Agenda item

Questions from Councillors

The deadline for questions to be submitted to the Monitoring Officer is 4 July 2022.



Question from Councillor Lesley Dedman

‘Last week there was wholesale destruction of the habitat of Jesmond Wood in Highcliffe, a treasured area of green and established woodland which the residents value highly.

We have been told by the developer that this was to facilitate the pegging out for the plans he recently put into our BCP Planning Office for housing.

To pursue this aim, the developer has put in bulldozers and devastated the whole area. Trees, grasses and bushes have been removed, and this has devastated the wildlife which was previously there in abundance. Jesmond wood is now a pitiful sight, a wasteland where before there was life. Our residents are appalled. It is an environmental disaster.

Can you tell me what requests were made by BCP planning department before Mr Bulstrode caused the land to be cleared last week?’

Response by Councillor Bobbie Dove, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety and Regulatory Services

Thank you for the question. I was very disappointed to see the extent of clearance undertaken at Jesmond Wood. For the avoidance of doubt the BCP Planning department has never asked for, suggested, or endorsed, any clearance should take place at the site. The planning department requested only that some plots were pegged out to further assess impacts on protected trees. Pegging out is a common practice and appropriate to consider on sites such as Jesmond Wood where there are many protected trees that could be affected by development. There are many ways to ‘peg out’ a site which would not result in the extent of clearance seen at this site.  At no point as part of this request was there any suggestion that the planning department would support any clearance in order for the pegging out to happen.  

The prospective developer of the site therefore made the decision to undertake the clearance on their own volition. I am very disappointed that the developer has linked the request for pegging to the clearance that has since been carried out, as at no stage have the Planning department requested any clearance to take place.

Officers within the Council will be assisting the Police fully in their separate investigation into the matter. The planning department is also writing to Mr Bulstrode to remind him, as a responsible landowner, to ensure that this site is managed in a way that reflects its status as a sensitive location with high amenity value to local residents.


Question from Councillor Tony Trent

The original plan to separate the civic part of Poole Civic Centre from the rest of the building, the “vertical slice” work, which was to commence after Mayor Making and take around six months, was put on ice without consultation with interested parties. The “vertical slice” plan was to leave the two chambers (Council Chamber, Cattistock Room, the Mayor’s Parlour, secure storage, and a small function room, as well as rooms to support the Coroners function, in future use.

Could the Leader of the Council explain what has happened? and when this essential work to secure the future of the listed area of this building, and the functions it supports, will take place?

Public assurances were given by the Leader and/or Deputy Leader on a public social media site that this building was safe, and that the proposal was being developed (as it was under the previous Leader of BCP Council) to ensure the building was preserved. Can the Leader of BCP Council re-state his assurances? And give a time scale within which the work needed to secure the building will take place?

Response by Councillor Drew Mellor, Leader of the Council

The council decision to retain a “vertical slice” of Poole Civic Centre (that encompasses the principal listed and heritage elements) for the purposes of accommodating coroner and mayoralty functions remains in place.  The project has not been shelved and the budget remains as an approved element within the Council’s capital programme. Notwithstanding this, since the decision was made to retain this “vertical slice” an opportunity to consider a hotel option for the wider civic centre site has come forward.  The Council’s Future Places team have been exploring the potential for this option through further investigations, including soft market testing. If that work supports a case for changing the extant decision, the appropriate process will then be followed. It is currently anticipated that Cabinet will receive a further update on this matter in the Autumn. In the meantime, the project is simply on hold whilst the feasibility work is concluded. 

With respect to the safety and preservation of the building, appropriate measures are in place to maintain its security whilst its future is determined. Furthermore, regardless of the outcome of the ongoing feasibility work the building’s listed status will ensure that its important architectural contribution to Poole’s landscape will be maintained for the future.

The preservation of the historical rooms has been made abundantly clear to future places, it is something that absolutely must be maintained and is non negotiable redline, which I will point out wouldn’t have been the case under the lib dem led unity alliance administration. I’m happy to put once again on the record that this administration will not be selling Poole Civic as part of a panicked fire sale of assets, they have inherited from the lib dem unity alliance who were planning on selling off the Civic centre. 


Question from Councillor Stephen Bartlett

Does the Leader agree with me that where the Constitution requires a decision to be made by full council, that such a decision when made, can only be rescinded, or altered by a subsequent full council decision, unless this is agreed as part of the original decision?

