Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Cheltenham Town Hall - Imperial Square, Cheltenham, GL50 1QA. View directions

Contact: Bev Thomas, Democratic Services Team Leader 

Note: The start of the meeting has been delayed due to unforeseen technical issues and because of these issues we are prevented from streaming to YouTube as planned. Apologies for any inconvenience. 

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies

Minutes:

Apologies were received from Cllrs. Atherstone, Barnes, Bassett-Smith, Brownsteen, Hegenbarth, Nelson and Oliver.

2.

Declarations of interest

Minutes:

Cllr. Horwood declared an interest in item 9 as a trustee of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust.

Cllr. Willingham declared a non-pecuniary interest in item 10 as a member of the Liberal Democrat Disability Association.

3.

Minutes of the last meeting pdf icon PDF 249 KB

Minutes of the meetings held on 17 May 2021

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Cllr. Williams noted that her ‘for’ vote on the election of the Deputy Mayor had not been recorded. Cllr. Flynn added that the minutes of the Extraordinary meeting stated she was there in person, when she had in fact attended remotely. Democratic Services agreed to rectify these before publishing.

 

RESOLVED THAT

1.    The minutes of the Annual and Selection meeting held on 17 May 2021 were approved and signed as a correct record.

 

2.    The minutes of the Extraordinary meeting held on 17 May 2021 were approved and signed as a correct record.

4.

Communications by the Mayor

Minutes:

The Mayor noted that he had omitted to swear the oath of allegiance to the Queen during the Mayor Making ceremony, so he took the opportunity to do this. He thanked Cllr. Baker for proposing him as Mayor and for his kind words at the ceremony, and congratulated everyone working at Cheltenham Town Football Club for their promotion as champions at the end of the last season.

He added that it was important to ensure that the language the council used was appropriate, and as such had asked Jason Potter-Peachey of Gloucestershire Pride to be an advisor to the council on LBTQ+ issues and Professor Jermaine Ravalier of Bath Spa University to advise him on Black and Minority Ethnic issues. He informed the meeting that the Chief Executive had indicated that he was happy to look at the wording of council policies and identify any improvements in terms of openness and inclusivity of council processes.

5.

Communications by the Leader of the Council

Minutes:

The Leader of the Council reported that in partnership with Cheltenham Borough Homes,  27 new affordable homes in a variety of tenures had been delivered on the former Monkscroft Villas site (now called Radford Court), increasing the number of homes that were previously on the site by more than 800%. She added that all 27 homes would shortly be occupied as various tenancy agreements had been signed, and looked forward to delivering more units in the town as part of £180m investment into affordable homes in the years to come.

She added that the council’s response to the Covid-19 crisis had been audited, and that the auditors had found it to have a sound system of governance, risk management and controls, with internal controls operating effectively and being consistently applied to support the achievement of objectives.

At the government’s briefing on the extension of restrictions last week, there had been no suggestion of any further financial support in the form of grants to businesses. The business rates holiday of 100% for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses since 1st April 2020 would come to an end on 30th June, with a discount of 66% until 31st March 2022. Businesses were calling for the 100% discount to be extended, but there had been no response to this from the government as yet.

The Leader informed Council that the UK had been running a scheme to support locally employed staff (LES) in Afghanistan, often in dangerous and challenging situations, in recognition of their commitment and bravery shown supporting UK forces since 2013. The scheme consisted of two elements, one of which was the ex-gratia scheme which would close in November 2022, and the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy which launched in April 2021, reflecting the changing situation in Afghanistan and consequent risk to LES. Both schemes were intended to support current and former LES who had worked for British Forces and to provide appropriate support that honoured their service and properly reflected their work and the risks involved. The schemes provided a range of in-country packages of assistance in Afghanistan and, for those who meet the criteria, relocation to the UK with their dependants. As such, 3000 former interpreters and their families were coming to the UK, including 35 to Gloucestershire. The Leader welcomed these individuals and stressed that they would have the council’s support.

She added that the council was a finalist in the Room 151 Impact award in the Tackling Covid-19 category, which recognised the extraordinary contribution that council finance departments had made to supporting their communities through the pandemic through revenues and benefits, supporting frontline services and business grants. The category winners would be announced at a virtual awards ceremony on 1st July.

The Leader reported a series of changes to committee membership. Cllr. Barrell would become a reserve member of Planning Committee, with Cllr. Clark taking her place and Cllr. Lewis taking Cllr. Clark’s spot on Licensing Committee. Cllr. Stafford would replace Cllr. Brownsteen on the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

To receive petitions

Minutes:

There were none.

7.

Public Questions pdf icon PDF 179 KB

These must be received no later than 12 noon on Monday 14 June 2021

Minutes:

1.

Question from Alan Bailey to the Cabinet Member Customer and Regulatory Services, Councillor Martin Horwood

 

Can the Council state what high quality sustainable transport measures will be in place to allow the Cheltenham Plan MD4 to be developed? As required by the NPPF.

