|Consideration was given to a report that provided Council with an overview of content from the Members Policy Seminars in June and July 2014 that provided detail on the Census 2011 outturn, The Domestic Abuse Strategy, A Public Health update and details of the consultation on the Care Act 2014.|
|Consideration was given to a report on the Standards Panel. The Standards Panel met on 2 May 2014 to consider an allegation of disclosure of legally privileged information contrary to the Council's Code of Conduct for Members. The report provided details of the Panel's decision. The Panel agreed that the details should be brought to Council's attention. |
The allegation considered by the Standards Panel was that Councillor Mark Chatburn ("the Councillor") had disclosed legally privileged information, namely Counsel's Opinion, given in confidence to Members of the Planning Committee in connection with an application for planning permission for residential development (13/2184/OUT) in relation to a site at Urlay Nook Road, Eaglescliffe, Stockton-on-Tees.
Having considered the Investigating Officer's report and submissions, and having sought and considered the Independent Person's views, the Panel determined that the Councillor had knowingly disclosed legally privileged advice that had been provided to him in confidence, and which was marked as exempt information under paragraph 5 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972; that the publication of this information in the public domain by placing a copy of the privileged legal advice on the Councillor's blog, and by linking that blog to the Councillor's twitter account, did not fall within any of the exemptions specified in paragraph 6(a)-(d) of the Council's Code of Conduct for Members, and that it therefore constituted a breach of paragraph 6 of the Code.
Further details of the Panel's decision were provided at the Appendix to the report.
Just before the Panel's hearing, the Local Government Ombudsman made a decision in relation to a separate matter that, amongst other issues, concerned a complaint about the Counsel's advice being given, in confidence to Planning Committee Members in connection with the Urlay Nook Road planning application. The Ombudsman found that, in reaching its decision, she would have expected the Planning Committee to have considered the advice from Counsel, and that the Council had acted without fault in relation to the determination of the application.
|Consideration was given to a report on the outcomes of the public consultation exercise on potential site options for the location of pitches for Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople in the Borough. |
The Housing Act 2004 placed a duty on local authorities to assess the needs of Gypsies and Travellers in their areas. Stockton undertook this assessment initially in a joint exercise with the other Tess Valley authorities in 2008 (the Tees Valley Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation needs Assessment (TVGTAA) 2009) and then Stockton Council updated the assessment individually for the borough in 2013. This identified a requirement for 26 pitches over a fifteen year period between 2012 and 2027.
Planning Policy for Traveller Sites 2012 read in conjunction with the National Planning Policy Framework 2013 required local planning authorities (LPAs) to set pitch targets for Gypsies and Travellers and plot targets for Travelling Showpeople to address the likely permanent and transit site accommodation needs of Travellers in their area. In addition, LPAs were required to identify and update annually a supply of specific deliverable sites sufficient to provide five years' worth of sites against their locally set targets and to identify a supply of specific, developable sites or broad locations for growth, for years six to ten and where possible, for years 11 to 15.
The Council's adopted Core Strategy contained policy CS9 relating to Gypsy and traveller provision. It provided a criteria based policy for new Gypsy and Traveller sites, safeguarded the existing site at Bowesfield Lane and stated that joint working between the Tees Valley authorities would identify the need for Gypsy and Traveller accommodation and that in deciding where to provide Gypsy and Traveller accommodation, locations in or adjacent to existing settlements would be preferred in the first instance.
To fulfil its duties in relation to planning policy, the Council embarked on a process to identify specific sites to accommodate the need identified in the updated Gypsy and Traveller Need Assessment 2013. The Spatial Planning team undertook an extensive borough wide search for sites - the details of which were reported to members in a report to Cabinet in January 2014, which sought the approval of the draft Local Development Document (LDD) for a period of public consultation. This exercise resulted in six potential sites being identified; five Council owned sites and one privately owned.
The public consultation on the draft LDD took place between 3rd February and 17th March 2014. The consultation proved highly controversial and provoked a hugely negative response. None of the sites proposed were viewed as acceptable. The Council received 565 individual responses and 4 petitions in response to the consultation. The petitions provided 35 signatures against Frederick Street, 294 against Eltham Crescent in Thornaby and 517 against Land between Thornaby Road and The River Tees. In addition, a letter of objection to Land between Bowesfield Crescent and The River Tees was supported by 55 neighbours. A summary of the comments made on each site consulted on was attached to the report and Members could view the original responses by contacting the Spatial Planning team. A table within the report showed the breakdown of individual comments received for each site.