Response by Councillor Drew Mellor, Leader of the Council

Thank you for your question. Notwithstanding statutory requirements or constitutional provisions (including for example matters of urgency), I do agree with your assumption regarding the decision-making process as outlined. Formal key decisions as outlined in the Constitution can only be taken by Full Council, circumstances often change after decisions have been taken, but any changes which alter a key decision still have to pass through the relevant gateways.


Question from Councillor L-J Evans

Earlier this year I met with members of the Parkstone branch of the Rotary Club. The club celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2021 and wanted to provide a bench on the pavement outside Poole Hospital (Longfleet Roadside) to commemorate this. They have contacted BCP Council to try to arrange this on numerous occasions, to no avail. When I chased up the matter on their behalf, I received the following response from an Officer: “Whilst I understand the need for a bench outside the hospital, unfortunately I am unable to deal with your enquiry as the bench scheme is currently closed to new enquiries and is under review to amalgamate the 3 policies to determine a single harmonised policy.

This is completely unacceptable. Having somewhere to sit is important for those with frailty and reduced mobility. It gives people a place to wait and encourages walking by ensuring a rest-stop is available. If residents and charities are willing to supply benches in suitable public spaces, surely the Council should be enabling this to happen as quickly as possible?

Please can the Portfolio Holder advise when the policies will be harmonised, the scheme reopened and how long it will take to deal with the backlog?


Response by Councillor Mark Anderson, Portfolio Holder for Environment and Place

We appreciate the impact the delay in launching a BCP commemorative bench programme is having to a small number of interested parties. The service has corresponded directly with the Rotary Club in detail and explained other options currently available at this time.  It is very much our commitment to launch a BCP service indeed it has been the subject of a workstream from our Future Parks Accelerator Programme, whereby the service has been exploring future wider commemorative package opportunities such as, trees, plaques, benches, planters, donations to public buildings e.g. pavilions, the aviary, open space improvements etc

Specifically with reference to commemorative benches a key requirement is the need to replace the three legal agreements, all with different VAT tax implications, different agreement lengths, multiple bench options and pricing structures to provide a single unified offer across the conurbation for all. Furthermore, there is a need to address the legacy of existing benches that now have out of date correspondence addresses to confirm ongoing funding renewal commitments for maintenance to a) ensure maintenance income budgets are sufficient for the task and b) help determine locations re-available to interested parties.

We are endeavouring to relaunch by the end of 2022 when we will contact anyone who has asked to be kept updated on the scheme.


Question from Councillor Richard Burton

My residents often comment to me about the condition of the walkways and paths within the ward. I believe we can all agree that having well maintained and visually pleasing walkways promotes active travel and a pride in the area.  Could the Portfolio holder tell me what impact the Cleaner, Greener, Safer campaign, that went to Cabinet 29 September 2021, has had on footpaths, pavements and alleyways so far this year?

Response by Councillor Nicola Greene, Portfolio Holder for Council Priorities and Delivery

I’d like to thank Councillor Burton for his question, and it couldn’t be more pertinent at this time of year as vegetation is growing almost in front of our eyes.

There is always a tension between those who wish to see our verges and walkways trimmed to bowling green level, and those who wish nature to have a free hand; and I hope that our general consensus is that the sensible approach lies somewhere between the two.  I’m also very grateful to Councillor Burton for making explicit the link between a well maintained and safe road and footway network; and encouraging cycling and walking.

BCP’s 780 miles of roads and footpaths are inspected via our Highway Inspectors to determine the degree of risk and therefore determine an appropriate response for defects.

The Council has a twice-yearly weed treatment programme for roads and footpaths, with the first treatment cycle nearing completion.  When treated, weeds don’t die back straightaway and it can take several weeks for the full effect to be seen, and the herbicide will only treat the green weeds which are growing at the time of treatment.  Following on from rules which govern the use of herbicide – and in keeping with the declaration of the climate emergency – the Council now uses less aggressive methods than in the past, and this necessarily impacts on how many weeds continue to grow.

Our grass cutting policy has developed well beyond the one size fits all approach of the past and is now informed by feedback from residents and park and playground users.  You will see that some areas are left to grow for biodiversity gain, but the margins mowed whereas areas near playgrounds and of high footfall are kept shorter.

Our grass cutting team has been supplemented by four new members of staff, and we have funded and are looking to recruit another six.  They are currently cutting the grass and will be moving on to clearing vegetation once the season finishes. 

