Agenda item

Member Questions

These must be received no later than 12 noon on Tuesday 30 November.



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


The council’s decision to fund the provision of the ice rink on Imperial Gardens as part of an initiative to encourage increased footfall over the Christmas period is welcome but with reservations. The ice rink is being powered by one of two very large diesel generators. How does the Cabinet Member justify one of the most polluting sources of energy generation in the centre of a town that has declared a climate emergency?



Response from Cabinet Member


Thank you for the question Cllr Payne. The use of a diesel generator as the main power source of the ice rink is an unavoidable consequence of there being an insufficient supply of mains electrical power to Imperial Gardens to maintain the rink. This is not a new scenario however and frequently necessitates the use of ancillary power units/generators in Imperial Gardens for many of the larger events and festivals that take place here (as is also the case in Montpellier Gardens).

The need for upgraded infrastructure at these sites– and others in Cheltenham – coupled with new innovations in energy sources and fuel types was identified in the Council’s interim Events Strategy (published last year). This is currently being actively explored therefore with potential solutions being identified as part of our climate change agenda and a more sustainable approach to events in the town.


Over the 6 weeks of the ice rink’s operation, we expect to welcome upwards of 30,000 skaters to enjoy this event in Cheltenham (with the additional spend within the town centre as a consequence). Whilst we cannot suggest of course that each and every one of these would have travelled elsewhere to enjoy the distinctive festive experience of a Christmas ice rink (Gloucester or Malvern being the closest), had Cheltenham’s ice rink not gone ahead, it is not unreasonable to assume that a proportion of this number will have made a far longer journey to visit one of these other rinks with the consequent emissions and impact from these journeys.



Supplementary question


There does not appear to have been any impact assessment of the generators, which have high diesel consumption. Will this be addressed, and when will the results be available?



Response from Cabinet Member


I am working closely with the Cabinet Member Climate Emergency on this, including a meeting last week on the events strategy which highlighted the importance of addressing the impact of generators and seeking suitable alternatives like biofuel. The new events strategy will align with the new culture strategy, which is due in early 2022. I agree that we need to move away from using diesel generators.



Question from Councillor Diggory Seacome to the Cabinet Member Culture, Wellbeing and Business, Councillor Victoria Atherstone


Can the Cabinet Member justify the generators for the Imperial Square Ice Rink, given that they are run on diesel fuel, and also given that they are producing a permanent hum which is preventing residents in the Square from sleeping?



Response from Cabinet Member


Thank you for the question Cllr Seacome. In line with the earlier response to Cllr Payne, due to their being an insufficient supply of mains electrical power to Imperial Gardens, as with many temporary events that take place in our town centre parks and which are enjoyed by so many all year round, the use of a diesel generator is currently the only way of providing sufficient power to such events on these sites.

The use of a generator was set out in the planning application which received unanimous approval at the Planning Committee on 14 October 2021.


The low frequency resonance from the generator is the subject of targeted and ongoing mitigation actions in line with advice from a specialist acoustic consultant and our Council Environmental Health colleagues. A number of incremental steps continue to be taken on-site alongside the ice rink operator, with demonstrable improvements to this low frequency issue already having been implemented. Additional measures and testing is underway and all parties are committed to resolving the situation as swiftly and effectively as possible.



Supplementary question


The rink has been up for two and a half weeks now, and the noise pollution is still significant. How is this being addressed?



Response from Cabinet Member


We are looking at 6 different potential measures to reduce the noise and vibrations, some of which have already been implemented, resulting in an 11-decibel reduction. The noise levels were assessed by acoustic engineers before the ice rink was up and they confirmed that these generators would have a relatively low impact. An alternative generator is being looked at, as is potentially relocating one of the generators to reduce its impact.



Question from Councillor Chris Mason to the Cabinet Member Culture, Wellbeing and Business, Councillor Victoria Atherstone


At a recent O&S Committee meeting the Head of Planning confirmed that residents were important stakeholders when considering a planning application and that no other stakeholder carried more sway.  With regard to the Ice Rink’s planning application does the cabinet member agree that the acoustic report was flawed?  If so, how could the committee fairly consider the application from the residents’ viewpoint?



