Agenda item

Member Questions


(6 total)

1.  Question from Councillor Tim Harman to Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Culture, Tourism and Wellbeing, Councillor Max Wilkinson

Cheltenham Borough Council’s contribution to tourism is “The Cheltenham Pod” in the High Street, which is a locked up leaflet dispenser and is rarely staffed, together with a modest stand distributing leaflets in the reception of the Municipal Offices. Surely we can do better than this for this great town.

Will he undertake an urgent review of the council’s modest contribution to tourism, including comparing this council’s approach with those of other comparative towns and cities across the country?

Response from Cabinet Member

The Cheltenham Pod was opened thanks to a grant from the government’s Welcome Back Fund.  It was never intended to be a 24/7 location for Tourism Information.  As Cllr Harman is aware, thanks to the interest in this matter of his colleague Cllr Nelson, the Council hosts Tourism Information in the Municipal Offices reception on weekdays.  As he will further be aware, as a result of recent questions, the Council has also been considering for some time how to provide in-person tourism information to visitors on weekends.  Cllr Harman will be pleased to hear that a trial scheme is soon to launch.  This will involve visitor welcome staff being stationed at the Cheltenham Pod on weekends and Bank Holidays and the job adverts are now live.  While market research shows that the vast majority of tourists will access information online in advance of visits, we accept that this will not be the case for everyone – particularly older visitors.  Therefore, the new seven-day-a-week provision will help provide cover for those requiring extra help.  This authority, via Marketing Cheltenham, is currently working with other local authorities on a review of regional tourism marketing.  This is as a result of a request from the government, via Visit England.

Supplementary question from Cllr. Harman

I understand the pod is not staffed full time, but I was surprised to find out that there was nobody there last week during the racing festival. Would the Cabinet Member be happy to bring a report to Overview & Scrutiny in six or nine months’ time on how the strategy is progressing? It is important to keep watching this, and I’m sure we share the ambition of doing more for tourism than we currently are.

Response from Cabinet Member

The short answer is probably yes but I’m willing to expand on it as we go. It is useful for us to discuss and debate this. If we were seeking a route, we probably wouldn’t start from here, with a background of funding cuts in local government and the loss of the existing tourist information repository during the pandemic. The emerging strategy can be positive and innovative, and the old 9-5 approach in the same place was neither financially sustainable nor particularly effective. In line with many other local areas, we are pursuing something slightly different, and if it doesn’t work we will look at alternatives. Having people stationed at the pod on weekend will give people somewhere to go and chat with people with local knowledge, if they don’t have a mobile phone or access to the internet. Defaulting to digital is fine in most cases, but there are a lot of people in different demographic groups who are less likely to use digital services. It’s important that we still have physical repositories for tourist information, we’ll continue to do this and are getting positive feedback on the progress we’ve made so far. I’d be happy to work with Marketing Cheltenham to bring an item to O&S when we can make a judgement on whether the approach is working for Cheltenham.


2.  Question from Councillor Wendy Flynn to Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency, Councillor Alisha Lewis

How many litres of water were needed for the Christmas 2021 ice rink, what refrigerants were used to cool this water and what was the environmental impact of these?

Response from Cabinet Member

We do not hold on record information about the quantity of water used in 2021. The previous supplier and consultant involved in delivering the 2021 ice rink have been contacted to source this information but unfortunately, it has not arrived prior to the deadline for submitting this question response. When a response comes through, we will ensure that you are given a copy. Information on the coolant used is attached:


3.  Question from Councillor Wendy Flynn to Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Culture, Tourism and Wellbeing, Councillor Max Wilkinson

The Ice Rink report to Cabinet on 1st March 2022 agreed to explore, as a priority, the installation of fixed power supplies to the Council’s main event sites. What progress has been made on this over the last year?

Response from Cabinet Member

A funding application was submitted to the UK Shared Prosperity Fund in August 2022 and one of the capital projects included in the bid was to support the installation of fixed power supply in the Imperial Gardens area to service events such as the ice rink. The council was advised in December that this was successful and since that time, council officers have:

  • Commissioned initial surveys of the area
  • Contracted with an electrical expert to provide advice and expertise on the scale and type of connections required
  • Worked with local festival and event organisers to assess requirements
  • Commenced work to engage a firm of engineers to develop the design of the fixed power supply and support the project management of any construction


Work on installing a fixed power supply continues to be a priority for the council in line with the Corporate Plan 2023-27 and the requirements of the UKSPF funding.

Supplementary question from Cllr. Flynn

It doesn’t look like there will be any fixed power supply in place for this year’s rink. Is that the case, and will an ice rink go ahead without one?