The LDD invited landowners to submit alternative sites for consideration. A number of locations had been suggested during the consultation but only three were specific areas of land suggested by a landowner. One site was located adjacent to Thorpe Thewles and had previously been submitted to the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) where it was determined that it was not suitable for residential development due to the unsustainability of its location.
The remaining two sites were also the subject of planning applications for a Gypsy / Traveller pitch. One was an existing private Traveller site located on Urlay Nook Road, near Eaglescliffe, which had been put forward for allocation for a further 5 pitches but which had previously been considered to be an unsustainable location for permanent residence. The second was the site of existing stables between Carlton and Thorpe Thewles. This applicant had previously been refused permission for a dwelling on the site.
Usually, the next stage in the process of preparing a LDD would be for the comments received to be analysed and if possible taken into account in determining the Council's preferred site or sites for gypsy and Traveller pitches. In addition, further assessments of the sites to demonstrate the sustainability, viability and deliverability of the sites would be undertaken and the final choice of site or sites would be determined by the results of these assessments combined. The next version of the LDD (the publication version) would be prepared with its associated assessments and it would be brought back to Cabinet along with a schedule of responses and how they had been dealt with, in particular if it was possible to take on board the comments and, if so, how this had been done. Council would be asked to endorse how the responses had been dealt with and the revised version of the LDD containing the preferred site or sites for a further period of public consultation. Following this, the LDD would be submitted to the Secretary of State who would arrange an independent examination into the soundness of the document.
One site had been withdrawn from the process; land to the rear of Roddmere at Yarm Back Lane, Stockton. This was the only privately owned site that was originally proposed.
Given the situation, Members were asked to consider how they wished to proceed. One option was to continue to proceed against the original timescales of the established National Planning Policy Framework process, with the shortlisted sites to the next stage. Realistically, the only other alternative appeared to be to abort the current Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople LDD and to seek Secretary of State consent to enable this one aspect of the Regeneration and Economic Development LDD to follow on' from the timetable and adoption of the Regeneration and Economic Development LDD. This could enable a needs assessment to be carried out. It would enable more detailed consultation with the travelling community (given the inconsistency with national guidelines in responses to date). With the injection of a small one-off resource, a comprehensive land availability analysis against the national guidelines and local consultation responses could be done irrespective of current ownership.
This approach was not without its risks. The government had signalled local planning authorities a number of times to how seriously it viewed LPAs' responsibilities in dealing with the issues of the provision of gypsy and Traveller accommodation. A local example was the suspension of Hartlepool's examination - in - public into its local plan to enable the Council to undertake a site selection exercise for gypsy and Traveller accommodation. Other examples of examinations - in - public being suspended related to the London Borough of Havering and Leeds City Council. Middlesbrough Council whose plan had been the subject of an examination-in-public had been advised that although their plan was not unsound they would need to undertake an early review of their Gypsy and Traveller accommodation assessment.
The Council was working on the two final documents to complete the
Borough's Local Development Framework; the Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople LDD and the Regeneration & Environment LDD (R&ELDD). Whilst the first of these dealt with only a single issue, the second dealt with a range of issues: housing employment and transport allocations, policies dealing with the natural built and historic environments as well as giving guidance on sustainable development and the use of section 106 agreements. The R&ELDD was one stage ahead of the Gypsy and Traveller LDD in the plan preparation process and was heading towards Publication consultation which was scheduled to start in December 2014. Past advice from the Planning Inspectorate was that the two documents could remain separate if a LPA was continuing to prepare its local plan in the format of a Local Development Framework (LDF) that was a folder of separate documents dealing with different issues. If a LPA decided to prepare a single local plan all issues must be dealt with within a single document. However this advice was some two years old and it was possible that a planning inspector may advise the Council that it needed to include its gypsy and Traveller site allocations within the R&ELDD. This could have two potential outcomes:-
the inspector could direct a suspension of the examination-in-public for a specified period of time whilst the work to allocate appropriate sites was completed and consulted on;
the inspector could decide to find the plan unsound.