Response from Cabinet Member


Thank you Councillor Mason, you are correct that residents are important stakeholders in the planning process. 


The commissioning of an acoustic report was a condition of the Planning Committee’s approval. In line with this condition, the report was commissioned and completed prior to the installation of the generator. The consultant’s submitted report was formulated in accordance with the relevant BS 4142 (British Standard) with valid data and mitigation measures identified. The report and noise impact assessment concluded that the running of the generator would result in a conclusion of low impact. Upon approval by both Environmental Health and Planning, this condition was therefore discharged.


Since operation of the ice rink has commenced, the council has been engaged with residents and working closely with the ice rink operator, engineers from the company supplying the generators and the acoustic consultant to find the right solution to address current concerns that relate to the existence of a very low frequency resonance emanating from the generator. A number of mitigations that have been implemented so far have significantly improved the situation and further measures are currently being implemented in line with the acoustic consultant’s latest recommendations.

Planning Committee had available to them the relevant information to assess the planning application, this included the views of residents and the detail regarding noise, section 6 of the officers report sets this out debate at planning committee on 14th October 2021 included review of residents concerns


We are continuing to work collectively to improve matters further and will continue our dialogue with yourself and Cllr Seacome to share our progress towards an acceptable resolution.



Supplementary question


Do you accept that the wrong generators were put in place, and that they are causing harm?



Response from Cabinet Member


I don’t accept that the wrong ones were used – they were assessed at the time and confirmed to be low impact by British standards. Since then we have learned that the placement of the generator is significant, and going forward we will take this into account in order to mitigate the impact on residents.



Question from Councillor Chris Mason to the Cabinet Member Culture, Wellbeing and Business, Councillor Victoria Atherstone


Prior to the Ice Rink’s planning application a meeting was held with local residents and officers from Cheltenham BID and Marketing Cheltenham.  At this meeting the residents were promised quiet generators.  Given the number of complaints from residents do you agree that the Council has failed to meet this promise?



Response from Cabinet Member


Again, thank you for your question Cllr Mason. As with the earlier response, in line with the planning condition attached to the Planning Committee’s approval on 14th October 2021, the Council has sought professional advice from a specialist acoustic consultant on the use of a generator to power the ice rink. The resulting noise impact assessment advised that the generator would result in a conclusion of low impact – which is consistent with the information provided by officers at the meeting with local residents to which you refer.


Having undertaken a further assessment following the  installation and running of the generator, the presence of a particularly low frequency tonal characteristic was recorded, which has been found to be the primary cause for complaint. The Council is now acting on and implementing the acoustic consultant’s recommendations in order to mitigate this issue.



Supplementary question


Diesel generators have been a recurring issue for many years, long before the Cabinet Member’s time. Residents are uncomfortable with the constant noise, and some are having to buy earplugs. The council needs to address this more proactively as it is causing harm. Will the Cabinet Member apologise to residents of Imperial Square?



Response from Cabinet Member


Yes, I apologise to residents of Imperial Square for the issues they are facing. The problems are being addressed and we will ensure that we learn lessons from this when it comes to future events in our parks.



Question from Councillor Tim Harman to the Cabinet Member Waste, Recycling and Street Services, Councillor Iain Dobie


Recently Councillor Baker arranged a meeting between Park/College Ward Councillors and representatives of Bath Road traders. There was broad agreement that the condition of the Bath Road toilets was poor and that the Council should be asked both to retain the facility and to make significant improvements. Will the Cabinet Member agree to include in the budget for the 202/23 financial provision for improvements?



Response from Cabinet Member


The capital programme in the draft budget proposal will be available for consultation from 22 December 2021. There are currently no plans to include the Bath Road toilets in the capital programme for 2022/23. Property Services have been notified of your concerns and will be carrying out a site visit to the toilets before Christmas to determine whether any reactive repairs work is required.

There was a review on the provision of public conveniences as Cllr Harman will I am sure recall, this was a paper that was brought forward pre pandemic it is absolutely right that we revisit this paper across all of the facilities and I will keep members informed.



Supplementary question


It is a shame that we can’t include something in the forthcoming Cabinet program. Can the Cabinet Member let me know the outcome of his upcoming visit, as it is an important asset? The British Toilet Association cites access to clean, hygienic toilets is important to public wellbeing, and this is a busy area. Will he take this into account?