In the event that you or your residents in Bearwood and Merley have a concern about any particular road, verge or footpath, I would urge you to report it via the link I will circulate later via Democratic Services.

In terms of the Cleaner, Greener, Safer pilots in the three town centres, significant work has been started and continues – working with our three BIDs to target deep cleanses, increased numbers of cleansing operatives, the deployment of CSAS officers, replacement litter bins, repainting of street furniture and road linings and the provision of floral planters.  The impact on our town centres has been noticed by many residents and visitors, and we are ambitious to roll out these improvements into our district centres once resources and staffing allow.

We are working with volunteers and communities to support Council action so that everyone can play a part in keeping our environment, clean, green and safe. The campaign is supported by a wide range of volunteers which we hope to continue to grow to enhance supported community led action.


Question from Councillor Vikki Slade

It was reported on 6th May 2022 that the developer Fortitudo had secured planning permission to demolish Barclays House.  It was revealed on 2nd June 2022 that BCP Council had entered an exclusivity period to purchase the site and on 8th June the figure of £17m was reported as the bid from the council, almost three times higher than the bid made by the local developer.

Councillors were advised on 24th June that the chief executive had signed an officer decision to commit almost £200,000 in due diligence for surveys and valuations for the site.

Can the leader please advise on what date the council started to negotiate on this site and on what date the offer was made, why it took at least three weeks from the offer being publicised for this decision to spend this money to be shared with elected members and why the council would be considering use of the site for council offices when we are just completing a multi-million pound renovation project on the offices in Bournemouth to site our offices there?

Response by Councillor Drew Mellor, Leader of the Council

Upon receipt of the marketing details an Asset Investment Panel meeting was held on 27 April to discuss this opportunity and consider the strategic regeneration and operational uses it could support. Barclays sought final indicative non-binding offers by 13 May 2022.

It was noted that the timescales were very tight and would only allow limited diligence to be carried out before indicative offers were to be submitted, and therefore long-term uses were only considered in principle, including the possible opportunity to relocate our main administration functions to the building given its proximity to the railway station and other public transport routes. However, given the timescales and the nature of the outline offer requirements no formal decisions were taken, or sought, regarding long-term uses beyond that indicative discussion.

As part of the offer process BCP Council requested a period of exclusivity to give the opportunity for more detailed consideration. The delay in the publishing of the officer decision record was because we were waiting to get the exclusivity agreement signed with Barclays before we committed the budget to the due diligence, this was to mitigate the risk of Barclays continuing to negotiate with other third parties and putting us at greater risk of abortive costs.

The exclusively period will enable the Council to complete the due diligence, finalise an offer, should it be considered appropriate to proceed, and seek the necessary Cabinet and Council approvals by 10 November 2022. Any formal decision to proceed with this acquisition would require a series of formal decisions which will need to be taken through the appropriate routes, including Cabinet and Council meetings.

It is also worth highlighting that at the point of submitting an indicative non-binding offer BCP Council were obviously not aware of other parties’ interest, or their offers, and Barclays have not formally disclosed any other offers that were received. Any discussion of alternative offers is therefore speculation as we do not know the amounts offered or any conditionality that was attached to them.


Question from Councillor Lesley Dedman

Olympic Legacy Path, Mudeford Quay to Avon Beach

During the 2012 Olympics held in Great Britain, sailing teams trained on Gundimore Beach, which was adapted to facilitate their access.

At that time, as a legacy to thank Christchurch residents, funding was given for a path between the Quay and Avon Beach which allowed people to walk actually on the beach, and enjoy the sea and sand, with the health benefits of the ozone and closeness to the water, rather than on the sea defence path which has a substantial, high wall on the seaside.

Since 2020, this path has not been cleared, or swept by BCP council. It has thus become covered with sand and does not fulfil the purpose of the Olympic Legacy of providing a more health-giving walk for our community and visitors, especially those who need to come on to the beach via wheeled buggies, or pushchairs. There is now no way of them getting on to the beach path for an invigorating walk in the way that had been intended.

Our community find this concerning.

Can you tell me what is the plan for maintaining our Avon Beach Olympic Legacy Path in future?

Response by Councillor Mark Anderson, Portfolio Holder for Environment and Place


I would like to thank Cllr Dedman for her question, Unfortunately I am not King Canute, and I can’t hold back the tide. This path was positioned in an area that is impossible to maintain, it was constantly undermined and eroded or covered in sand.