If the second option was what happened this would have serious repercussions for the R&ELDD. This document was delivering the strategic vision set out in the adopted Core Strategy (2010) and the Core Strategy targeted review of the location of housing sites (2011).Thus it was implementing strategic policies which were 4 years old and which were developed and found sound prior to the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in 2012. Whilst the Spatial Planning team undertook an exercise to determine that the Core Strategy policies remained in general conformity with the NPPF and therefore could continue to form a basis for the R&ELDD, the further the NPPF became embedded in the planning system the more out of date both the policies in the Core Strategy and the evidence underpinning them becomes and the greater the risk that a planning inspector could find the R&ELDD unsound. In these circumstances the Council would have to begin its plan preparation process again and this would require the Council to start again with preparing its evidence base and considering various options for development. This would mean that the Borough was without a plan for a minimum of a further three to four years and that the development free-for-all which had occurred in the Borough since the introduction of the NPPF in 2012 would continue on for several more years. Thus the Council could expect further housing sites to come forward for planning permission, particularly in the south of the borough. In addition, the introduction of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) would be significantly delayed.
In the absence of any specific sites any planning applications for gypsy and traveller pitches submitted to the Council would have to be determined in accordance with the criteria contained in Core Strategy policy CS9. However it could not be ruled out that the failure of the Council to identify suitable alternative sites might result in the Council being forced to accept pitches in locations which did not conform with this policy and were in locations where it would wish to deter such accommodation.
The Council had recently refused three applications relating to Gypsy and Traveller accommodation within the Borough, for reasons relating primarily to the unsustainable nature of the sites and the impacts upon the character of the countryside. These applications related to the creation of a new pitch on land between Thorpe Thewles and Carlton (14/0264/FUL) and the removal of a condition restricting the use of an existing site to a specific individual (13/2588/VARY) and the creation of an additional pitch (14/0193/FUL), both at Highbridge Paddock, Urlay Nook Road, Eaglescliffe. Appeals for the two applications for Highbridge Paddock were to be considered by the Planning Inspectorate at an appeal hearing in August.
In general, the Council did not have significant problems with unauthorised gypsy encampments and did not spend significant sums on legal action against such sites. In fact, in recent years, there had been a declining trend in unauthorised encampments in the borough, due in part to the Community Protection Team's robust and prompt approach to dealing with them.
|Consideration was given to a report on Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) - Affordable Housing.|
The Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) provided guidance on how Local Plan policies relating to affordable housing would be applied and how their requirements could be met and would be a material consideration when determining applications for planning permission within the Borough.
The SPD, the Equalities Impact Assessment and Consultation Statement (Appendix C) were attached to the report and available on the Council's internet egenda system. The Consultation Statement included the schedule of comments received on the draft consultation version of the SPD and the Council's response.
The Council's affordable housing requirement was set out in Core Strategy Policy CS8. This Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) had two fundamental purposes. These were as follows:-
a) To provide guidance on how development plan policy regarding affordable housing, set out in Policy 8 of the Core Strategy, was applied
b) To provide guidance on how the Council's Strategic Housing, Development Services and Spatial Planning teams would work with both developers and Registered Providers to deliver affordable housing.
After approval by Council the SPD would be adopted Council planning policy and would be used in the determination of planning applications.
|Consideration was given report that provided an update on the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme and the Council's on-going partnership with Community Energy Solutions (Go Warm). The partnership was established in 2007 with the delivery of the Community Energy Savings Programme (CESP) which provided measures such as External Wall Insulation (EWI) and new heating systems to over 1800 households. As well as delivering the intended carbon savings from more energy efficient homes, CESP created around 500 jobs and brought in approximately £12m of private sector investment.|
A change in Government policy meant that CESP was effectively replaced by the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) in early 2013. Through this Go Warm continued to deliver EWI and heating measures in the Borough, however, the process was more problematic and created uncertainties in the industry. A further review of Government Policy earlier this year had a dramatic impact on the ECO programme and the vast majority of schemes around the country ceased. Work had continued in Stockton but at a vastly reduced pace. The report described these issues in more detail and explored potential scenarios going forward.
There were clear benefits to continue with schemes of this nature, particularly in the most deprived areas of the Borough. Therefore various options to progress this work had been considered, in order to complete the areas originally planned as part of the ECO process, namely; Parkfield & Oxbridge, Newtown and Mandale & Victoria. To complete this work under the revised carbon pricing would require investment of approximately £940,000 to cover the budget gap. This equated to around 26% of the overall scheme cost which compared to around 10% contribution for the CESP scheme.
