Venue: Virtual meeting via Zoom
Contact: Democratic Services 01362 656870
To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 22 October 2020.
The following amendments were proposed by Councillor Martin:
Minute Reference: 166/20 - Constitution - non-key officer decisions / SIRO / licensing
Ahead of the 2nd paragraph commencing “The Chairman explained...” It was proposed it should read:
“Cllr Jermy raised the issue of recommendation (a) and his concerns with it. Cllr Martin then spoke raising his concerns.”
The above amendment would explain what led to the next paragraph “The Chairman explained...” paragraph.
After the next paragraph commencing “Cllr Kiddle-Morris agreed with the Chairman…” replace the paragraph commencing with “Cllr Jermy proposed…” with
“Cllr Jermy proposed that recommendation (a) should be deleted. This proposal was seconded by Cllr Martin. This was approved by the commission. The Chairman then proposed that the other recommendations be accepted which the Commission agreed.”
Minute reference: 167/20 – To receive presentations from the Housing Associations:
Before 2nd paragraph commencing “Cllr Bambridge...” it was proposed that the following should be added:
“Cllr Martin raised a particular issue with Flagship Homes in his ward. These were suffering from a longstanding problem of foul-water and surface water contamination, at times of heavy rain, leading to toilets in elderly people’s bungalows backing up. He noted it had taken 40 minutes for the Flagship phone to be answered so that he could report the latest incident, and a day and half to get a tanker out to drain the problem and let people use their toilets again, and that this was unacceptable in the 21st century. The Chairman asked Cllr Martin to submit the detail of the issue so that Flagship could respond separately on this.
The proposed amendments were seconded by Councillor Jermy and agreed.
Councillor Helen Crane highlighted that whilst she was listed as in attendance, she had not been named under item: 165/20 Non-Members wishing to address the meeting.
Subject to the above amendments, the minutes of the meeting held on 22 October 2020 were confirmed as a correct record.
Matters Arising from the minutes of the meeting held on 22 October 20:
Councillor Ian Martin mentioned he had been disappointed that he had not received a response from Adrian Barber, Managing Director (Victory Housing) of Flagship in response to the issues he had raised. Councillor Clarke agreed, stating that the list of stock had not been forthcoming. Councillor Wilkinson explained there had been some IT issues with Flagship which may have caused communication delays.
The Chairman asked Democratic Services Team Leader, Teresa Smith to chase Mr Barber for a response for the outstanding queries.
Apologies and Substitutes
To receive apologies for absence and to note substitute Members in attendance.
An apology had been received from Councillor Lynda Turner. Councillor Helen Crane was in attendance as her substitute.
Chairman's Announcements (if any)
To note whether the Chairman proposes to accept any item as urgent business pursuant to Section 100(B)(4)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972.
The Chairman stated at the previous meeting the Committee had discussed at length the Constitutional amendments which were being proposed to Council on the 10th December.
At the time it was understood that the Commissions’ views, would be referenced in the report to Full Council, however it had been realised that those comments were not present in the report and asked for clarity from the Legal Services Manager.
The Legal Services Manager explained there had been an error and the report had been released without the comments of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission. The report had been amended and would be re-issued.
Declaration of Interests
The duties to register, disclose and not to participate for the entire consideration of the matter, in respect of any matter in which a Member has a disclosable pecuniary interest are set out in Chapter 7 of the Localism Act 2011. Members are also required to withdraw from the meeting room as stated in the Standing Orders of this Council.
Councillor Eagle declared he had been a recipient of a Discretionary Business Grant from Breckland Council earlier in the year.
Councillor Martin stated two Declarations of Interest for transparency purposes. He declared he had been a recipient of a Business Grant from Breckland Council. In addition, his business was directly involved with contaminated land but at no stage had it been or likely to be with the Contaminated Land Team at Breckland Council.
The Legal Services Manager confirmed the above were not Pecuniary Interests in relation to the matters before the Overview and Scrutiny Commission today.