 

Clarification: Whilst the individual plans within MD4 are carefully considered for each individual application there are now at least 3 applications under consideration for MD4 and new the school is approved and under construction. The 2016 appeal considered that the traffic on the A46 was severe. The individual developments are to have traffic adjustment but none of the plans will reduce the traffic. The 2019 Appeal PP/B1605/W/19/3238462 concluded that there were “no sustainable” links to local centres from MD4 (Then JCS MD5). But in conclusion the Judge had no reason to believe these would not be in place before the development took place. However, nearly 3 years on from the original application there are no high-quality sustainable routes from the area MD4 and no plans with funds to support them as required by NPPF. The delivery of Sustainable routes must precede any development of MD4. Thus, sustainable transport to major centres becomes vital before approval. Currently there are no sustainable routes and certainly not high quality.

 

 

Response from Cabinet Member

 

Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) is the Local Transport Authority for Gloucestershire, including Cheltenham Borough. This means that they are responsible for transport planning across the County. GCC produce a Local Transport Plan (LTP) for the area.. LTPs set the transport strategy for an area. LTPs also directly inform land use as set out in Local Plans.

 

The Council also has a statutory duty to consult GCC on highways’ matters as part of the planning application process. GCC comments are a material consideration in the planning process and on larger schemes will often form a significant part of the determination. When a planning application is approved which contains alterations or improvements to the transport network these are usually subject to some form of legal agreements. The implementation of the schemes becomes the responsibility of GCC as it is their network that will be impacted.

 

Planning application (20/01788/FUL) for 350 dwellings in Leckhampton is currently under consideration and includes a Transport Assessment and proposed traffic measures. GCC, as the local transport authority, will assess these and provide comments to the planning officer. The question raised here, however, is very relevant to the consideration of this planning application and several others in the area. The cumulative impacts of the different developments must be assessed against the policies which are already in place, particularly Policy INF1 of the JCS and LTP Policy PD 0.1 which should support better connectivity and more sustainable transport choices. I propose to seek an urgent meeting with the relevant parties to discuss the proposals as a whole and ensure that these policies are complied with.

 

 

Supplementary question

 

Is there a proper business plan in place, and if not, can it be put  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Member Questions pdf icon PDF 157 KB

These must be received no later than 12 noon on Monday 14 June 2021

Minutes:

1.

Question from Councillor Bernie Fisher to the Cabinet Member Customer and Regulatory Services, Councillor Martin Horwood

 

Would the Cabinet Member please explore the possibility of putting the Local Green Space designated in the current Local Plan around Swindon Village, and agreed with the Secretary of State, to be created a local community asset of value?

 

 

Response from Cabinet Member

 

Assets of Community Value (ACVs) can only be nominated if they are of interest socially (such as for sport, culture or recreational uses) or increase the wellbeing of the community now and into the future. A community group (such as a society, the parish council, neighbourhood forum, not for profit organisation or a group of at least 21 individuals) that is locally connected to the area can nominate an asset to the local authority for judgement by the Council.  We can open discussions with the Parish Council in order to achieve this aim but the Council would need to ensure that it is making a balanced judgement in assessing the proposal.

 

 

Supplementary question

 

Can the Cabinet Member confirm that the land at Swindon Village meets the criteria?

 

 

Response from Cabinet Member

 

Yes, this is the case.

 

2.

Question from Councillor John Payne to the Cabinet Member Culture, Wellbeing and Business, Councillor Victoria Atherstone

 

On the 20th April the council contracted the Nash Partnership to deliver a master planning exploration of a cyber, digital and creative quarter as part of the Town Central Vision. Would the Cabinet member consider sharing with members the scope, terms of reference for this masterplanning exercise together with the metric that will be used to judge the effectiveness of the consultation so that members can appreciate the synergy between the master planning, place making and Marketing Cheltenham?

 

 

Response from Cabinet Member

 

Thank you Cllr Payne for your interest in this work. As you know it’s a high priority for CBC and myself as cabinet member for Culture, Wellbeing and Business to consider town centre vision projects that are swift, bold and brave as part of our economic recovery strategy.

 

Work on the commission by Nash Partnerships is ongoing and I am happy to share with you and any other interested councillors the brief for this work.  This work forms part of our assessment to inform the longer term vision for the High Street which will be critical in supporting our economic recovery.  In due course we plan to use our recently procured public engagement platform ‘Citizen Space’ to engage with our businesses and wider community on the wider town centre regeneration agenda.

 

3.