It was anticipated that any funding provided by SBC was done so to allow the scheme to progress to June 2015 by which time it was expected that Government policy would be clear, the new Go Warm (CES) business model would be fully established and EON would have potentially reviewed their pricing policy. The key date would be the announcement in October of the outcome of the consultation on the government's proposals and any new regulations that might be published by Ofgem
There was already funding allocated to the project with £300,000 remaining and it was proposed to use this to support the on-going delivery of the project. There was also £250,000 of funding available from Public Health to support the scheme. This would leave approximately £390,000 to allow the scheme to progress in the three wards originally planned, this would be around 850 properties. It was noted that this money would not be immediately passed to Go Warm (CES) but instead would be provided on a street by street basis once actual costs (and benefits) were known.
The effects of cold weather and cold homes on health were well documented. The Cold Weather Plan for England (published by Public Health England in 2013) stated;
"The impact of cold weather on health is predictable and mostly preventable. Direct effects of winter weather include an increase in the incidence of heart attacks, respiratory disease, influenza, falls and injuries and hypothermia. Indirect effects of cold include mental health illnesses such as depression, and carbon monoxide poisoning from poorly maintained or ventilated boilers, cooking and heating appliances and heating".
In the foreword to the report the Chief Medical Officer urged public health actions to support vulnerable people who had health, housing or economic circumstances that increase their risk to harm. The previous Chief Medical Officer wrote in 2009 that "the effects of cold weather are most felt by vulnerable groups such as older people, the chronically ill, children, those with mental health problems and people with disabilities."
There was therefore a strong public health case to invest in this scheme which would bring warmer housing to residents of the coldest houses in the Borough, many of whom were vulnerable to the effects of being cold.
Whilst these contributions could be seen as assisting an energy company achieve its carbon targets the added value of improved health, reduced fuel poverty etc. could be seen as a valid investment for the Authority to make. In order to try to maintain the initiative, Officers would work with CES to maintain a viable project going forward and highlight the Council's commitment to ensuring that, wherever possible, a scheme to reduce fuel poverty, improve health and achieve the wider regeneration benefits would be secured.
On 1 May 2014 the government announced a new Green Deal Home Improvement Fund (GDHIF) which would replace the Green Deal Cashback fund. This offered householders, tenants and landlords the opportunity to apply for up to 75% of the cost of EWI up to a maximum of £6,000 meaning they had to pay a contribution of at least 25% towards the cost of installation.
There was no guarantee that there would be any change to Government policy or the price per tonne of carbon saved paid by EON to Go Warm and the Council therefore needed to plan an exit strategy using the available resources whilst still keeping the door open to other opportunities as they present.
On this basis an exit strategy would be developed with Go Warm that made use of the funding outlined above to deliver measures to streets in the three wards and provide enough work for Go Warm until June 2015. At that point unless other funding was secured, or the price / tonne of carbon had significantly improved, the project would end.
|Consideration was given to a report on Health & Wellbeing Board - Review of Board / Partnership Structures.|
On its inception, the Health and Wellbeing Board agreed to review its structures (including the Health and Wellbeing Partnership) after approximately one year. The Board held an Away Day in February 2014, providing the opportunity to review the work of the Board and the structures around it; a draft action plan was being prepared as a result of this. A key recommendation of the review was to reassess the Health and Wellbeing Partnership function and membership; and the commissioning groups supporting the Board. The paper summarised a proposal reflecting these discussions and was presented in conjunction with more detailed papers regarding the Children and Young People's Health and Wellbeing Commissioning Group and Adults' Health and Wellbeing Commissioning Group.
|Consideration was given to a report that provided information on the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) following implementation of Regulations on 1st April 2014 and to update the Council's LGPS discretionary policy statement.|
A summary of the main changes to the LGPS which took effect from 1st April 2014 were detailed within the report.
The proposed updated Discretionary Policy Statement was attached to the report with new or revised discretions highlighted.
|The following motion had been submitted in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 12.1 by Councillor Clark, and seconded by Councillor Cook:-|
"This Council notes the suffering caused to local residents and the damage to local services from this coalition government's programme of cuts. It asserts there is an alternative to their ideologically - driven attack on public services, namely the levy of a financial transaction tax on the speculative activities that enrich the few to the detriment of the many.
