Agenda item

Questions from Councillors

The deadline for questions to be submitted to the Monitoring Officer is 14 June 2021.

Minutes:

Question from Councillor Mark Howell

The Haven Hotel is located on a key strategic site serving as a gateway to Poole.  The hotel may be “end of life” but the site should remain an attractive focal point with public access, with a high-quality landmark building or as a public park. The administration has advertised widely its intention to use Council borrowing powers for regeneration and to promote tourism. Will it be seriously considering purchasing this site to ensure its use remains emblematic of the ambitions and heritage of Poole, the wider conurbation and the Council?

 

 

Reply from Councillor Philip Broadhead, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Economy and Strategic Planning

The Haven Hotel is indeed located on a strategic site serving as a gateway to Poole, however it is not for sale and is currently the subject of a live planning application for its future redevelopment.  Through our Asset Investment Panel, we consider opportunities to purchase strategic assets where there is a viable business case made to do so, in line with the relevant rules and regulations surrounding Council investments and financing.

 

Councillor Howell raised a supplementary question asking if the current planning application or series of applications that have been proposed deliver what was a substandard building in terms of the ambitions and quality that one would expect for such a landmark site and therefore that might give reason for the Council to reconsider.  Councillor Broadhead in response explained that it was subject to a live planning application at the moment so it would probably be inappropriate for him to comment any further on such an application and that it would likely preclude any ability to try and purchase a site because that would set a dangerous precedent for applications that we do not consider that we would personally like.

 

Note: In accordance with the declaration of interest made by Councillor Beesley he left the meeting in respect of the above question.

 

Question from Councillor Marcus Andrews

We are now getting unauthorised encampments in the BCP Council area: Wallisdown Recreation Ground for example 10 days ago. Without a Travellers Transit Camp this Council’s & Dorset Police’s ability to deal with these incursions is restricted.

 

Can the Portfolio Holder, therefore, update Councillors on this Councils progress in identifying a suitable site to secure the opening of a Travellers Transit Camp?

 

In replying, would the Portfolio Holder agree that to leave the solution of opening & running a Site to private enterprise would be totally the wrong step, being fraught with problems of not only identifying a site, but also its operation, and that a Travellers Transit Camp needs to be owned & run by this Council?

 

Reply from Councillor Philip Broadhead, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Economy and Strategic Planning

I am aware that there have been recent unauthorised encampments in the BCP Council area and that the formal identification of an alternative stopping place will assist the Council and Police in use of appropriate legislative powers.

 

In terms of the Council’s response, officers have commissioned a Gypsy and Travellers Accommodation Assessment (GTAA), which once finished later this year will provide an up to date position on need for Gypsy and Traveller accommodation in our area. This will explore the requirements for transit sites and temporary stopping place that the Local Plan may then need to address through identification of any sites and related planning policies to determine planning applications.

 

The Council are therefore not leaving this matter to private enterprise, but rather are looking at this issue at pace. However, any such applications that are submitted outside of the Local Plan process, such as the private application at present, will be determined through due process against the Council’s existing policy framework. Any site that has ultimately been through the planning will need to be managed by a relevant site manager that could be by the Council or a suitable alternative provider.

 

Councillor Andrews raised a supplementary question asking that the relevant Director ensures that additional officer time was found to identify suitable sites as soon as possible. Councillor Broadhead in response confirmed that this work was already underway and would be undertaken through the correct process as part of the assessment and the Local Plan.

 

Question from Councillor George Farquhar

My question relates to questions asked by residents on social media and the comments section of the Bournemouth Echo over the weekend 12/13 June.

 

It is asked in the spirit of being open and transparent to not only our successes but also our shortfalls and examining how our response to the impact of cars on day visits can be improved in preparation for the summer weekends ahead.

 

Based on the BCP press release of Monday 14 April where an estimated 400,000 people visited the BCP geography. A number that is greater than the population of BCP.

 

What % of that 400k estimate is estimated/measured to have actually arrived by car and of those cars what % was the 810 PCNs issued addressed the actual number of cars parked illegally? And what further steps will the Local Authority take to try to limit the impact of the number of cars coming in future weekends?

