;
(5) That the District Council would purchase projectors/screens for the use of Parish/Town Councils, but would not be held responsible for their maintenance including equipment failure; and
(6) That no further paper copies of plans ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
Local Plan - Progress Report
(Director of Neighbourhoods) To receive a verbal report regarding progress made on the Local Plan.
The Committee received a progress report on the Local Plan from the Planning Policy Portfolio Holder. He explained that the Local Plan had to be evidence led, and that councils who had not followed this approach had fallen foul of the inspection process. Epping Forest was endeavouring to learn from this, and to carry out the process correctly rather than as fast as possible.
Officers continued to collate good evidence for the Local Plan and to keep it up to date. Evidence was reported to the Cabinet as it was completed He had been visiting Parish and Town Councils discussing their concerns and needs and encouraged them to continue their involvement.
To receive an update on the work of the Local Highways Panel. In addition, local councils have requested an update and clarification of the protocol regarding this panel. It is suggested that a guaranteed route to ensure local council items are brought to the attention of the Panel rather than relying on approaches to individual members for support.
The attached documents concern:
(a) Brief Summary of the Local Highways Panels;
(b) Scheme Request Form; and
(c) Requests Process
The Committee agreed to hear this item earlier on the agenda as it was linked to the presentation from County Councillor R Bass. The Committee received an update from County Councillor V Metcalfe on the work undertaken by the Local Highways Panel. The Panel met two weeks ago, they had been allocated £700,000 from the County Council to invest in various road projects over 2014/15. The Panel had spent £5,000 on the Highways Rangers. She advised that progress had been slow due to lack of technical resources and there had been substantial catch up concerning the back log of work.
County Councillor R Bass commented on the Panel’s problems, they had an overloaded system with slow progress being made to agreement. He was confident that the bulk of schemes would be delivered this year. The programme of schemes for the ensuing year should be arranged before the end of the previous year. He added that the Panel was getting better, but all schemes needed evaluating and checking before final agreement.
Ongar Town Councillor B Surtees asked about gaining information on Highway Panel work in his Town Council area and defects to footways which cause trips.
County Councillor R Bass advised that different Highways Panels had their own arrangements for referring schemes from Parish/Town councils. He felt that generally it was better to receive endorsement from the county prior to any formal approval. He confirmed that footway problems were not a responsibility of the Local Highways Panel.
Epping Town Council asked why should potential schemes be routed through the County when under Government Localism criteria, they could be submitted directly to the Highways Panel.
Epping Town Council advised that they had experienced problems in establishing a clear route to the Highways Panel to change a sign.
County Councillor R Bass said that the County Council was the responsible authority, street signs, for example, needed consent, but his authority had been delegated to the District Council. However variation in a sign design from the standard, needed regulatory compliance but could still be noted by the Highways Panel.
The Planning Policy Portfolio Holder advised that there were other routes in order to make changes to existing signage.
Councillor M McEwen asked if the email system for making referrals was in current use?
County Councillor R Bass said that the Panel members can agree to put items on the agenda for discussion. He reassured Members that there wasn’t a formal system for accepting referrals or suggestions. However a long “wish list” should be avoided.
Councillor B Surtees of Ongar Town Council asked about information about the work the Panel and the Highways Rangers had undertaken in the Ongar area, he requested more information on the priorities.
County Councillor R Bass replied that the Local Highways Panels asked routinely for requests from Parish Councils concerning schemes etc. He added that defects generally were the responsibility of the Panel.
(Director of Governance) To receive a verbal report from the Assistant Director of Governance and Performance Management regarding the launch of public scrutiny. Please see the attached PICK form.
The Committee received a presentation from the Assistant Director of Governance and Performance Management regarding Public Scrutiny.
Last year, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee made changes to its rules in order to allow public requests for scrutiny which would be a programme driven by local issues. A copy of the request form was made available to Members at the meeting with any requests being prioritised at the following Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting and a decision made there on what would be pursued. The form with further details had been published on the District Council’s website. Local councils had an important role to play as they had a long reach into the community and could provide items for scrutiny. It was advised that topics should be of wider concern than just those covering a single parish council. For the benefit of Members officers had provided a Request for Scrutiny Review form to use.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
(a) The Forester
Matching Parish Council advised that they were not receiving copies of The Forester, it was suggested that other rural parts of the district were experiencing the same problem. The Deputy Chief Executive said that this issue had been raised before, there were enough copies printed for all the district’s households and the company responsible for distributing The Forester were going to electronically monitor the delivery. Members advised that tracking systems did not always indicate what was actually delivered to an address. Matching Parish Council proposed that some parishes could undertake the delivery as they were used to delivering parish newsletters.
The Assistant Director Technical Services advised that there was a consultation published on the Council’s website regarding off-street car parks, closing date for responses as 21 July 2014. Resources were encouraged.
Dates of Future Meetings
Meetings of the Committee are scheduled for the following dates this year:
1. Thursday 20 November 2014 at 7.30p.m.; and
2. Thursday 26 March 2015 at 7.30p.m.
The next meeting of the Committee was scheduled for Thursday 20 November 2014 at 7.30p.m. in the Council Chamber and then on:
(1) Thursday 26 March 2015