Scrutiny Call-ins (Standing Item)
To note whether any decisions have been called-in for scrutiny.
Non-Members wishing to address the Meeting
To note the names of any non-members or public speakers wishing to address the meeting.
The Chairman welcomed non-Members of the Commission to the meeting.
Councillor Morton asked, as there were a number of electric vehicle charging points across the District, if the Commission could receive a written report stating how well they were being used.
The Chairman asked suggested that this be included in the future work programme.
The Chairman of the Commission invited both the Environment Agency and Banham Poultry to the meeting to discuss the following aspects of operations in Attleborough:
1) The company’s issues with odour emissions and its steps taken in addressing these, in particular those required by the EA - both which have or have not been implemented to date; and,
2) The company’s regulatory requirements, breaches of which it is aware and steps it has taken to remedy those.
Banham Poultry are unable to attend the meeting, but have submitted a response to these questions, included within the agenda pack.
The Chairman explained that the Environment Agency and Banham Poultry had been unable to send representatives to attend the meeting. However, Banham Poultry had provided a response to the questions that were asked by the Overview and Scrutiny Commission which had been attached to the agenda. The Environment Agency had sent in the following statement responding to the questions asked:
1) The company’s issues with odour emissions and its steps taken in addressing these, in particular those required by the EA - both which have or have not been implemented to date;
Where we are able, we are willing to discuss our regulatory decisions and actions. As the council will be aware, there is an active criminal investigation taking place regarding activities at the site at Station Road. Therefore, the information we are able to provide at this time is limited to ensure the ongoing investigation is not prejudiced. Over the last two years we have increased our regulatory input into the site. As the council will be aware, the Environment Agency regulates matters that take place within the boundaries of the site given that the operator conducts their activities under the remit of an environmental permit issued under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2016. The environmental permit for the site has a number of conditions to control and manage the impact of the operations, to the environment and human receptors. Matters which take place outside of the boundaries of the site are not regulated by the Agency, to clarify these include, but are not limited to:
· Health and Safety regulation, which includes Covid-19 and food safety.
· The spillage of offal outside of the site boundary which falls into the remit of Norfolk County Council Trading Standards.
· Planning matters (including site current planning permission, Bunns Bank planning permission, operating hours etc) which falls into the remit of the Council planning department.
The Agency are aware that there have been concerns raised regarding the odour from the site. We will continue to work with the operator and the community in order to investigate and address these concerns. As an Agency, we make every effort to regulate compliance with environmental permits. We have an action plan with the operator which covers a wide range of actions but generally the actions relate to asking BPL (2018) Ltd to address issues which have the potential to cause off-site odour.
Whilst we continue to investigate the site, we have issued enforcement notices to the operator (most recently in October 2020) and warning letters for some minor infractions of their permit. As stated at the outset, a criminal investigation is currently underway regarding the odour pollution in 2019/20. The progress of this has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic but is continuing.
2) The company’s regulatory requirements, breaches of which it is aware and steps it has taken to remedy those
The company’s regulatory requirements are set out in their environmental permit, issued under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2016. Whilst we are conducting a criminal investigation, we ... view the full minutes text for item 180/20
To receive a presentation from the Environmental Protection Manager, Richard Boole.
Councillor Bambridge explained the Council had a responsibility to produce and review the Contaminated Land Strategy regularly to protect the environment and the health of the residents within Breckland. He reminded Members that the current policy, had been available for some time, and explained it was a strategic policy and not a specific one and that it was a timely review in the light of the sustainability discussions.
The Team Leader (Environmental Protection), reiterated that it was an existing policy which was last updated in 2015 and considered Breckland Council’s strategic approach to deal with contaminated land across the District.
Councillor Birt thought the Council had an obligation to maintain a public register of contaminated land sites across the District but could not locate this on the website and asked for clarity on whether Breckland should maintain a register for residents to view. He also said on page 56 of the policy the flow chart should be reviewed as he felt it did not flow as it should.
