Agenda item

Questions from Councillors

The deadline for questions to be submitted to the Monitoring Officer is 7 September 2020.

Minutes:

Question from Councillor Andy Jones

The environmental charity ‘Keep Britain Tidy’ believes that education is the way to prevent the public from littering, supported by proportionate and fair enforcement. Could the Cabinet Member advise what action the Council is taking in respect of both of these areas. Could the Cabinet Member further advise how many fixed penalty notices have been issued as part of the Bournemouth town centre littering pilot and whether this will be made a permanent arrangement and also extended to other areas across the conurbation?

 

Response from Councillor Felicity Rice, Portfolio Holder for Environment and Climate Change

 

Through our ‘Leave Only Footprints’ campaign we have engaged with beach visitors on site, through our website and social media since 2017. Supported in part by Natural England we recruited an engagement officer in September 2018 with a desire to take positive engagement to all primary school pupils in the BCP area, and whilst Covid has impacted on our ability to work with schools in 2020 we had over 2000 children engage with the programme in their schools and around 2500 engage with our programme on our seafront in 2019.

 

We are currently drafting a Leave Only Footprints strategy to enable us to improve our engagement activities, especially with the completion of the Environmental Hub at Durley Chine in summer 2021, to link in with the current Climate Emergency Action Plan and the BCP Waste Strategy when it is completed in the near future.

 

Regarding the fixed penalty notices pilot, Cabinet agreed on 15 January to implement a six month pilot to use CSAS Officers to issue fixed Penalty Notices for littering and these officers were allocated these powers following this approval. However, progress in implementing this was impacted by the Covid lockdown. Since the reopening of urban centres and throughout the busy summer period, CSAS Officers have been focused on tackling street ASB and begging.  The six month pilot will formally start on September 14 and run until February 2021.  Subsequently a report will be brought back to Cabinet setting out the outcome of the pilot, financial implications and future options appraisal for Environmental Enforcement across BCP. This will also be an important aspect of the future strategy for CSAS as a service going forward.

 

Question from Councillor Diana Butler,

The Dorset Local Industrial Strategy specifies “5 Foundations of Productivity” (ideas, people, infrastructure, business environment and place) – what steps have been taken to ask businesses, the public, council staff and councillors for ideas to retain Poole Civic Centre for the town?

 

Response from Councillor Vikki Slade

 

The creation of BCP Council in 2019 was based on the opportunity to deliver services at a conurbation wide level, thereby establishing a stronger regional and national profile for our area, and also to bring about sustainable financial efficiencies.  As a single authority it was inevitable that our office accommodation requirements would change and in particular that the council’s civic space would necessarily be less than when the preceding councils existed. 

 

The aim of the Estates and Accommodation project is to bring about the most suitable way forward for our office accommodation and as members are aware the decision has already been made to establish our main civic office within the former Bournemouth Town Hall, as it represents the most appropriate option in terms of its location, space and facilities.

 

The future of the Poole Civic Centre will be determined in due course once it has been declared surplus to requirements. The timing of that decision will be dependent upon the developing timescales for the remodelling of the Bournemouth Town Hall, and a report will be provided to Cabinet in October seeking approval for the budgetary allocation to fund that work, along with its anticipated timescales.  A working party has also been set up for Cllrs looking at a range of issues including the Civic Space, Office Space and the wider Estates of the council which would include options around both Poole Civic Centre and Christchurch Offices and an officer group has been set up to consider the disposal strategy for any buildings considered surplus.

 

Every effort will be made to identify the most appropriate outcome for the council and its communities from these important disposals, but it would not be appropriate for the council to retain assets in excess of those it needs to support its operational requirements, or to not seek an outcome that supports the council’s challenging financial position. 

 

At this point there has not been wider consultation with the business world.  Our economic development team work closely with businesses to understand the need for office space in our town centres and will ensure any enquiries that do come in of this nature are fed into the process.  None have been received to date.  Community groups have not been directly engaged with but the running costs of the buildings is such that a significant income would need to be obtained to justify the retention of buildings that are no longer required when there is considerable community space available already.

 

It should also be noted that the disposal of these assets will, in due course, generate a capital receipt that will be needed to fund the changes to the Bournemouth Town Hall to ensure that the council can modernise and work as intended by the new operating model approved by Council earlier this year.

