Venue: Council Chamber, Council Offices, Cecil Street, Margate, Kent
Contact: Charles Hungwe
Apologies for Absence
Apologies were received from the following Members:
Councillor Paul Moore, substituted by Councillor Rusiecki;
Councillor Farooki, substituted by Councillor Joanne Bright;
Councillor Kup, substituted by Councillor Wright;
To receive any declarations of interest. Members are advised to consider the advice contained within the Declaration of Interest advice attached to this Agenda. If a Member declares an interest, they should complete the Declaration of Interest Form
There were declarations made at the meeting.
To approve the Minutes of the Overview and Scrutiny Panel meeting held on 20 July 2023, copy attached.
Councillor Austin proposed, Councillor Davis seconded and Members agreed the minutes to be a correct record of the Panel meeting held on 20 July 2023.
Cllr Austin asked the Leader whether he was going to consider the request for the possibility of making minutes a bit more informative in terms of being specific about which Member made contributions during debate. Councillor Everitt responded and said that this was something that could be discussed in a different forum. The Leader was happy to discuss the issue informally outside of meetings and potentially at the Constitutional Review Working Party meeting.
Councillor Rick Everitt, Leader of the Council made a presentation and raised the following points:
· The Council’s planning enforcement operated on a complaints based system which meant prioritising beaches when carrying out its enforcement function;
· Currently this functioned was carried out by the Planning Enforcement Officer and Planning Enforcement Assistant both of whom report to the Planning Applications Manager;
· The team prioritised breaches that caused significant irreparable damage to listed buildings, harm to specially protected areas including conservation areas, other visually prominent buildings and protected trees, breaches to section 106 agreements and significant and unacceptable harm to living conditions;
· The Council would investigate if a breach had occurred and then seek if the matter could be resolved without formal action where possible, securing an application for the work or alteration that would be compliant to the planning policy and deciding whether or not to take action when the investigation was concluded;
· The decision should always be in the public interest and sound planning grounds that were compliant to planning policy;
· Council would always investigate breaches as reflected by the summary statistics shown for the period 2020-2022;
· Between 2020 and 2022 the Council had served 41 enforcement notices;
· Recent successful prosecutions led to significant fines for the offending individuals, (as reflected in the presentation slides attached as an annex to this minute item);
· A previous Scrutiny Panel had reviewed this subject and had come up with some points to consider for improvement (as detailed in the same annex);
· Council a Section 106 Enforcement Fee. This had helped recruit a new 106 Monitoring and Infrastructure Delivery Officer;
· This was an additional resource to the Enforcement Team;
· The Council had secured a new database system (IDOX Cloud). This would increase the enforcement team’s capacity for publishing case information on the Council website. This was expected to go live in 2024
· A new monthly compliance development meeting led by a Principal Planning Officer would be regularly held that would coordinate compliance activities for new housing development to promptly identify any breaches at the earliest stages of development.
Members asked questions and made comments as follows:
· One Members asked to what extent did the Council investigate individuals who developed without consent and to what extent did that happen in the district?
· Another Member welcomed the additional resource to the enforcement team by the employment of another officer. They then asked how many hours each of the officers worked per week;
· A Member asked whether the Monitoring Officer was involved with any of the enforcement activities;
· Another Member said that it had previously been a frustration to get enforcement information the Council website and hoped that the additional resource to the team would improve access to enforcement information;
· They said that there should be a disincentive for retrospective applications;
· One Member asked how the Council prioritised planning enforcement work considering the limited resources at its disposal;
· They further asked if there were ways that the Council could use to communicate enforcement updates to complainants. Some residents ... view the full minutes text for item 476.
Matt Sanham, Head of Finance and Procurement introduced the report and said that the Health and Safety Policy was being refreshed after being adopted three years ago. The updates took into consideration the new corporate senior management structure.
Members asked questions and made comments as follows:
· Did officer monitor where there are health and safety incidents?
· Was dust monitoring part of this policy?
· Was there a system for confidential reporting?
· How was the Council managing to provide mental health support to staff working from home?
· The Internal Audit report at a Governance & Audit Committee meeting reported that there was no Health and Safety Policy. Would the adoption of this policy cover that issue?