The Team Leader (Environmental Protection) explained Breckland Council did have a statutory duty to maintain a register but needed to be careful not to publish sites that did not have confirmation that they were fully contaminated as it could potentially blight the piece of land in question and cause issues for both the landowner and the Council.
The register provided on the website listed sites that had been designated as fully contaminated and had issues in relation to the process highlighted in the strategy. The public register confirmed the three aspects that made it a contaminated site. He went on to explain there was a further service offered by Breckland Council to find out previous uses of land and information which was at a reasonable charge to reflect the work of the Council in preparing that information.
The Team Leader (Environmental Protection) confirmed he would take the comments on the flow chart and feedback through the consultation process.
Councillor Birt voiced his concerns that the information on contaminated land sites across the District did not seem publicly available unless at cost.
Councillor Kiddle-Morris said he felt the revised policy was more user friendly and easier to understand. He felt most of the work on contaminated land was as a result of planning applications and felt the wording needed to be amended as the document stated regularly ‘current use’ and felt it should be looking at and state ‘current proposed use’ which was what the public were wanting to find out.
Councillor Kiddle-Morris also noted that in paragraph 5.1.1, the second paragraph, second sentence a word was missing.
The Team Leader (Environmental Protection) confirmed they would revisit the wording to see if it could be made more appropriate and amend the missing word.
Councillor Martin stated the strategy seemed straightforward and fulfilled statutory requirements. The main activity across most District councils was in relation to planning applications rather than an active assessment of potentially contaminated sites. He asked if there was a list ... view the full minutes text for item 181/20
Report of Councillor Ian Sherwood, Executive Member for Customer Engagement and Member Champion for Breckland Sustainability Strategy.
The Executive Member for Customer Engagement & Climate Change Champion, Councillor Ian Sherwood thanked Members and said he was pleased to raise awareness of the Environment & Climate Strategy and valued the input from the Commission. He began by reminding Members that Breckland Council had declared a Climate Emergency. He shared a presentation on what Breckland Council had done so far which included creating a new fixed term post for an Environment & Climate Change Officer and had been allocated a small budget for research and evidence gathering.
Councillor Sherwood informed Members of the three pillars of the strategy:
· We will reduce our own impact as an organisation on the environment
· We will use our regulatory powers to influence behavioural change (e.g. planning, waste & Recycling, environmental protection)
· We will enable our communities to take action for themselves
Councillor Sherwood stated as part of the strategy Breckland Council would also declare a date by which the Council would become carbon neutral.
The Senior Policy Advisor, Greg Pearson went onto explain the guiding principles of what was hoped to be achieved, setting out ideas and the start of a work programme and assured Members that it would be work in progress and changed and adapted as time passed. A key measure to begin with was reducing Breckland Council’s own impact on the environment and influence behavioural change and he explained the Local Plan would be key to shaping this change in the future.
The Senior Policy Advisor went on to say enabling communities was also key and would look to have specific sustainability webpages on the Council website and continue to promote Switch and Save activities and promoting insulation schemes for Green Warmth.
Councillor Birt raised concerns on the Council’s carbon offsetting and said that despite raising this at the Members Forum it was disappointing to see that it was an option. He also stated it was clear Breckland were tied into a supplier. The producer supplied the electricity had divided into carbon producing electricity and carbon free electricity and the Council had been allocated carbon free. He felt it could be seen as greenwashing. Councillor Birt also volunteered his name to be included to assist with the testing of the carbon literacy training.
Councillor Sherwood acknowledged the points raised on the green electric switch and agreed that whilst it was a positive first step more needed to be done and that there would be a greater opportunity when the council’s energy contract came up for renewal but until then the council was limited. He responded to say that although carbon offset was not the council’s preferred course of action it could not be ignored that some residents could not necessarily make the change due to technological and financial constraints so there was a place for carbon offset at the moment. He went on to say that many ideas and comments came through the Members Panel would be considered when it came to finalising the priorities for the policy.