 

And why since only one vehicle is reported to have been subject to 'tow-away' what analysis will be applied to discover the principal reasons that 'tow-away' was only used once?

 

Reply from Councillor Mohan Iyengar, Cabinet Member for Tourism, Leisure and Culture

There are a number of questions which I’ll take in turn.

  1. On the first point, we estimate 400,000 people on the seafront from footfall counters and a canvass of businesses. But a similar calculation can’t be done with any accuracy for cars. Transportation has counters on the major highways but no distinction can be made between cars heading to the seafront, residents returning home and others passing through the conurbation en-route to somewhere else. Of those parked illegally, the question is what percent were ticketed? We know 810 Penalty Charge Notices were issued but the number of illegally parked cars across the conurbation can’t practically be counted. From the last-but-one weekend there’s a growing understanding of where the biggest problems are and the size of the task. From this, we can get a better fix on the coverage of our ticketing for instance. But for practical reasons, any estimate of rogue parking will be centred on the big locations and trouble-spots for targeted action rather than a complete view across every location in BCP.
  2. The next question is about how to limit the impact of cars arriving. If the first response is to limit the number of cars, let’s keep in mind the importance of the tourism sector and 17,000 jobs locally. Equally, the fact that Covid-19 may have increased the use of cars – albeit temporarily - at the expense of public transport. Furthermore, it’s a significant challenge for any local authority to voluntary shut the major roads into a conurbation because of the statutory duty under the Traffic Management Act 2004 to operate an efficient highway network. Doing so would negatively impact the lives of most residents. Something I’d hope the questioner himself wouldn’t advocate. Once cars are in the conurbation, more can be done. Selective road closures can be considered where there’s build up – an indeed this was done in Boscombe and Sandbanks which were seen positively by residents. The learning from those instances may be further deployed over the summer. Once again, practicality will be key so that good intent leads to better outcomes and not worse knock-on effects elsewhere. Ticketing can also be expanded. Although 810 PCNs on weekend 12-13th June was already a huge increase on the numbers issued in the busiest days of 2020, there’s room to go further. Members will know that the PCN charge is legally capped and there has been debate as to whether it represents a deterrent. The point is noted but ticketing is deployed nationally on a belief that it influences at least a good number of motorists and we shall keep doing so until we have something better. Meanwhile we’ll expand it as one of our tactics and lobby Government to increase the charge limit. As a last point, one park and ride is in operation in Kings Park to Boscombe and a second one will become operational in late July from Poole Civic to Sandbanks. The publicity for both park-and-rides is intended to be raised going forward.
  3. Finally, on the towing, one vehicle was towed but five others were readied but didn’t happen because the car owner raced back in time. Already this year we’ve towed nearly 50% of the whole of last year’s total, with summer just starting. But the tactic needs care because the civil enforcement officer is required to stay with the mis-parked vehicle until the tow-truck arrives: Time which could have been much better spent in ticketing other vehicles and performing other useful enforcement duties. Nonetheless, tow-capacity will be increased and with the intention to have the signage and vehicles more prominent for a greater deterrent effect.

 

Finally, the councillor’s question – and any councillor’s question – is welcomed as part of an open, transparent and constructive dialogue on our summer readiness. A dialogue that invites challenge and builds understanding across the chamber of the moving parts and our ability to control them. In short, a dialogue which is in the best interests of residents, employees, businesses and visitors. This year, the readiness plans have been presented at two all-member seminars and through Overview & Scrutiny Committee. A huge number of questions have been answered via email, in the Leader’s Facebook Live, on social media in general and in press releases and media articles. We look forward to a constructive dialogue continuing forward.

 

Councillor Farquhar raised a supplementary question.  He asked how many vehicles on the weekend of 12 and 13 June actually used the park and ride facilities because he had received reports to indicate that the buses running to Boscombe Pier were predominately empty.  He asked how many bus tickets were actually sold on that weekend. In response Councillor Iyengar reported that he did not have those figures to hand and suggested for public record to take the issue away.  He explained that the spirit of the question was about a greater use of park and ride which he indicated he had covered in the response to the initial question.