Response from Cabinet Member

It doesn’t look like there is going to be, but the intention is to still go ahead. Cllr. Flynn will recall from last year’s discussions about the ice rink, which ended up not going ahead, that we intended to pursue an alternative strategy that did not rely on traditional a diesel generator, and I’m confident that if we don’t have electrical infrastructure in the gardens for this winter then we will not be going for a traditional diesel generator. Some of the technologies available to us produce substantial carbon savings, which shows a positive trajectory. The climate decision wheel will guide our decisions, but it won’t just stop everything happening. In order to bring the public along with us on climate change matters, the worst way to do this would be to say they can’t enjoy things.


4.  Question from Councillor Wendy Flynn to Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Culture, Tourism and Wellbeing, Councillor Max Wilkinson

I welcome the Council’s commitment to tackling ASB during Race Week but note from media releases that the “hydrophobic” paint (containing hydrocarbons, C9-C12, n-alkanes, isoalkanes, cyclics, aromatics, petroleum distillates and hydrotreated light) that is being used in the War on Wee campaign is a simple water repellent sealer. From my research, every other town and city hoping to reduce public urination by coating walls with hydrophobic paint have used Ultra-Ever Dry paint. The Ultra-Ever paint uses 2 distinct coats to create a surface textured with tiny prongs that cause drops of water to hover, a phenomenon known to biologists as the "lotus leaf effect", and results in “bounce back” of urine. What technology is utilised in the No Nonsense Water Sealer (as shown in media photos) being applied to walls in Cheltenham, as part of the War on Wee campaign, to create the bounce back effect and how much further does the No Nonsense Water Sealer bounce back the urine stream of an anti-social public urinator than that which would normally be expected from a wall?

Response from Cabinet Member

I thank Councillor Flynn for her question and her interest in this subject.


Managing the races presents a substantial challenge for the council, partners, residents and businesses.  The council, with partners, review planning every year as part of the normal debrief process in order to identify areas for improvement for future years.


Councillor Flynn will be aware of the horrendous anti-social behaviour and public urination seen last year particularly around Pittville Park and along the Evesham Road.  Videos shared on social media show public urination in the park, but it is well-known that a minority of racegoers choose to urinate in various locations.


Hydrophobic, water repellent paint, is one of a number of things implemented to address these issues.  Cllr Flynn will have noted the posters on display, social media and pre-festival media coverage.  Other measures include additional toilets, support for the “Love Our Turf” campaign and additional police and council staff deployment in these areas.  I have also contacted the Police and Crime Commissioner to request that those caught urinating in public are fined.  We must not accept “it’s race week” as an excuse for offensive behaviour that would not be tolerated for the other 51 weeks of the year.


We received 22 expressions of interest from a range of residents, charities, businesses and public spaces (via the BID). Through the initiative, we were therefore able to support residents, charities and businesses.


In relation to the paint distributed this year, it is a described as a “high performance waterproof treatment” that “repels water”.  Based on this, we decided it would be appropriate to use for the initial trial which was on a small scale this year.


We will review the impact and success of the “War on Wee” initiative in the coming weeks and, based on this, may decide to roll it out on a larger scale in the future.  If we do, we may consider alternative products.


Supplementary question from Cllr. Flynn

This did not answer my question, and looking at it I’ve drawn the conclusion that the paint didn’t have any effect compared to a normal wall. Could the Cabinet Member assure me that the War On Wee campaign was a solid action to address a serious problem residents are concerned about and not a gimmick to gain political capital?

Response from Cabinet Member

I haven’t tested the paint myself, so I can’t tell you if the effect was any better than a normal wall, but the suggestion from its makers is that it does work. We will assess the campaign’s success and look to adjust in future. Over race week, there were still plenty of reports of public urination in a number of wards. It is a real problem that affects public health, safety and equality, and we are taking it very seriously. We are pleased with the work we’ve done this year and will do a proper review. People visiting Cheltenham need to know that public urination isn’t any more acceptable during race week than in the other 51 weeks of the year.


5.  Question from Councillor Tabi Joy to Cabinet Member for Cyber, Regeneration and Commercial Income, Councillor Mike Collins

Reflecting on the tragic incident of an escooter collision in Nottinghamshire last June, will Cheltenham Borough Council be campaigning Gloucestershire County Council for reliable cycle paths, through Cheltenham town centre and surrounding suburbs that escooters can share to avoid roadways and pavements?