He also acknowledged Councillor’s Birt’s offer ... view the full minutes text for item 182/20
Report of Councillor Paul Claussen, Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Planning.
The Planning Policy Manager, provided Members with an update of the 5 Year Housing Land Supply for Breckland Council.
Councillor Kybird noted in the appendix for the windfall analysis, the 2011/12 total of 32 should be 302 which gave the total windfalls from 4073 to 4343 and the average from 370 to 395 therefore the 82% should be 80.2% and asked what the cost would be of providing the 19.8% planned delivery.
The Planning Policy Manager responded to say he would check the figures and make the necessary amendments. In response to the question, it was expected that windfalls, especially on major sites would reduce now the adopted local plan was in place, and in addition as it was recommended that Breckland had a robust 5-year land supply it would also reduce speculative windfall.
Councillor Atterwill noted that within the report it mentioned house prices should be maintained and profit margins for developers as opposed to increasing supply and reducing house prices. He felt it would be in everyone’s interest to reduce prices to make it more affordable for residents to purchase. He also asked when the strategic housing market assessment was due for review as it could have an impact on delivery.
The Planning Policy Manager informed Members in respect of the strategic housing market assessment, along with other Local Authorities across the county, Breckland Council were waiting on any final decisions from Government on what the new housing requirement would be and would use that as the starting point for a review.
In response to the first question, the Planning Policy Manager stated that housing was delivered by private house builders, who needed to make a profit. It had to be demonstrated that what was being proposed would be prudent and robust. Developers would not build houses where there was no demand or market saturation.
Councillor Atterwill appreciated the response but said he would contact the Planning Policy Manager directly outside of the forum as it posed more questions which he would like to discuss. He went on to say he also had concern that in 3 to 4 years some policies of the Local Plan would be out of date and felt it important that the Local Plan should be reviewed to ensure policies were current. He voiced his concern that the review should be completed as soon as possible or it could lose momentum.
The Director of Planning and Building Control, Simon Wood stated the Local Plan was currently up to date, and recent information received from Central Government was aimed at Authorities who were yet to have a Local Plan in place. If reforms were to be significantly delayed the Local Plan would be reviewed.
Councillor Atterwill appreciated the comments but felt Breckland Council was at a stage where the hiatus in the work could not be delayed indefinitely and felt Policies could continue to be reviewed.
Councillor Martin wanted to reassure colleagues that the 5-year land supply statement agreed in November 2019 used the ... view the full minutes text for item 183/20
Report of Rob Walker, Executive Director of Place.
The Inward Investment Manager gave a presentation on the Breckland administered key grant scheme as part of the Government COVID-19 economic response.
It was a nationally prescribed and funded scheme, administered by the Local Authority. Local businesses were encouraged to apply for a grant and subject to meeting the set key criteria, would be in receipt of government grant of either £10,000 or £25,000.
Councillor Crane asked in instances of fraudulent claims, who would pay if the money was unable to be recovered. The Chief Accountant confirmed they were awaiting new guidance on debt collection, but it was expectant that the Government would provide this cover if the Local Authority could not recover the debt.
Councillor Jermy thanked the team for the speedy response but recognised some businesses were not eligible for support and asked if there were any statistics about those not supported and why. He went on to say it could be an opportunity for the Council to create dialogue and build relations with local businesses and asked if there would be capacity and resource to do this.
The Inward Investment Manger explained that the Government had sought feedback throughout the process and for those not falling into the set criteria the Discretionary Grant was available which it was believed would capture the vast majority. However, if a Member should be aware of any business which had not been supported by either grant available to contact him. In terms of capacity and resources to engage he agreed the knowledge and engagement with businesses should increase going forward.
Councillor Wilkinson congratulated the team on the logistics of getting this set up so quickly and recognised the information from Councillor Eagle in identifying silent companies and felt going forward it would leave a legacy to helping local businesses improve and linking in with the Market Towns Initiative.