· Who should Members speak to if they wanted to discuss health and safety issues?
· Was there an intention to provide occasional reports to Members?
· How did the Council monitor electric safety for employees working from home?
Matt Sanham and Stewart Bundy, Safety & Compliance Officer responded to Member questions as follows:
· A complaints officer reports to the Safety and Compliance Officer to make a formal report on an incident;
· These reports would be added to the website and the Trade Unions would also be made aware of these incidents;
· The current set up was working well;
· All near misses were recorded centrally at a corporate level and reports are considered by the Corporate Management Team (CMT);
· The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) dealt with the environmental side of health and safety, which included noise monitoring;
· The Safety and Compliance Officer was responsible for monitoring the council employees side which included dust monitoring;
· There was a compliance officer to whom staff could report confidentially any health and safety concerns;
· Mental health for staff was an issue that fell under Human Resources’ monitoring responsibility;
· The adoption of this Health and Safety Policy by Cabinet in October would cover the issue raised in the Governance and Audit Committee’s Internal Audit report;
· Moving forward, officer would be providing regular health and safety update reports to Members;
· Officers had carried out risk assessment for home working. The onus was on the staff working from home to make sure that their workspace was fit for purpose;
· Managers were also supposed to conduct one to one sessions with staff when conducting these risk assessments.
Penny Button, Head of Neighbourhoods introduced the report and said that this public spaces protection order was adopted three years ago and no changes had been made protection order. Officers have had positive feedback regarding traffic lights system for exclusion zones.
One Member asked if officers monitored incidents, particularly in the parking areas and whether this included dog on dog incidents. The Member further asked whether were was any policy for dog walking in the parks and enforcement regarding dog pooh in local streets.
Penny Button said that park areas were not covered by this Public Spaces Protection Order. The dog wardens were involved in the enforcement of this Order. This year the beach enforcement team would be working throughout winter and help with the enforcement.
Members noted the report.
Councillor Davis proposed that the Panel considered a new scrutiny topic on a sea link project at Minster marshes. This issue should be considered on an urgent basis as this was a serious environmental matter that was emerging and would affect the local area. Councillor Davis suggested that the National Grid representatives be invited to a Panel meeting to discuss their intentions and how this was going to affect the local communities.
The Chair agreed to discuss with the Democratic Services how to progress this request.
Councillor Britcher, Chair of the Tourism Working Party gave an update on the work of the working party and said that they had held two meetings, investigating the negative impact of tourism for the district. Bob Porter, Louise Askew and Mike Humber made presentations at one of the meetings. The working party Chair said that he hoped to bring the final report to the Panel in January 2024.
Responding to the Working Party update, one Member requested that the working party include in its report the positive contributions tourism was bringing to the district. However, the Panel was advised that the purpose of the review was to consider the negative impact of tourism to the district and suggest ways to mitigate that impact and learn some lessons from other councils who had faced similar circumstances.
Councillor Currie suggested and Members agreed that the Panel invites Councillor Albon to the next scheduled Panel meeting on 21 November 2023 to discuss the issue regarding broken bins.
The Panel Chair sought Members views regarding a request by a Member not in attendance at the meeting to consider inviting Manston Airport representatives to a discussion on how they going to get the site open for business. The Panel had agreed at a previous meeting to invite the representatives but further agreed that this should be done after the DCO decision had been made by the Courts.
Members made comments as follows:
· Thanet District Council a statutory duty regarding Manston Airport and this was a planning issue. There was no point in the airport representatives attending a Panel meeting;
· Another Member said the DCO resolved the planning issue. They said this was not a planning issue at all;
· The principles of scrutiny as set out to Members during the induction training supported the idea that the Panel ought to review any matters affecting the local communities. The Panel needs to get update information about the airport site. The Panel needs to hear their plans about the airport being carbon neutral;
· One Member said that as an authority TDC should be weary to invite the airport representatives;
· Another said that the object of scrutiny is to scrutinise something that has been presented to the Panel. At the moment nothing had been presented to Thanet District Council. That meant the Panel could not scrutinise anything.
Sameera Khan, the Interim Head of Legal and Monitoring Officer advised the Panel that because there were Panel members who are also members of the Planning ... view the full minutes text for item 479.
Members noted the report.