Question from Councillor Stephan Fifield to the Cabinet Member Waste, Recycling and Street Services, Councillor Iain Dobie

 

There is noticeable concern from residents about Cheltenham’s current level of weed growth. I am aware that the Council’s weed killing strategy is currently being reviewed. Could the Cabinet Member please update the Council on the current status of the strategy review with a timeline for completion, and could a report also be returned to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

To consider the petition 'Reduce Flooding and examine flood risk in detail, before allocating more development sites' pdf icon PDF 364 KB

Report of the Cabinet Member Customer & Regulatory Services

Minutes:

Cllr. Savage introduced the petition in the absence of Cllr. Nelson, thanking her for putting in a considerable effort to organise it. He noted that the council’s petition scheme was an important way for local residents to highlight issues as critical and consequential as flood prevention. Flooding had had a devastating effect on Gloucestershire in the last few decades, especially in 2007, and over recent years, extreme weather events had increased in frequency and severity. It was not just neighbouring authorities which had well-founded concerns about flood risk – this was a national issue.

This petition arose in part from Cllr. Nelson representing residents’ concerns across the A46 corridor, which had an increased risk of flooding. It was hard to overestimate the impact that flooding had on individuals, businesses and communities – not just the initial clean-up, but also the constant fear of it happening again. Addressing the root causes of extreme weather was essential, and the UK government should be commended for its ambitious plans in relation to climate change and the environment. It was also important to recognise good work at local level and the measures put in place since 2007. He added that the speed at which 750 signatures were collected demonstrated the importance of the issue, and that a similar petition would come before Tewkesbury Borough Council very soon.

In response, the Cabinet Member Customer and Regulatory Services thanked Cllr. Nelson for organising the petition and Cllr. Savage for presenting it. He especially agreed with the key point regarding the personal impact of flooding. The good news for signatories was that everything the petition called for was either something the council was planning to do or was required to do in the coming years. Genuine public consultation had taken place and he was very pleased with results. Flooding was an important issue across the town in all its forms, although there were some particularly vulnerable areas to focus on. Responsibility for tackling this also lay with partners, such as the county council, and he suggested that as a county councillor, Cllr. Nelson could take this to them too.

He added that existing JCS development proposals must avoid areas vulnerable to flooding and must not increase the level of flood risk. The new processes in the next JCS review would follow the guidance of the national planning policy framework and consider cumulative impact, but he suggested that they could go further by developing sophisticated urban drainage systems and building with nature. He hoped they could develop a natural and holistic approach to flood management, in order to best adapt to climate change and protect the town.

·         One Member welcomed the petition and the officer report, stressing that it was important to communicate on this issue considering residents’ very real concerns. The council needed to let people know what they were doing and also help them understand things like seasonal constraints.

·         One Member emphasised that flooding prevention measures did not necessarily prevent development. In their ward, shared ownership  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

To consider the petition 'Delay the all Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle policy for two years' pdf icon PDF 422 KB

Report of the Cabinet Member Customer and Regulatory Services

Minutes:

The petition organiser, Mr David Chambers, presented the petition on behalf of the taxi drivers of Cheltenham. He noted that when the consultation on the policy had taken place, there had been no mention of a specific implementation date. Drivers had assumed that the requirement would be to upgrade when they were due for renewal, but this turned out not to be the case. Many drivers had bought new vehicles just prior to that and were still paying for them, making it impossible to save for another.

When the council did make its decision on the implementation date, this was done on the basis that it would give drivers time to adjust, but the last 18 months had changed the situation entirely. For over a year, drivers had received virtually no income due to the pandemic. The officer report cited government support for taxi drivers, but self-employed grants had been based on the previous year’s profits, and since there had been a decline in the trade in general, previous profits were negligible and so were the grants.

He stressed that this was not an attempt by taxi drivers to avoid the policy, and that they understood why it was happening. They just expected a greater degree of sympathy from councillors, and to give them the chance to adjust to the change given the wider circumstances. He noted that the officer report suggested that drivers could work for a private hire company instead, which was not financially viable since it would cost drivers an extra £7-8k a year.

In response, the Cabinet Member Customer and Regulatory Services acknowledged that the number of signatures to the petition showed the importance of the issue and the strength of feeling around it. He would happily meet with more members of the trade to hear their concerns. He highlighted the need to consider other parties’ interests too, noting that for disabled passengers in London, Birmingham or anywhere in the West Midlands, every single taxi was wheelchair accessible. Cheltenham should aspire to this too, especially considering the presence of a National Star campus in the town, which meant that it had a relatively large disabled population.

The 2010 Equality Act did not specifically require universal WAVs, but it did require the council to advance equality for all individuals in the exercise of its functions. As such, there was a risk of legal challenge on this basis if the authority failed to implement it. 40,000 taxi drivers had so far made the switch, which was a clear majority of all those in England, including 66 in Cheltenham. The date of implementation was agreed shortly after the consultation in November 2018, and the decision was called-in by Overview & Scrutiny and approved by all councillors shortly afterwards. Engagement with all concerned parties would be genuine, but needed to start from a position of equality and respect for disabled people, as was seen elsewhere across the country.

·         One Member noted that the WAVs that the drivers were required to purchase  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.

11.

Notices of Motion

Minutes:

There were none.

12.

Any other item the Mayor determines as urgent and which requires a decision

Minutes:

There were none.