Agenda item

Questions to the Cabinet Members

To provide an opportunity to pose questions to Cabinet Members in line with Standing Orders.

 

Process:

No more than 10 minutes will be allocated at the Council meeting for questions to each Cabinet Member.

 

Members must submit their proposed questions in writing in advance in accordance with Standing Orders.  If members are unable to ask their question orally within the allocated time, remaining questions will be answered in writing.  The question and response will be appended to the minutes.

 

The question must be addressed through the Mayor or the person presiding at the meeting and not directly to the person being questioned.

 

Questions will be posed to Cabinet Members in the following order:

 

      i.        Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for City Services

     ii.        Cabinet Member for Education and Skills

    iii.        Cabinet Member for Assets

   iv.        Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development

     v.        Cabinet Member for Community and Resources

   vi.        Cabinet Member for Streetscene

  vii.        Cabinet Member for Licensing and Regulation

 viii.        Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure

Minutes:

Question 1 – Cabinet Member: Licensing and Regulation

 

Councillor J Watkins put the following question to the Cabinet Member:

 

Given the recent rulings with regard to the impact poor air quality was having on health and given the sad death of the little girl in London attributed to air pollution, what plans did the Council have in place to take positive action with regard to the air quality in the one way system in Caerleon, given that years of monitoring have resulted in little or no action thus far?

 

Response:

 

I would like to thank Councillor Watkins for asking this question. One of the issues highlighted by the Coroner in his report on the tragic death of this poor girl in London was the need to raise public awareness of the impact that air pollution had on public health.

 

I hope that this would therefore help to get the message across to the wider community that action needed to be taken, because increased monitoring and regulation would not, of itself, be sufficient to address these environmental issues.

 

The Council’s Senior Scientific Officer attended an Air Quality workshop recently where he was able to talk with Rosamund Kissi-Debra (the mother of the girl who had died in London) about the challenges in getting air quality messages across to communities and facilitating behaviour change to improve air quality.  Raising public awareness however and engaging with the public would be a critical part of this Council’s strategy for dealing with Air Quality, both in Caerleon and other areas of the City

 

The Cabinet Member also stressed that the Council could only act within the current regulations governing the management of air quality standards and it was for the legislators and policy makers to establish a clear framework for this work to be carried out.

 

Turning to the specific issues relating to Caerleon, it was a complete fallacy to say that the extensive monitoring work carried out by Environmental Health officers resulted in little or no action so far.  Current positive action in Caerleon included:

 

A number of measures were taken to address air quality issues arising from vehicle emissions in Caerleon, for example:

 

·        Deployment of electric refuse collection vehicles on routes in Caerleon.

·        Deployment of electric buses on routes in Caerleon.

·        Continuation of the Eco Stars Scheme, which facilitated less fuel use in fleets travelling around Newport, including Caerleon.

·        Using the development control process to require ultra-low energy vehicle infrastructure at new developments e.g. EV charging as part of the Redrow development on the University site.

·        Using development opportunities to require mitigation measures such as anti-idling controls for vehicles e.g. anti-idling of construction traffic serving refurbishment work at Charles Williams School.

·        Engaging with the community of Caerleon wherever possible in relation to concerns, planning work and pending projects e.g. concerns raised by the local community about routes of construction traffic to and from the University development site routing has resulted in additional monitoring.

·        Air quality issues were inextricably linked to wider initiatives regarding Climate Change and Sustainability and this work would also have beneficial impacts on all of the Newport area including Caerleon.

 

Future/pending action included:

·        Air Quality Annual Progress Reports would be prepared with more accurate data. The current data for 2020 is clearly unreliable because traffic journeys have reduced significantly due to COVID restrictions.  However, while people continued to work from home, this would continue to have a positive impact on air quality.

·        The on-going work on the Sustainable Travel Strategy and the pending Air Quality Action Plan would also help to address air quality. The Air Quality Action Plan would be refreshed in 2021/22 with a view to identifying interventions for all Air Quality Management Areas, such as Caerleon. This would complement the work being done under the Sustainable Transport Plan.

·        Purchase and deployment of real time monitors for three AQMA street canyons including Caerleon, where exceedances of the air quality objective were observed in a 75 meter section of High Street. This would provide data on peak pollution times which would feed into interventions that awee considered as part of the Air Quality Action Plan process. Additional pollutants in the form of particulates would also be measured by these monitors.

·        Setting up of Air Quality Groups for at least six of the AQMAs including Caerleon.

·        Piloting of e-Taxis should include e-Taxis activity in Caerleon.

·        Scoping of funding opportunity through Cardiff City Region Fund to look at problem street canyons like Caerleon High Street and engineered solutions to mitigate air quality impacts.

 

And those were just examples of the work that was already carried out or planned, but we did need to engage with and secure the co-operation of the public in order to deliver our air quality objectives.

 

Supplementary:

 

Councillor J Watkins welcomed the initiatives such as the electric buses and electrical waste disposal units that would go through the village once a week. Councillor J Watkins felt it was disrespectful of the Cabinet Members to suggest that the public are not aware of their responsibility, whereas the Councillor considered Caerleon residents to be responsible.  Councillor J Watkins asked if the Cabinet Member thought that electric cars were affordable; as for majority of residents they would not be and asked if it was time that the Cabinet member did something positive for Caerleon and provided alternative access into the village to improve poor air quality.