Response from Cabinet Member


Yes, I will  feed back on the results of my visit. Public toilets are a genuinely important part of my portfolio, and we must maintain and improve upon our current provision. They are not a glamorous subject but matter hugely to the town, especially for people with disabilities.



Question from Councillor Tim Harman to the Cabinet Member Waste, Recycling and Street Services, Councillor Iain Dobie


On 7th December last year the Cabinet Member replied to a question from me  about plans to install electric vehicle charging points  into the Bath Road Car Park and others. As we approach the first anniversary of my question and his reply can he up date Council on progress and possibly give target dates for installation


Response from Cabinet Member


As Council are aware, our focus over the last 12 months has been to support and manage the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Cheltenham. As we emerge from the pandemic, focus is now turning to how we can adapt to support the town’s longer term economic recovery. As part of our recovery strategy, we are currently considering the installation of off-street EV charging points. In assessing potential locations we need to consider factors such as electricity provision, current car parking capacity, planning restrictions and surrounding facilities. Bath Road car park is one of 14 car parks operated by the Council which will be assessed to determine where would be the most appropriate location.



Question from Councillor Louis Savage to the Cabinet Member Customer and Regulatory Services, Councillor Martin Horwood


Could the Cabinet Member please update members on his discussions with Cheltenham’s taxi drivers in relation to the implementation of the WAV policy, as discussed at Council in June?



Response from Cabinet Member


I thank Councillor Savage for his question and welcome the opportunity it gives me to update council.


Several meetings were held with the licensed taxi trade following the Council meeting in June.  I met with the Taxi Drivers Association, operators and individual drivers twice in June, in August and most recently in November.


Separate meetings were also had with the Cheltenham Access Forum on a number of occasions.


During these meetings, it became clear that the deadline of 31 December 2021 for all hackney cab vehicles to become wheelchair accessible was not compatible with our ambition to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 as it would require many new diesel vehicle purchases. 


It was also obvious that many drivers were genuinely facing financial difficulty in the wake of the pandemic. 


Given the imminent decisions to purchase that drivers were having to make on council advice, it then became clear that to maintain the 31 December deadline would not be right, so an urgent decision was taken by the leader and chief executive in September to lift this deadline, while I announced our ambition to move to a new policy that achieved both 100% wheelchair accessibility and net zero by 2030.  I am pleased that representatives of both the Access Forum and the Cheltenham Taxi Drivers Association welcomed this announcement.


I also want to thank the Taxi Drivers Association and the Cheltenham Access Forum for taking the time to meet with me.



Question from Councillor Louis Savage to the Cabinet Member Cabinet Member Waste, Recycling and Street Services, Councillor Iain Dobie


Could the Cabinet Member please provide an update on leaf-clearance efforts undertaken by CBC and its partner organisations? Specifically, residents have raised concerns in relation to uncleared pavements and potentially blocked drains in Beaufort Road/Oak Avenue, an area which is at risk of flooding. If plans are not in place for urgent leaf clearance in this area, can this please be prioritised?



Response from Cabinet Member


Every year Cheltenham’s leaf clearance, supporting flood alleviation, commences early autumn across the borough and concludes at the end of winter. Our prioritisation plan focuses on the areas highlighted below before moving into other residential areas.  Ubico monitor the Met Office weather warnings and target known flood risk areas when appropriate.  I am pleased to say that all these details are available on the Council’s website, for both members and the public. 

  • Main routes in and out of Cheltenham
  • Hospital entrances and nearby pathways
  • Train and bus station entrances and nearby pathways
  • Outside schools and care homes
  • High footfall areas i.e. town centre, shop fronts
  • Areas known as high flood risks

I imagine you will all understand that our Ubico crews are in high demand during the Autumn and they will endeavour to clear leaf fall as efficiently as possible.  I would urge the public to be patient as leaves are cleared as quickly as possible but please do report higher levels of leaf fallto customer services for prioritisation.