Response from Cabinet Member

Thank you Councillor Joy for your question.  As you are aware, Gloucestershire County Council is the highways authority and therefore our role is as you point out one of campaigning on our priorities and seeking to work in collaboration. Data from our recent residents’ survey noted that 68% of residents will choose to walk, cycle or use public transport more instead of using a car in the next few years.

Through our work on Connecting Cheltenham we set out our ambitious vision for transport to help tackle the climate change emergency, enable inclusive transport options and make better connections across the borough.  This work remains relevant and continues to guide our engagement with the County Council.  A few specific points to note;

  • GCC are investing significantly in a Gloucestershire spine cycle network with Cheltenham to Gloucester underway, with the Cheltenham A40 section complete.
  • GCC have been a key partner in working with CBC, Network Rail and GWR to extend the former Honeybourne Line connecting the A40 via Shelburne Road to the railway station car park. Construction of the extension is expected to start in March/April 2023 and is due to be completed in September/October 2023.
  • I understand the Cheltenham to Bishops Cleeve route now has funding and is in design phase. I believe this is due to begin winter 2023. However I haven’t been fully briefed on this yet so don’t know where/if this links to Cheltenham centre.  
  • We are working with GCC to invest in better cycle infrastructure in the way of cycle parking across the town centre.
  • We have allocated UKSPF funding to open a cycle hub in the town centre.

Whilst some of these actions are not directly linked to enabling escooter movement, they are linked to enabling choice in transport mode.

As a point of clarity it is illegal for an escooter to ride on the pavement. Escooters are classed as a vehicle and therefore have the right to use the road, just as cars and bikes do.

Supplementary question from Cllr. Joy

While escooters are illegal to use on the pavement, people still regularly use them there, and it makes sense to have that third option just in case. In a number of places, like Lansdown Road, bike lanes are bumpy and there are often vans and cars parked in the way. Looking at the county-wide spine or Bishop’s Cleeve to Cheltenham route misses the point when people aren’t confident driving in the town centre. Will there be a way that we can prioritise the needs of the poorly maintained and unreliable town centre-specific sites?

Response from Cabinet Member

I’d like to start off by saying how sorry I am about the tragic death of Linda Davies as a result of this incident in Rainworth, Nottinghamshire, last year. It is important to give some of the background here: the individual who caused Mrs Davies’ death was a 14 year old riding a privately owned scooter illegally on the pavement without insurance or a driver’s licence. I’m sure we’ve all seen young people riding escooters illegally on the pavement with no regard to the law of the road. This tragedy was not caused by a lack of a safe cycle path, but rather the actions of someone who chose to break the law.

We have been working, and will continue to work, with the county council to ensure that safe and accessible networks of walking and cycle paths are available across the town. The Connecting Cheltenham report also goes some way to answering the concerns raised. It also worth reiterating that GCC are the highways authority, and not the borough council.



6.  Question from Councillor Tabi Joy to the Cabinet Member for Cyber, Regeneration and Commercial Income, Councillor Mike Collins

Has the council received adequate reassurance that the Gloucestershire Airport fuel spill of May 2022 will not be repeated? What specific mitigations have been put in place by Cheltenham Borough Council following the investigation of the incident?

Response from Cabinet Member

Thank you Councillor Joy for your question. For the benefit of all Members I feel it is worth setting out what happened. On Friday 27th May at approx. 07.45am the operative arrived on site at the Gloucester Airport Tank Farm to make a delivery of 38,000 litres of JET 34 Fuel. During the process of delivering fuel the operative believed that the product was not being pumped correctly and therefore tried to trouble shoot however he noticed the product on the floor, and then fuel gushing over the sides of the top of the trailer’s tank. At this point the operative stopped the pump immediately and it was also at this point our refueller noticed the spill and called for the Airport fire service to attend.

It is believed the spill was in the region of 3,000 litres which was contained by the site and reached as far as the interceptor. The Environmental Agency and local Water Company attended and confirmed that no product had reached the water course. At first the Airport internal fire brigade arrived on the scene, who then called for the local external fire service to assist in the clean-up operation after laying a foam blanket.

A number of actions have been put in place to mitigate a similar occurrence which include :

  • A modification has been made to all aviation trailers to ensure that pumps will only operate in the forward direction
  • A re-training program on ‘pump-off’ deliveries has been put in place for operatives
  • Procedures for pumped aviation deliveries has been updated to ensure clarity on pump and direction test to be carried out before hoses are flooded
  • Investigating the possibility of fitting a non-return valve to the pipework of the receiving tank

These actions provide adequate reassurance that the Gloucestershire Airport fuel spill of May 2022 will not be repeated.

Supporting documents: