In accordance with standing order 14.11 of Chichester District Council’s Constitution, this item is allocated a maximum duration of 40 minutes.
The questions to the executive asked by members and the responses given were as follows:
Question: Update on increase in police numbers
Mrs C Apel (Chichester West) referred to the appalling increase in knife-crime incidents and asked for an update on the increase in police numbers promised by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Sussex and the likely number of extra officers.
Mrs E Lintill (Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Community Services) said that this was complicated to answer. The police precept levied in the 2018-2019 council tax demand included an extra 200 police officers. However, the length of training for new recruits, the drop-out rate and the actual pass rate meant that that increase would not be quickly attained.
Mrs P Dignum (Chichester South), who was the chairman of CDC’s Community Safety Review Task and Finish Group (CSR TFG) and a member of its Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC), said that Chief Inspector Kris Ottery of Sussex Police had recently given evidence to the CSR TFG on a range of matters including how Sussex Police was dealing with the ever greater demands on its resources but with fewer officers. The CSR TFG’s report would be considered by the OSC at its meeting on Tuesday 12 March 2019.
Question: Prosecution for removal of trees and hedgerows
Mr J Brown (Southbourne) referred to several incidents in his ward of trees and hedgerows being removed, often in breach of planning control. He wished to know the current position and about replanting and prosecuting in such cases.
On behalf of the executive Mr A Frost (Director of Planning and Environment) said that a decision to prosecute would depend on the facts of the case. He offered to meet with Mr Brown to discuss any particular cases.
Question: Ecological protection and need for a standard planning condition to regulate planting of hedgerows
Mr S Oakley (Tangmere) asked about (a) legislative protection of sites with ecological value which had been granted planning permission and (b) the need for a standard planning condition to regulate the planting of hedgerows and the prohibition of their removal without approval of the local planning authority.
On behalf of the executive Mr A Frost (Director of Planning and Environment) said that (a) there were powers available to the local planning authority under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and (b) it would be unreasonable to impose a planting condition of indefinite duration.
Mrs L C Purnell (Selsey North) said that landowners and developers could and did remove hedgerows etc before the grant of planning permission and the enforcement sanctions were not sufficiently strong. There was a clear need for powers and inducements to prevent this unilateral action.
Mr J Brown (Southbourne) agreed with Mrs Purnell and said that it would help if CDC could undertake a few successful prosecutions.
Mr Potter (Boxgrove) commented that the responsibility for tree removal lay ultimately with the tree surgeon engaged by the developer or landowner.
Mr Hayes (Southbourne and chairman of the Planning Committee) pointed out that unauthorised removal could be followed by the grant of retrospective planning permission. The pressing need was to find a way of pre-empting such removals.
Mr Budge (Chichester North) lamented how the approach to the city on St Pauls Road/Broyle Road had been desecrated by the removal of a hedgerow to construct a roundabout as part of the Whitehouse Farm development. This was just one situation which should be addressed.
Mr J F Elliott (Bury) remarked that CDC’s Tree Officer needed a great deal of help and support in undertaking his work.
Question: Addressing the problem of air pollution and parking in Midhurst
Mr S Morley (Midhurst) referred to the problem of air pollution in Rumbolds Hill in Midhurst and the need to combat the pollution caused by stationary traffic in the town’s High Street. He advocated a holistic approach to parking issues in Midhurst ie both on- and off-street. He said that he would like to be able to tell Midhurst Town Council and the Midhurst Vision group that CDC would endorse such an approach and that when consultants were commissioned later this year their brief would include the district’s rural towns and their entire parking/traffic needs and not solely in terms of off-street car parks..
Mrs J Hotchkiss (Director of Growth and Place) said that there would be a full audit undertaken of on- and off-street parking in the districts’ towns. West Sussex County Council (WSCC) had not indicated when it would extend its road space audit beyond the city but it was willing to discuss the issues with CDC.
Mr A Dignum (Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Growth and Place) acknowledged the validity of Mr Morley’s point and agreed that a holistic approach was desirable. WSCC would be asked by CDC if it would consider undertaking a road space audit for the rural towns in a similar way to that underway in the city and to include on- as well as off-street parking. Parking and environment consultants’ studies would be taken into account collectively to address these issues.