 

I can confirm to members that any future decisions regarding the preferred disposal option for the Civic Centre will be considered by Cabinet in due course and a range of factors will no doubt be considered as part of that process in order to achieve the best outcome for the council and its communities. It should also be noted that as the Poole Civic Centre is a listed building that will have a significant impact on the options available.

 

Councillor Butler asked a supplementary question.  She referred to the accommodation strategy which stated that the Poole Civic Centre would be the subject of disposal.  She asked what right does BCP Council have to dispose of this iconic and valuable asset built for Poole residents.

 

Councillor Slade explained that BCP Council was the authority that now looks after the assets and protects the heritage of the three towns. The accommodation strategy has clarified that the Council would be moving to Bournemouth Town Hall as the civic centre.  She reported that it would not be appropriate for the Council to retain a building that was not fit for modern use and did not fulfil its needs. The listing enables the heritage part of the building to be protected and saved for the people of Poole, but it does not mean it should be used as a civic centre. The Accommodation Strategy signed off through Council had already clarified that until the building was deemed as surplus it was not officially declared surplus and that would be the subject of the report that will come to Cabinet in October.

 

Question from Councillor Duane Farr

 

In the financially crippling aftermath of the Covid Lockdown, how prepared are BCP Council to support business and commerce in the conurbation to be able to take immediate advantage of the new global markets that will be available and how will this fit in with the BCP area Industrial Strategy?

 

Response from Councillor Mark Howell, Acting Leader of the Council and Portfolio Holder for Economy, Regeneration & Culture

 

The Council’s Economic Development Team works in partnership with, and signposts to, the Department for International Trade and Dorset Chamber to support our local businesses with exporting.

 

The Department for International Trade provides exporting support including:

  • Helping businesses sell overseas – including export finance
  • Doing business with integrity
  • Getting local market help to sell overseas
  • Helping UK businesses expand into overseas markets
  • Connecting overseas buyers with UK businesses

 

Dorset Chamber provides exporting support including:

  • Customs declarations and training
  • Certificates of Origin
  • Export documentation
  • Training
  • Advice regarding ICC Incoterms - the rules define the responsibilities of buyers and sellers when trading internationally — setting out the obligations and risks involved in the delivery of goods
  • Advice regarding letters of credit and foreign exchange through their partner Moneycorp

 

An Economic Development officer also leads on BREXIT issues.

 

BCP Council does not have an Industrial Strategy. Government creates the UK Industrial Strategy, and LEPs and Combined Authorities create Local Industrial Strategies. BCP Council has contributed to the draft Dorset Local Industrial Strategy though. The Council is also currently creating a draft Economic Development Strategy, which will fully align to both the national and draft Dorset Local Industrial Strategy.

 

The draft Economic Development Strategy’s strategic themes are Economic Recovery; Flourishing people & communities; Productive businesses; Globally, nationally and locally connected; and Creating a vibrant city region. It builds on the BCP Local Economic Assessment, which provides a robust analytical evidence base. It will:

  • help deliver the Council’s Corporate Strategy; and
  • detail how, following Covid-19 and BREXIT, we will deliver an inclusive, vibrant and sustainable economy, which also delivers our climate change and carbon reduction goals

 

The draft strategy will be sent to members and businesses for comments in the next couple of months and is scheduled to go to Cabinet in January 2021. An Action Plan will follow, which will detail the projects/initiatives that will deliver the strategy.

           

The Economic Development team regularly delivers ‘Meet the Buyer’ events to encourage larger international businesses to buy from smaller local businesses. On 29th September we are working with BAE to deliver a ‘Meet the Buyer’ event to let local suppliers know what products and services BAE are seeking. This event will also provide guidance and tips on securing contracts with BAE.

 

Councillor Farr asked about free ports which presents an opportunity to boost the local economy and employment with inward investment. Bournemouth Airport is listed in the running for free port status with the Chancellor’s announcement of his vision and backing of free ports how is BCP Council working with Bournemouth Airport to facilitate this ambition?

 

The Acting Leader of the Council reported on the work of Dorset LEP to secure further investment to develop the smart ports project.  He explained that in relation to free ports this was a relatively new initiative and he would make arrangements for a response to be provided to Councillor Farr.

 

Question from Councillor Ann Stribley

Will the portfolio holder kindly advise Council how many parking spaces have been lost across the Borough since May 2019?   Will he kindly identify the numbers on both the public highway and in our parks or on other Council land?