  • I can confirm that Beaufort Road/Oak Avenue were mechanically swept week commencing 8/11/21 where access could be gained. Some parts could not be accessed due to parked cars. Manual leafing crews have been operating in the area since the beginning of October.
  • A Ubico supervisor checked the area on the morning of 3 December and reported back that cleansing standards were considered good with very little leafing identified and minimal detritus. The only stretch of road which required some remedial works was Charlton Court Road by the garage site (Flood Hotspot), this road channel was then scheduled for clearance on the afternoon of 3 December.
  • Ubico and GCC Highways have been working more closely together and have developed a more robust cleansing service in known hotspot areas.  The locations where these joint deep cleansing works have taken place so far this year are as follows:


  • 12/04/21 – Orrisdale Terrace
  • 13/04/21 – College Rd (Part)
  • 14/04/21 – Suffolk Sq
  • 15/04/21 – Lyefield Rd E
  • 200/4/21 – Montpellier Terrace (Part)
  • 02/06/21 – Roman Road
  • 09/07/21 – Naunton Lane Cycle Path
  • 15/07/21 – Pilley Lane & Pilley Crescent
  • 21/07/21 – Montpellier Spa Road
  • 12/08/21 – Asquith Rd & Churchill Rd
  • 16/09/21 – Church Road (Leck)
  • 19/10/21 – Upper Park St
  • 19/11/21 – Moorend Pk Rd (Part)


Question from Councillor Louis Savage to the Cabinet Member Culture, Wellbeing and Business, Councillor Victoria Atherstone


Could the Cabinet Member please confirm that all restrictions imposed on children's parks and play facilities owned/operated by CBC have been lifted? Specifically, can she confirm that all swings/play equipment removed in order to facilitate social distancing requirements have been reinstated?



Response from Cabinet Member


Current government guidance (November 22nd 2021) covering public outdoor spaces and play areas still recommends the encouragement of cleaning and hygiene therefore play area signage previously installed has been left in place to reflect this.


Social distancing came to an end of July 19th 2021, and therefore swing seats that had been removed to facilitate this have been reinstated.



Supplementary question


I am pleased that these have been reinstated. This question was originally submitted to the last Council meeting, when they had not, but missed the deadline. I hope that the failure of decision-makers to fully understand the impact of lockdown measures on children is not forgotten. Restricting play areas for children had a disproportionate impact on their physical and mental wellbeing, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.



Response from Cabinet Member


Some equipment may be removed for maintenance and safety reasons now and then but to my knowledge, everything is now reopened. I would be happy to investigate further if the member can point to a particular example.



Question from Councillor Richard Pineger to the Cabinet Member Customer and Regulatory Services, Councillor Martin Horwood


Noise pollution is a menace and a health problem for our communities. Particularly where we have high density housing like Benhall Gardens, Wasley Road, Monkscroft, beside the A40 and Cowper Road, Australia House, Hobart House and others beside PE way. I know of people in those blocks who are badly affected by the constant sound of thrashing engines, loud exhausts, and, since Cheltenham A&E closed, constant sirens from the emergency services. In addition to this, on the 27-29 October, for M5 maintenance, a constant stream of trucks with squealing brakes and honking horns ran right through the night, 3, 4, 5 am, denying our roadside residents 3 nights of sleep.


Noise divides our communities, what options do we have as a council to work with GCC towards a reduction in road traffic noise and which other groups can we work with to deter the main polluters; motorbikes, trucks and performance-tuned cars?



Response from Cabinet Member


I share Cllr Pineger’s concerns about noise pollution from vehicles and the health impact which this can have on those communities in closest proximity.


We have limited powers as a district authority to deal with noise from routine traffic on existing roads.  However, the powers we do have include:


  • Requiring suitable fenestration (windows) through the planning system for new, or amended, residential property affected by traffic noise.
  • Statutory nuisance powers relating to noise can include action on specific items on the street (such as heavy plant used for road works), but cannot be applied to general road traffic.
  • The Police can use Section 59 of the Police Reform Act 2002 to seize vehicles being used to cause anti-social behaviour, including through modified noisy exhausts, or loud stereo systems.  They can also investigate the use of vehicle horns outside limited hours (you’re not supposed to sound your horn on any ‘restricted road’ between the hours of 11.30pm and 7am).