Councillor Eagle thanked the team for the quick turnaround and said for many village halls and local communities it had been an absolute lifeline however he did feel that the language used to communicate with the businesses required further development. During the initial period, many businesses felt excluded from the scheme as it was thought it was directed at larger companies rather than small businesses. He went onto say he felt communication should be clearer to show that it was available to all and to look forward building the dialogue and relationships with local businesses to make Breckland a better place.
The Commission noted the contents of the report.
Outside Body Feedback (Standing Item)
To receive an update from representatives on Outside Bodies.
Councillor Kybird stated he had attended a Norfolk County Council meeting of the Norfolk Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, one of the items discussed was an update on suicide prevention in Norfolk and Breckland Council did feature as an area where the rate had increased slightly. Seven months ago, a suicide hotline introduced which was manned 24/7 by clinically qualified personnel and in the first seven months of operations they had dealt with more than 25,000 calls. Councillor Kybird stated he has asked for a more detailed briefing note to be available for the communications team.
Councillor Wilkinson updated the Commission as Breckland’s Governor and Board Member at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King’s Lynn. There were still concerns about Covid and currently 49 patients were being treated. Staff had now received the 15-minute test to carry out on themselves to enhance safety for staff and patients which had been rolled out. The hospital was applying through the Government funding on the second phase for a new hospital having missed out on the first one. Breckland Council would support the formal application and residents and councils could help by lobbying officials.
In his capacity on the Breckland Youth Advisory board, Councillor Wilkinson held a successful online conference with eminent speakers from the University of York which went down very well.
Councillor Call for Action (Standing Item)
To consider the following Call for Action received from Councillor Tim Birt and Councillor David Wickerson:
Please could we request Flagship to attend a meeting to explain issues which have arisen from their substantial data leak. We have heard from a few tenets who have been left concerned and in the dark about consequences this serious issue.
Opening questions for Flagship:
Councillor Birt explained Flagship had recently been a victim of a cyber-security attack and tenants had been in contact with him as they were not clear of what was happening and whether it would cause future financial issues. Although Flagship had provided a holding response, he felt that it was important the Overview and Scrutiny Commission ask them to attend and respond to questions in more detail as more information was needed for residents.
Councillor Wickerson also raised concern stating that some residents had received letters from Flagship. Whilst Flagship had stated they would make a further statement he felt the Overview and Scrutiny Commission should respond and be in a position to reassure residents and tenants of any risk involved.
The Chairman proposed to invite Flagship to the January meeting to address the questions raised to which Members were in agreement. The holding response received so far would also be appended as an item in the January meeting.
(a) A copy of the Commission’s work programme is attached. The Commission is asked to agree any additions, deletions or amendments to the programme as appropriate.
(b) Member Issues: In accordance with the Commission’s protocol for member leadership, which states that members of the Commission will take the lead in selecting topics for overview and scrutiny and in the questioning of witnesses, members are invited to put forward items for selection for future review.
A copy of the Key Decision Plan is attached for Members’ information.
Councillor Kiddle-Morris noted that the Housing Service Review should have been an item on the agenda and asked when it would be re-scheduled., The Executive Member for Health and Housing apologised for the delay and felt it was appropriate to delay the report until absolutely ready. She had been concerned about the implications of the pandemic on the Housing review and felt the major rush for housing was yet to come where residents would need support and with that in mind suggested it should be delayed to the next meeting. The request was supported by Councillor Wilkinson who said some properties were delayed in being ready for residents due to Covid restrictions.
Councillor Kiddle-Morris suggested that the January meeting would be lengthy with the items currently proposed for the work programme and in addition a Councillor Call for Action. He suggested moving the Banham Poultry item. The Chairman was in agreement to move the item to the March agenda.
In addition, the previous request from Councillor Morton for a report on the current usage of electric car charging points installed across the Breckland Council area should be added.
To note the arrangements for the next meeting to be held on Thursday 14 January at 10.00am.
The arrangements for the next meeting scheduled for Thursday 14 January 2021 at 10.00am were noted.