Mr J Connor (Cabinet Member for Environment Services) said that air quality consultants were engaged to investigate Rumbolds Hill and their findings would be taken into account in any road space audit for the town.
Question: Cost of providing bed and breakfast accommodation for homeless households
Dr K O’Kelly (Rogate) said that following her question at the previous Council meeting she was very grateful for the most up-to-date details included in the February 2019 issue of the Members Bulletin of the number of clients in temporary accommodation and in bed and breakfast and also the number of rough sleepers. The Cabinet had considered earlier in the day a report on the Homelessness Prevention Fund, which stated that one of the outcomes to be achieved was the reduction in the use of and time spent in bed and breakfast accommodation by homeless households, especially outside Chichester District. She requested details of the cost of providing such accommodation both within and outside the district.
Mrs J Kilby (Cabinet Member for Housing Services) undertook to provide a written response disclosing that information.
Question: Details of forthcoming A27 Chichester bypass meeting with Highways England
Mr R Plowman (Chichester West) said that he was aware of an imminent meeting with Highways England (HE) to discuss the A27 Chichester bypass situation and requested details of who would be attending, the agenda, the anticipated outcomes and HE’s policy on a route which avoided the South Downs National Park (SDNP).
Mr A Dignum (Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Growth and Place) said that a meeting was scheduled for Monday 11 March 2019, to be attended by the leaders and chief executives of CDC and West Sussex County Council and the government’s roads minister. He was unsure whether HE would be present but it ought to be. He did not know the agenda business. The government would be pushed to support improvements to the A27 Chichester bypass. There was no scope for inclusion of the project in RIS2 and no current commitment to doing so in RIS3. CDC and WSCC wished to see at the very least a design study being agreed. Insofar as a route within the SDNP was concerned, the statutory guidance, to which HE had to pay regard, stated there was to be no new highway within a national park if there was a viable non-national park route. It appeared that HE was unlikely to deviate from its established position that the A27 should not be allowed to pass through or anywhere close to the SDNP and so such a proposal would be ‘unlikely to pass’. The outcome would turn on statutory interpretation and whether a southern route would not be viable. The consultation in 2016 demonstrated that a majority was in favour of a northern bypass.
Mr H Potter (Boxgrove) alluded to the SDNP Authority’s stated position in 2016 that it would not support a northern route which passed through or near the SDNP and that on the seventieth anniversary of the founding of national parks a review was in favour of strengthening national park policies and extending some of the boundaries.
Question: Dress code at Council meetings
Mr J F Elliott (Bury) asked if the Chairman, or her successor (if applicable) in the new CDC administration after the forthcoming election, would raise the dress code as he was perturbed at the number of men who were not wearing ties or jackets.
Mrs E Hamilton (Chairman of the Council) said that this could be considered perhaps at the start of the new administration.
Mr A Dignum (Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Growth and Place) referred to all councillors wearing a business suit.
Mr J Ridd (Donnington) endorsed Mr Elliott’s point and said that it was one which he had raised during his tenure as CDC Chairman.
[Note The foregoing response concluded questions to the executive]
VALEDICTORIES AT THE END OF THE 2015-2019
CHICHESTER DISTRICT COUNCIL ADMINISTRATION
During questions to the executive Mr R Hayes (Southbourne) paid tribute to and thanked his Conservative co-ward member Mr G Hicks (first elected in 2003) who would be standing down as a councillor at the forthcoming district election.
At the close of questions to the executive Mr J Ridd (Donnington) remarked that he too was not standing for re-election and he reflected on his time as a CDC member since 1999. It had been a great honour both to represent the ward of Donnington and CDC as a whole, when for several years he was its Chairman. CDC was held in very high esteem and there were so many reasons to compliment it. He had immensely enjoyed the experience and was so grateful to the officers who (as colleagues and friends) served members to a very high standard and the very best of their ability. He wished members who were re-elected in May 2019 every good fortune.
Members acknowledged these two valedictories with a round of applause.