 

The Cabinet Member suggested that the cost of cars was not for this council to decide or comment upon. The point the Cabinet Member was referring to with regard to people taking responsibility was on a global scale and not just within Newport.  The Council could only do so much and all the information provided was evidenced based for Newport.  Finally, the Cabinet Member stressed that the Council was doing as much as it could for the air quality in Caerleon.

 

Question 2 – Cabinet Member: Sustainable Development

 

Councillor J Watkins put the following question to the Cabinet Member:

 

Did the Cabinet Member agree that Section 106 monies generated in a particular ward should include the Community to have a voice in the decision making process as to how such monies were spent and if so why was this was not the process currently in place?

 

Furthermore, did the Cabinet Member agree that such monies should be spent entirely on innovations or improvements solely with the ward where said monies were generated?

 

Response:

 

Planning obligations were legal obligations that were entered into to mitigate the impacts of a development proposal. This could be via a planning agreement that was entered into under section106 of the Town and Country Planning Act. Hence the use of the term ‘section 106 monies’

 

This was introduced following an act of Parliament that was laid down and agreed in 1990.

 

This was a fundamental piece of legislation, which had to be adhered to by the person or developer who had an interest in the land, as well as the planning authority. Planning obligations that run with the land, were legally binding and enforceable.

 

Should the Council spend the contributions on infrastructure or services not within the scope of the legal agreement, or if it failed to spend the contribution within the agreed timeframe, the Council would be liable to return the contributions to the developer.

 

It was therefore important to have some understanding of the S106 process and the parameters the Council must work within to negotiate, secure and spend S106 contributions.

 

And in response to the second part of the question:

 

The contributions that were required from the developer had to be used to address an identified need (rather than a wish list), it was important to note that proposed contributions were outlined within reports determined by Planning Committee and those reports were published in advance of the meetings.  As an example, the Caerleon Campus application contained over five pages of discussion on the Section 106 contributions agreed within the Heads of Terms.  These details were in the public domain and the decision of Planning Committee took into account the officer’s recommendation on these matters as well as any representations made to Committee.

 

Supplementary:

 

Councillor J Watkins was interested to hear the Cabinet Member mention to identified need and there was a clear identified need for how money was to be spent in Caerleon and nothing to interest, involve or develop children in Caerleon.   There was a play area by the comprehensive school, which was out of date and there was nothing for teenagers to get involved in and enjoy.  The money therefore needed to be spent on young people to engage them and improve their lives.

 

The Cabinet Member agreed with Councillor J Watkins’ comments and advised that Redrow Housing had agreed for £1M of this money to be spent on Caerleon schools for their upkeep and five difference play recreation areas and sporting areas which included rugby and five different aspects, looking at different generational needs to support the wellbeing of young people.  Also agreement was made in relation to sustainable travel, with installation of electric charging points including the widening of the public right of way, pedestrian crossings, two new bus tops as well as repairing the listed buildings.  Therefor the improvements put forward by Redrow had been carefully considered and Planning Committee approved those recommendations. This would improve the area for the residents of Caerleon.

 

Question 3 – Cabinet Member: Leisure and Culture

 

Councillor A Morris put the following question to the Cabinet Member:

 

What attempts were made to engage with the gangs of youths who congregated at various locations across the city during lockdown.

 

Response:

 

The Cabinet Member advised that officers had gone out to engage with youngsters but unfortunately the community centres were closed due to lockdown.  Children with certain needs had been considered and looked after.

 

Supplementary:

 

Councillor Morris considered that the Council had not engaged with youngsters who had nothing to do nowhere to go and not wearing masks or social distancing.  Would the Council be engaging with youngsters to show them the error of their ways and the dangers that they were putting themselves and other people in presently.

 

The Cabinet Member advised that these were policing issues. We as a Council had no rights or legislation in place to tell people to wear masks or not to loiter.  A Section 48 dispersal order had been used in Alway as a result of engaging with the police and it was advised that Councillor Morris do the same for Lliswerry by contacting Inspector Cawley.

 

Question 4 – Deputy Leader/Cabinet Member: City Services

 

Councillor W Routley put the following question to the Cabinet Member:

 

Flooding event 23 of December is subject to a section 19 investigation, also the local storage of Sandbanks initiative as previously discussed, could you please update Council on these two subjects.

 

Response:

 

The section 19 investigation is currently underway together with an enquiry being led by NRW into causation and contributory factors for the flooding event in the eastern catchment of the City. When findings are finalised and received these will be published on the council website

 

Local Authorities have no duty to provide sandbags to the public, however NCC and SWFR often support residents at times of flooding. At my request, officers are currently reviewing options for some localised storage for sand bags at strategic sites and I will announce further details when ready. Business, Farm and Agricultural landowners need to ensure they have their own flood plans and NRW can provide further advice on this.

 

Supplementary:

 

Councillor Routley mentioned that it was good to speak with the Cabinet Member and officers in relation to the 23 December, which caught everyone out however, there was a massive shortage of sand bags in rural area.  Telford Street Depot was not open to collect sand bags, the Council could not deliver sandbags.  Farmland had been identified and would safely store local sandbags in for residents to prepare in advance or on the day of such an event can access these sandbags to help prevent flooding to their property.  This initiative released the council to give a more proactive approach when this is repeated.  Small improvements such as these would give hope for residents.  Councillor Routley offered help to the Cabinet Member to create distribution centres.

 

The Deputy Leader advised that sights had already been identified within Newport, such those as mentioned in the Langstone Ward and the council was also looking at other suitable locations and once this was completed the council were looking draft a policy and agreements with all those that had accepted.