Many of the discussions we are having with GCC, for instance through the JCS process and in relation to our air quality strategy, focus on reducing traffic levels and in particular, the most polluting vehicles, which would have the added benefit of reducing noise pollution as well.


There is obviously the potential to add further pressure on GCC, through joint working with many organisations and community groups, including environmental organisations like Vision 21 and Clean Air Cheltenham. 



Supplementary question


The major source of noise in the town is from road traffic. Is there anything more that CBC can do to put pressure on the highways authority to reduce this noise?



Response from Cabinet Member


I agree that traffic is the major source of noise pollution and that we must influence that however we can. We can work with local organisations like Clean Air Cheltenham and exert political pressure where possible. I am working closely with the Cabinet Member Climate Emergency, since reducing air pollution and noise pollution go hand in hand. We will need a different attitude to mass transit from the county council before we will see genuine change.



Question from Councillor Emma Nelson to the Cabinet Member Customer and Regulatory Services, Councillor Martin Horwood


How many planning approvals are currently outstanding which are over and above the appropriate statutory limits of 8, 10, 13 or 16 weeks? 

What local KPIs are in place to ensure these limits are met? 

How does Cheltenham compare to similar LPAs with regards to performance, particularly on application approval times?



Response from Cabinet Member


Councillor Nelson the data as requested is as follows for applications outside the determinations dates:


8 weeks – 34 applications

13 weeks – 3 applications

16 weeks – 1 application which is currently subject to a non-determination appeal.


The Planning service performance over the most recently published quarter 2021 Q2, benchmarked against neighbouring authorities, is as follows:



Total Decisions

% Granted

% Determined in Time





















South West











Supplementary question


Presumably, two of the three applications outside the determination date are Newland Homes (22 homes, 4 months overdue) and Miller Homes (350 homes, more than a year overdue). To what extent have these delays, as well as the delay to the third application which I do not have details on, contributed to the drastic decline in the 5 year housing supply from 5.6 years in December 2017 to 3.7 years today? What steps are being taken to ensure we are not taken to appeal by any of these three?



Response from Cabinet Member


Our Planning team achieve an on-time determination rate of 93%, which is the best in Gloucestershire and 20% higher than at Tewkesbury. Some applications do take longer, but these are the ones on which there is extensive pre-engagement, including working with parish councils and county councils. This is an essential part of the process, which for example has led to Miller Homes agreeing to fit a number of electric car charging points, and solar panels on 146 properties. If this had been rushed through, these conditions would not have been applied. We have an outstanding determination rate, but some complex applications naturally take longer. These examples do not affect the housing supply as they are on identified land.



Question from Councillor Emma Nelson to the Cabinet Member Customer and Regulatory Services, Councillor Martin Horwood


What is the staff turnover rate for planning officers in the last year and how does this compare to the previous 5 years? 

How are reasons for staff turnover investigated, for example through exit interviews? 

What staff retention methods are in place, for example, reward schemes, employee engagement, and health and well-being initiatives?



Response from Cabinet Member


Thank you Councillor Nelson for your question. There are 16 employees in the planning team, 6 people have left in the last 5 years. There have been two leavers in 2021, which would represent an annual turnover rate of 12.5%. The average employee turnover rate in the UK is around 15%. Any employee leaving the Council will be invited to complete an exit interview questionnaire. A member of the HR team will follow up with a telephone call to discuss and further investigate reasons for leaving. The results are then fed back to the line manager and escalated where necessary.


Cheltenham Borough Council conducted a wellbeing survey in April 2021 which attracted an 85% response rate, demonstrating that employees are engaged and interested. 90% of respondents rated their personal wellbeing as okay, good or very good.


The Council deliver a range of employee wellbeing initiatives, discounts and engagement opportunities throughout the year alongside the reward package attached to being a Council employee such as a generous holiday entitlement, excellent pension scheme, cycle to work scheme, flexible working environment and employee welfare service.



Supplementary question


It is reassuring to hear that the staff turnover rate is below the national average, and of the wellbeing initiatives being offered. Have the two vacancies arising this year been filled, and if not, at what stage in the recruitment process are we?



Response from Cabinet Member


I cannot answer this without the information to hand, but I will find out and contact Cllr. Nelson outside of the meeting.



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