The decision was taken to start to remove it on the 19th of December 2019 as the path had become a health and safety hazard with reinforcement being exposed.  The cost of the work on Gundimore path in 2019 alone was £18, 485.

The reality is that there is excellent access to the adjacent beaches as the wall in question is not a long one, so trying to keep a structure that is not sustainable in that position isn’t viable.

This path is one very small part of the coastal protection work that the FCERM team are currently doing along the entire Christchurch Bay and Harbour area.

To get an understanding of the history of the path I talked to Christchurch staff who were involved in the path, here are a few of the responses.

“The path was created in Sept/Oct 2009 and extended/tied in to the Gundimore sea wall apron in Feb 2010. Its construction was of wood form work tied with steel rod reinforcement on top of a layer of hardcore with a crushed Limestone top surface.

Prior to BCP, the Christchurch beaches and beach paths rarely received any mechanical clearing/intervention. Christchurch Council did not have ready access to tractors/sweepers as BCP Council have now with Seafront Services. It would also be hard to sweep a crushed limestone path on a sand/shingle beach.

Following multiple attempts to protect and repair the path, the path was finally cut back, and the undermined sections removed and made safe on 19th December 2019.”

And another made the following remarks

“The path was regularly getting damaged, needing repairs and there was even an attempt to place rock armour in front of it to protect from wave attack. The reality is that the design was only really suitable as a temporary measure for the Olympics and would never last any length of time. A couple of years ago the damage was so bad that steel reinforcement was completely exposed and bent up so that it presented a significant health and safety hazard. Therefore, the decision was made to remove it, which we’d have to do even if replacing it.

If the path is to be replaced, it would not be suitable to simply place a slab on top of beach crest as was done before, otherwise we’d be in the same position of having to constantly repair it as well as regular trip/spiking hazards. In an environment where wave attack is present, we’d need to build a significant structure instead which would cost £100ks. But the question is why you would want that when there is a perfectly good path behind and excellent access for wheelchair users just along the coast in a safer environment. The beach crest in that location is dynamic, so unsuitable for path surfacing unless a properly founded structure is constructed to place a path on top.”

And a final comment

“Yeah, that was a constant battle for us. We cleared it a couple of times by hand which wasn't easy as it's a crushed limestone path, Ben Feeney did some good work down there, but the expectation always exceeded reality,

It's also really vulnerable to wave erosion at the western (Mudeford) end, there were timber revetments holding the path in place which routinely had to be replaced so I don't think a 'harder' surface would last much longer anyway. The irony was that it was intended to be an Olympic legacy site if we had been chosen to host one of the minor countries sailing teams and we got funding to support it, but we didn't get chosen!

As it stands today the prescribed easy-access route from Mudeford Quay to Avon is along the promenade (behind the wave wall) which is a tarmac surface and well protected. The parallel beach-level path is a 'nice-to-have' route but it's not essential, therefore we could consider decommissioning it on safety grounds and taking it out, restoring the beach back to its natural state.”

I also have some picture which I will share with the Clerk and Cllr Dedman showing the damage over the years.

Finally, just to reassure Cllr Dedman that FCERM have since LGR spent money on Christchurch, here are some of the projects being carried out to support Christchurch in addition to the Gundimore path work I have already mentioned.

         Christchurch Rowing Club revetment – Installation of Bodpave pavement on slipway

                    M12 groyne marker removal

                    Rock groyne repairs between Avon beach & Highcliffe Beach

                    Rock armour reinforcement at Steam Point path

         Beach recycling between Avon Beach & Friars Cliff Beach, and at Highcliffe Beach

                    Rock groyne repairs at Mudeford Sandbank

         Gabion basket repairs at Double Dykes, near Hengistbury Head (although not Christchurch project, it protects the sandbank on the Southern shore of Christchurch harbour)

                    Christchurch Quay Wall – Emergency stabilisation works

                    Convent Walk – Riverside wall/path repairs

                    Mudeford Quay – Harbourside wall repairs

                    Stanpit Marsh flap valve replacement

                    Christchurch Bay and Harbour Strategy (halfway through delivery)

Broader projects benefitting Christchurch (which are ongoing)

         Dorset Coastal Asset Database (to inspect, record and make maintenance recommendations for all coastal flood and erosion risk assets)

                    Durlston to Hurst Sediment Resource Management Programme

                    Hengistbury Head Long Groyne works

The cost of these schemes is almost £1 million pounds and rising.