 

 

Response from Councillor Andy Hadley, Portfolio Holder for Transport and Infrastructure

 

I thank Councillor Stribley for her question (asking how many parking spaces have been lost across the borough). There has been no change of Council policy on existing parking since the Unity Alliance took control in May 2019. We have needed to find alternative uses for some spaces for a range of operational reasons.

 

You asked about spaces on highway, in car parks and other council land, and I have collated all that I have been made aware of across the multiple directorates.

 

As part of the Covid related distancing measures on the Lower High Street and Poole Quay, we suspended 13 x 1 hour time limited free parking spaces on the Lower High Street because the pavements were too narrow for people to safely pass. The trial road closure has not only enabled social distancing but has substantially improved accessibility for those with wheelchairs, buggies or mobility scooters, and has supported local businesses in Covid recovery.

 

We also moved the disabled bays alongside Sea Music across the road. These were substandard width, having limited space for door opening. The new disabled bays each have more room. There were 4 general parking bays that were removed to facilitate this. I have asked whether the dedicated space for HM Coastguard can be returned to general use since their office is no longer there. The old bays have been used to provide an outdoor dining area.

 

Evening Hill – The creation of the trial cycle lane to improve safety for pedestrians and uphill cyclists required the temporary suspension of approximately 37 car spaces, none of which were marked for disabled use. There are very many other parking spaces in the immediate area.

 

Birds Hill Road – Approximately 5 parking spaces were removed to create the Low Traffic neighbourhood closure.

 

Poole Park reconfiguration, this has removed some spaces but also added capacity near the fountain – approximately 10 spaces have been reallocated in favour of disabled only parking on the road from the Seldown entrance, and a net reduction of 3 spaces at Westfield car park and around the water fountain.

 

Christchurch – we created 3 coach spaces on the roundabout at the entrance to Two Riversmeet car park to assist coach operators – replacing 12 general parking spaces.

 

Boscombe Undercliff – this car park was closed to support social distancing, but given the impact of this linear feature on the beach users, and heavy pressure on our beaches, it has not been reinstated at this time in order to reduce congestion, and also because of antisocial behaviour by some drivers especially in the evenings. 12 bays which are marked for Disabled use, have been reinstated and only available to be pre-booked by those hiring the adapted beach huts. 340 general spaces were removed. 

 

Ferry Car Park was initially closed to enable pedestrian and cyclist queueing for the Sandbanks Ferry, at their request. This has been reduced to 15 spaces, and we were last week advised that the Sandbanks Ferry no longer require the remaining spaces, so they will be restored.

 

There has been a general flow of identifying general or dedicated spaces for disabled drivers on street parking and releasing them when not required.

 

As part of heathland mitigation, 30 new car parking spaces are to be implemented at Stour Valley Nature Reserve, and 20 spaces are included in the Hicks Farm planning application

 

Upton Country Park. 30 additional spaces have been created in the former petanque area

 

The Canford Park SANG. this is not BCP owned but includes a significant new parking area.

 

I trust that is helpful.

 

Councillor Stribley asked has the Portfolio Holder conducted any study into the consequences of the loss of these parking spaces such as the extra pollution as drivers look for alternative parking, loss of income and additional congestion and obstruction with more on street parking and the inevitable consequence.

 

The Portfolio Holder reported that as part of the active travel plan people were encouraged to consider alternative modes of transport.  He reported that in monitoring one week of use Evening Hill took as many people on bikes as there are spaces in the Sandbanks Car Park.  In respect of the air quality he reported that he would have to ask for those details from the Environmental Team which was not part of his directorate.

 

Question from Councillor Andy Jones

Can the Cabinet Member confirm that it was only a Government recommendation to introduce the Boscombe Overcliff ETRO using a 7 day notice period, and not mandatory, therefore allowing him more than sufficient time to consult with residents and local businesses before implementing such an ill-thought-out scheme which generated numerous objections including a petition signed by over 2000 people?

 

Response fromCouncillor Andy Hadley, Portfolio Holder for Transport and Infrastructure

 

In May 2020 BCP Council was advised by the Department for Transport (DfT) that it had indicatively allocated us approximately £1.4million from the Emergency Active Travel Fund (EATF), in proportion to the public transport journeys to work in our area.  The purpose of the fund is to support more people walking and cycling because of displacement due to the limited capacity on public transport, to support Covid-19 social distancing measures, and to attempt to reduce traffic congestion.

