In accordance with Chichester District Council’s scheme for public question time the Overview and Scrutiny Committee will receive any questions which have been submitted by members of the public in writing by noon two working days before the meeting. Each questioner will be given up to three minutes to ask their question. The total time allocated for public question time is 15 minutes subject to the Chairman’s discretion to extend that period.
Public Questions were asked and answered as follows:
(a) Mr G Hibberd asked the following question:
I put the following question to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee regarding the Covid Recovery Plan meeting on 30th June:
I note that Chichester District council is preparing a Covid-19 recovery plan as outlined in your agenda today. I am extremely worried that the plan has no mention of a Green recovery, no mention of preventing further pandemics and a reversion back to business-as-usual.
Just this week the Climate Change Committee released a report showing that our government is failing on its own embarrassingly unambitious targets of reaching net zero by 2050 and is ignoring the issue of carbon equity whereby we actually need to reach net zero by 2030. They have said that government needs to start preparing for a world where we reach 4 degrees of global heating, which will lead to millions if not billions of human lives lost and irreversible ecological collapse.
I realise that this is the District Council and not the national government, but this recovery plan is equally as embarrassing and utterly out-of-touch as our national plan. We cannot leave everything to national government whilst ignoring our own duties and obligations as a district council to encourage businesses and people to take drastic action to avert the biggest disaster human kind will ever know.
There is no mention of renewable energy, there is no mention of reducing pollution, reducing cars on our roads, reducing air travel, improving renewably powered public transport and walking and cycling routes. There is no mention of a transition to a wholly plant-based, localised and organic agriculture and food system. There is no mention of large-scale retrofitting of boilers and insulation in houses. There is no mention of the ecological crisis and our need to not only reduce biodiversity loss, but actively reverse it.
There is no mention of massively reducing our production and consumption of meat, dairy and eggs to reduce future risks of pandemics. Both the Centre for Disease Control and WHO have warned that our out-of-control consumption of animal products is providing the perfect petri dish for novel zoonotic diseases like Covid-19. We have seen it before with swine flu (from pigs), bird flu (from chickens), mad cow (from cows), MERS, SARS, AIDS and now Covid-19. If we don't actively transition away from animal agriculture, Covid-19 will not be our last pandemic.
There is no hero coming to save us. We need change right now and it needs to start not just at national level, but at personal, family, neighbourhood, town and district level. I urge this District Council to act now.
The District Council is fully aware that “we can use this opportunity to support and move forward the Green Agenda”, as the main report puts it (para 4.7). The Recovery Plan is a short-term, highly focussed plan to avoid and mitigate serious economic impacts that would themselves hinder or delay much needed actions to address the climate emergency. It does not attempt to repeat or list out the many actions already planned by the authority and contained in several existing Action Plans. However those plans are specifically identified as continued priorities: The Local Plan Review, the full Climate Change Action Plan, the Revised Air Quality Action Plan, the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan, and the Green Staff Travel Plan. Those pressing issues listed in the question that fall within the remit of the Council are mentioned frequently and addressed directly in these plans.
Mr Hibbard responded to the Chairman’s response.
The Chairman advised that Mr Hibbard would have the opportunity of listening to the debate when the Committee discussed the Covid 19 Recovery Plan and Future Services Framework and hopefully be more heartened at the end of it about the concern others have regarding the economy.
(b) Ms J Towersasked the following questions:
1. In the summary of proposed actions to support recovery for the Housing and Construction industry there are many which advantage developers quite significantly, such as fast track applications and a change in the collection of CIL monies. Given that there are many developers, hovering in the wings, waiting for July 15th before they submit planning applications how can we be sure that this will not be at the expense of local infrastructure, environment and excess development The Interim Policy Statement has not been tested in law and will be rigorously challenged by developers. For those areas, like Chidham and Hambrook, who still do not know the allocation of housing this could be devastating.
Will CDC expedite the distribution of housing so areas like Chidham and Hambrook can proceed with site selection and reduce the risk of having to take excess housing?
Have Chichester joined with other Sussex Councils call to Government to suspend housing land supply requirement and the suspension of the five year land supply to avoid a surge of speculative applications?
2. As you state ’Leisure providers play an important role in ensuring the mental and physical wellbeing and social connectedness of local communities. Engagement in leisure activities also contributes strongly to mental wellbeing, by allowing people to be active and to connect with others’.
Venues and public buildings have been out of use since the beginning of the pandemic and unlikely to open any time soon. Fitness providers have struggled to keep their businesses going. One way has been to use public spaces and parks. Yet rather than support this enterprise as with other businesses you are charging punitive license fees. Will you reverse this decision so that those contributing to the physical well being and healthy lifestyles of residents can continue?
1. The Council is seeking to bring forward a decision on the likely distribution of housing at the earliest opportunity to enable parish councils with proposed strategic allocations to finalise their draft neighbourhood plans. Significant additional work is being undertaken to address issues raised in the previous local plan consultation and parish councils will be kept informed.
Chichester has, with other Sussex Councils written to Government to ask for help to re-establish housing supply in an orderly and sustainable way, including changes to the 5 year land supply arrangements to acknowledge the lost supply during lockdown and to avoid a surge of speculative applications.
Any changes to the timetable for developers to provide CIL funding and S106 obligations will likely reflect the pace at which the development industry is progressing. It is therefore unlikely that development would proceed ahead of vital infrastructure requirements.
2. The District Council has always provided licenses
for commercial activities to operate in our parks to ensure the
safety of local people and visitors who use these spaces. Through
the licensing process, we can check the qualifications, insurance
and risk assessments of the businesses.