Stockton Council calls on the government to enact a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) and use revenues from this measure to reverse the cuts in government support for public services.
The Council further resolves to write to the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government stating this Council's support for the extension of FTTs and to write to local MPs requesting their support for the tax."
The motion was carried.
|The following question had been submitted by Councillor Chatburn for response by the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People:- |
"Given the difficulties faced by 1,000s schools throughout the country who will be unable to cope with the increased demand from September, can the cabinet member confirm whether our own schools will be able to provide every eligible child with a hot school lunch, cooked on site, from next September?"
The Cabinet Member for Children and Young People responded with:-
"I really pleased to confirm all schools will be ready to cater for the increase in demand from September due to the introduction of Universal Free School Meals.
All schools will be providing a hot meal on site with the exception of 2 schools (St John the Evangelist and Oxbridge Primary), where hot meals are cooked at another site.
Stockton Borough Council was allocated a capital grant to both improve kitchens and increase the levels of equipment and dining room furniture to meet the needs of the additional pupils that will be entitled to a Universal Infant Free School Meal from September. We were allocated £381,288 for maintained schools and £142,458 for VA Schools. All school kitchens have undergone a full survey to assess need. The main spend has been additional and replacement ovens, refrigeration, freezers higher volume mixers and dishwashers in 22 schools In the schools with significant increase ,Ingleby Mill for example, we have added in new hot service counters to enable these schools to have additional service points to ensure all pupils will be fed in the lunchtime period. Some schools have also had replacement / additional furniture. The works are currently taking place across the borough and will continue into the summer break. Some schools will have their dishwashers fitted early into September due to suppliers stretched to make the stainless steel fabrication on time. This will not cause any problems whatsoever, the cooking equipment was priority."
Councillor Chatburn asked the following supplementary question:-
"A concern is tied into pupil premium as pupil premium is calculated on free school meals. How will schools quantify those families and what can be done to ensure that schools don't lose out on pupil premium?"
The Cabinet Member for Children and Young People responded with:-
"I can assure Members that Officers are working with schools and parents on this and Officers will update Members further in the Autumn.
The following question had been submitted by Councillor Chatburn for response by the Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Transport:-
"Can the cabinet member advise of the current position regarding the proposed new roundabout access to the Mount Leven Farm development in Yarm, particularly whether the necessary s278 agreement has been signed by all parties and the necessary funding for the works secured?"
The Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Transport responded with:-
"I can confirm that the Section 278 agreement was signed on 3 July 2014. Following the conclusion of this process the Council has written to the developer's agent seeking further instructions should they wish to proceed to the next stages."
|The Leader of the Council gave his Forward Plan and Leaders Statement.|
Since Council last met on the 18th June, Cabinet met on the 17th July and, (in addition to the regular items) considered:-
The year-end performance and MTFP report
An update on the Stockton Youth Assembly
A project proposal for a Skytrail at the White Water Course
An update on the constitution rules of Governing Bodies in Maintained schools
The Domestic Abuse Strategy
A review of the Health and Wellbeing Board and Partnership structures
A review of minutes referral arrangements
A report on the Voluntary Sector Investment Fund
A report on the Coroners service
The annual report on the troubled families programme
An update report on the impact of the Welfare Reforms
A report on the outcome of the Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople public consultation.
A report on the supplementary planning document on affordable housing.
A report on the ECO scheme
A report on the Local Government Pension Scheme
Looking ahead to the next cabinet meeting to be held on 4th September significant items on the agenda to be considered were as follows:-
A report on the Social Fund
A report on SEN reforms
The scrutiny report on the Safer Place for Children review
The scrutiny report on the review of Street Café furniture and "A" board advertising
The annual Armed Forces report
Before then, it promised to be a busy summer of exciting events. The Leader of the Council was delighted to start the races at the cycling festival and there would be a busy few weeks coming up with Stockton Weekender followed by SIRF the following weekend and with the fiftieth anniversary of the Billingham International Folklore Festival.
The Leader of the Council was particularly looking forward to the many events that would be taking place across the Borough to mark the centenary of the start of the Great War, not least the 1,245 Sunflowers tribute to the fallen which would begin on the evening of 4th August in the Parish Gardens in Stockton.
The Leader of the Council wished Members and Officers a happy summer and he looked forward to seeing everyone again at the next meeting on Council on the 17th September.