On 27 May the DfT issued application guidance that advised the Council that, in order to secure the first Tranche of the available fund (£280k), it needed to have ‘swift and meaningful plans to reallocate road space to cyclists and pedestrians, including on strategic corridors.’  The letter highlighted ‘the quickest and cheapest way of achieving this will normally be point closures.’

The guidance also stipulated that proposals needed to be installed on the ground within 12 weeks, and for us this was from a standing start. I was advised that once plans were drawn up and available, the consultation itself would have taken more than the 12 weeks, and in normal times be undertaken face to face.

The DfT letter actively encouraged councils to use the Experimental Traffic Regulation Order (ETRO) process to implement such schemes, as they are quicker to implement and in their very nature allow for consultation and the flexibility to amend the measures in light of feedback from residents over the duration of the scheme.

Therefore, taking all of this into account, the Council decided that it would be appropriate to implement the scheme on the Boscombe Overcliff using this type of traffic regulation order. The use of a 7 days’ notice period to implement an Experimental TRO is mandatory and stipulated in legislation.

The Overcliff was recommended by officers as a scheme to relieve pressure on the promenade, to improve this link on National Cycleway Route 2, and to support commuting by bike across this area, based on propensity to cycle modelling.

All relevant Ward Councillors were asked for their views alongside the materials being produced for public engagement, it is a regret that some chose instead to publish their own material that inaccurately misrepresented the scheme, which resulted in the petition that you mention.

 

Having deferred the scheme, I have had correspondence from people, who regret that this route was not calmed as vehicles do speed between the road humps, making it hazardous for pedestrians crossing and for cyclists along the route.

 

I would have preferred a prior consultation period, but the DfT Timelines and sanctions did not allow this.

 

Councillor Andy Jones asked how and when the Council will consult local residents.  The Portfolio Holder reported that there is a meeting on Thursday this week on consultation on those schemes deferred and tranche 2 schemes. He also commented on the availability of new consultation software.

 

Question from Councillor Diana Butler

Why have Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders (ETROs) been decided and actioned so quickly, when most people have to travel within or between Poole, Bournemouth and Christchurch by motor vehicle for work or essential supplies?

 

Response fromCouncillor Andy Hadley, Portfolio Holder for Transport and Infrastructure

 

I thank Councillor Butler for her question.

 

As in my previous answer, the purpose of an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order is to implement quickly, with 7 days advance notice, and for the consultation and feedback to be over the duration of the experiment (6-18 months). Importantly the Government recommended this method to Councils to support the Emergency Active Travel changes in response to limited bus capacity, and the need to support alternative means of travel for passengers. We had instructions from DfT to commence implementing within 4 weeks and complete within 8 weeks, so this 12 week timeline required us to use the ETRO process.

 

You suggest that most people have to travel within or between BCP by motor vehicle, but that is only a choice for those with access to a car. The 2011 Census statistics (the most recent comprehensive guide) highlights that 64% or 2/3rds of travel to work journeys are undertaken by car/van. The rest walk, cycle or take public transport, or work from home.

 

Of the car commuting journeys

15 % are less than 2Km/ 1.2 miles, for many easily walkable

78 % are less than 10km/ 6.2 miles, easy cycling distance

 

No-one is suggesting that the disabled should walk or cycle, but for many people who are able, these shorter journeys could equally be undertaken by bike or on foot, saving the individual money, the hassle of finding a parking space, and reducing the congestion delays that we all face.

 

It is up to all of us to consider the appropriate mode of transport for the journeys that we make, and it is a duty on the Council to balance the limited available space to support all users, and to encourage people for their own health and wellbeing, and for the sake of each other, to choose an active travel mode when they can.

 

Councillor Diana Butler asked how the effects of ETROs will be recorded monitored and reported for decisions to be made as to whether to make them permanent or not.

 

The Portfolio Holder reported that there was a link on the Council’s website to questionnaires for completion and those were being collated and will be presented at the end of the 6 month period.  In addition, some of the sites were being monitored by cameras before and after and this information would be presented in order for a final decision to be made. 

 

 

Note - Councillor Peter Hall left at 23:35