Since the lockdown we had been approached by a number of new businesses wishing to use our parks and therefore we added the application process on our website to make it easier for the information to be found.
The licences are offered on a monthly basis, which means that businesses have more flexibility and are not tied to paying for a long licence, as we believe many will return to alternative venues once the lockdown allows.
Leisure providers do play an important role in ensuring the mental and physical wellbeing and social connectedness of local communities. Engagement in leisure activities also contributes strongly to mental wellbeing, by allowing people to be active and to connect with others. We are therefore working closely with leisure providers during this period to assist this where possible.
We actively encourage the use of our parks for people to keep fit and healthy, and to relax and enjoy. It’s really important that everyone can access outdoor areas, particularly at the moment, and the licensing process means that everyone has safe access to the parks while fitness classes and training sessions are taking place.
Mrs Towers responded to the Chairman’s response.
The Chairman requested that the Planning Team provide Mrs Towers with updates as soon as they were able to in relation to a decision on the likely distribution of housing.
(c) Cllr Polly Gaskinasked the following question:
Why there is no mention of 'sustainable and environmentally responsible' building/development in CDC's position paper 'Planning, health and environmental protection' (Appendix X) under Planning.
Why there is an emphasis on 'how the council can streamline and support the application process so as not to present a barrier to development' and 'inviting developers to intensify and speed up development ... suitable for more intensive development ... to introduce fast-track planning services ...'
CDC have declared a climate emergency and employed a climate emergency officer to draw up a strategy to ensure that Chichester District is 'climate neutral' by 2030.
Building and development over the next ten years are integral to meeting this stated policy, the ideals of CDC set out under 'Planning' fly in the face of this policy. Why?
Protecting the environment during the Recovery Plan period is key priority for the District Council and is stated as such in paragraph 6.3 of the main report. Within the specific action plan on pages 65-68 of the agenda pack, Actions 2, 3, 4 and 6 are there to ensure we do all we can as a Council to make the application processes efficient and effective, but none of those actions require or imply a lessening of policy requirements or sustainability standards. The timely adoption of the Interim Guidance Statement on Housing Delivery (action 1) is an important response in directing development towards sustainable locations and it maintains and strengthens policy requirements for “sustainable and environmentally responsible” development. In the medium term the review of the local plan (actions 5 and 16) will be the mechanism for delivering step change in sustainability standards. This was the case before the Covid-19 pandemic and is reflected in the timescales and the detailed actions within the Council’s Climate Change Action Plan, which itself remains a priority for the Council (action 17).
Cllr Polly Gaskin responded to the Chairman’s response.
(d) Mr R Evansasked the following question:
In relation to Agenda Item 7 (COVID-19 Recovery Plan) and to Agenda Item 11 (Review of CSP report)
There have been repeated incidents of serious anti-social behaviour (drunkenness, drug-taking, noise, litter, vandalism, urinating on private property, theft) on Quay Meadow, Bosham since the relaxation of the lockdown. Together with a total disregard for social distancing. The police have been called repeatedly.
Through our elected representatives we have suggested to CDC the creation of a Public Space Protection Order for Quay Meadow but for the moment that proposal has not been taken forward
We understand that there have been similar problems in many other recreational areas in the Chichester area. And we are aware that, as Bournemouth and Brighton demonstrate, it is a problem experienced nationally.
The anti-social behaviour is making life increasingly intolerable in Bosham. Local families and younger children are discouraged from using the Meadow – which is a key open space. We understand that residents in a number other communities in the Chichester area are having a similar experience.
How does CDC plan to work with other services (particularly the police and National Trust) to support Bosham and the other local communities affected by anti-social behaviour? And how quickly?
From: Fiona Macfarlane, Douglas MacGregor and Richard Evans
On behalf of adversely affected Bosham residents
The Council is very aware of the issues of Anti Social Behaviour (ASB) particularly around a number of coastal areas in the district including Bosham Quay. A co-ordinated approach is already being taken with Sussex Police, ourselves and other partners including the National Trust. Regular patrols by Sussex Police, Community wardens (where they exist) Litter Enforcement and Parking Enforcement are being undertaken and targeted on days when the weather is forecast to be good as we know these days are more likely to result in more visitors to the areas.
In relation to Bosham Quay meadow in addition to regular Police patrols we have also liaised with National Trust staff to mitigate some of the issues around littering. We were made aware local people were clearing the area early in the morning and it is hoped the measures being proposed around large wheelie bins and more frequent collections will reduce the problem. We have in consultation with Sussex Police considered the application of a Public Spaces Protection Order. Before any PSPO can be applied for it must meet a number of tests around the behaviour being continuing in nature, unacceptable and be detrimental to the local community. As this area rarely came up as a concern before lockdown it might be prudent to continue the current response and monitor any changes in behaviour as lockdown eases further. Any improvement in behaviour may make it difficult to prove the problem is persistent or will be continuing in nature. A PSPO is not a quick fix and the consultation period would be at least 6 weeks and there are legal costs involved and agencies would need to consider who was best placed to enforce as it would be relatively ineffective without consistent enforcement.
Mr Evans responded to the Chairman’s reply. He asked for an urgent meeting to be set up with Sussex Police, the District Council, the National Trust and representatives from the local community.
Mrs Bushby advised that since the response to the public question had been prepared, Sussex Police had advised that they were looking to set up a local action team to include all the representatives requested by Mr Evans. To look at the communities proposals, the powers available and the joint responsibilities the agencies had.