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Full Council - 12 July 2022

Penn Chamber, Three Rivers House12th July 2022

ALL MEMBERS OF THE THREE RIVERS DISTRICT COUNCIL

You are hereby summoned to attend a meeting of Full Council on Tuesday 12 July 2022 at 7.30pm to be held in the Penn Chamber, Three Rivers House, Northway, Rickmansworth for the purpose of transacting the under mentioned business:-

AGENDA

council-summons-complete.pdf (pdf)

1.  APPOINTMENT OF VICE CHAIR FOR THE MEETING

2.  APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE

3.  MINUTES

To confirm as a correct record the Minutes of the Annual Council meeting held on 24 May 2022.  22-05-24-cl-annual-council

4.  LEAVE OF ABSENCE REPORT leave-of-absence-report

4a LEAVE OF ABSENCE REPORT -04a-22-07-12-cl-i-leave-of-absence-urgent-report

5.  APPOINTMENT OF INDEPENDENT PERSON ON THE COUNCIL -05-22-07-12-cl-i-appt-of-independent-person

6.  WEST HERTS CREMATORIUM JOINT COMMITTEE NEW GOVERNANCE STRUCTURES -06-22-07-12-cl-i-lead-authority-delegation-report-july-2022-1

jc-agreement-2002 

-06ii-22-07-12-cl-i-legal-advice

7.  RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE POLICY AND RESOURCES COMMITTEE

To receive the recommendations from the Policy and Resources Committee meeting held on 13 June 2022 and 12 July 2022:

PR09/22 ADOPTION OF STATEMENT OF COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT (SCI) FOR THE SW HERTS JOINT STRATEGIC PLAN

PR10/22 APPROVAL OF INITIAL ISSUES AND OPTIONS (REGULATION 18) CONSULTATION FOR SW HERTS JOINT STRATEGIC PLAN

PR12/26 COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE LEVY (CIL) - GOVERNANCE

PR14/22 CIL SPENDING APPLICATIONS

PR16/22 SUMMARY OF THE FINANCIAL YEAR END POSITION FOR 2021/22 - (updated since P&R meeting) 21-22-outturn-report-council-updated

the link to the reports/recommendations is provided: Policy and Resources Committee - 13 June 2022 (threerivers.gov.uk)

A link to the minutes is provided: https://www.threerivers.gov.uk/egcl-page/policy-and-resources-committee-minutes

RULE 14 AND RULE 6 - https://www.threerivers.gov.uk/meeting/special-policy-and-resources-committee                                                                                                

8.  OUTSIDE BODY APPOINTMENT

At Annual Council on 24 May Councillor Phil Williams was appointed to The Hertfordshire Climate Change and Sustainability Partnership. The Partnership has now asked if we can also appoint a substitute member.

9.  RECEIVE ANY PETITIONS UNDER PROCEDURE RULE 18 - None received.

10.  QUESTIONS FROM THE PUBLIC UNDER PROCEDURE RULE 15 - None received.

11.  CHAIR OF COUNCIL ANNOUNCEMENTS

12.  REPORTS AND QUESTIONS TO THE LEADER AND LEAD MEMBERS

12a)   Report from Councillor Sarah Nelmes, Leader of the Council

It’s been a busy couple of months, but I will try and give you all a flavour of what has been going on.

Last month saw us celebrating the Jubilee and I was really happy to attend our Beacon Lighting in the Rose Garden, it was a truly lovely event. One of the other Jubilee events was an exhibition of children’s art about ‘Magical Trees’. I’m not ashamed to say that some of the wishes those children had for what their Magical Trees would be able to do bought tears to my eyes.  We will be making a record of the entries for the website so that those who could not attend can see both how talented and how kind the young residents of Three Rivers are. With the Lord Lieutenant I ‘planted’ the first of the plaques celebrating the Oak trees we are planting throughout our communities for the Queens Green Canopy. 

Fifty years ago London saw its first Lesbian and Gay Pride event to protest their treatment. Much has improved but still much to do. I was proud to be present as we raised the Rainbow Flag over Three Rivers House. I will once again be working at the 10th Herts Pride event on 20 August and am proud that Three Rivers are once again sponsors for the event.

Concerning our Local Plan, Michael Gove has confirmed what we have asserted all along, that the Planning Inspectorate have been imposing the excessive targets. We hope to see the changes he alludes to so that we can produce the right plan for appropriate development in Three Rivers. https://www.planningresource.co.uk/article/1789386/will-prevent-pins-imposing-unrealistic-housing-figures-communities-says-gove

I was really happy to visit the third of the ‘last Sunday of the month’ markets in Ricky High Street, first chance I got, I was so glad I could help get the permissions for it to proceed. Long may it thrive!

Cllr Jon Tankard, our Armed Forces Champion, resigned the Hertfordshire Armed Forces Covenant. We will be working with officers to ensure we live up to the promises made. https://www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/about-the-council/news/news-archive/armed-forces-week-2022

I attended the LGA Conference the last week of June and had many very constructive meetings with colleagues from all parties and from all over the country. One session was with Kemi Badenoch for the launch of a campaign on the subject of #Debate not Hate. Councillors are at the centre of local democracy. Elected from amongst their local community and forming a vital link between Councils and residents, it is a privilege and responsibility to be elected to public office. However, increasing levels of abuse and intimidation in political and public discourse are negatively impacting politicians and democracy at local and national levels. In Three Rivers I believe we will all stand by the standards in our Code of Conduct and will all strive to be part of the solution not part of the problem.

On a lighter subject, they and colleagues are continuing to try and get a rule change on meetings to remove the necessity for all having to be present in person. They acknowledge the environmental and benefits of inclusion, and also greater accessibility for the public. I hope they are successful as they are passionate. The famous Jackie Weaver was also part pf the debate and was one of the after dinner speaker.  They may not have had the authority but they were very funny.

12b) Question to Councillor Sarah Nelmes, Leader of the Council from Councillor Abbas Merali

Why is the training provided to Members of the Three Rivers Planning Committee not tailored to the processes in the District?

Written response:

The initial and mandatory training provided to Members of the TRDC Planning Committee is required to ensure Members have sufficient understanding of the Committee and Planning decision making process.  The decision making process is an exercise requiring judgements to be made, and that process is not specific to Three Rivers.  However it should be noted that Officer’s had input to and agreed the training material presented at this initial training to ensure it was relevant to Three Rivers Councillors.  Officers are happy to consider requests for training on matters specific to Three Rivers and have invited requests for future training topics.

12c) Question to Councillor Sarah Nelmes, Leader of the Council from Councillor Reena Ranger

The Leader of this Council has a yearly opportunity to send information to all residents via post at the time of the Council Tax summons. Can the Leader please explain why this Council felt it unimportant to include any of the following information in this year’s letter: How to arrange assisted bin collection, garden waste payment methods, the refuse calendar, the location of car parks in Rickmansworth and how those who are not online can access information and services?

Written response:

The Leaders letter is restricted to one sheet of A4 to minimise postage costs and printing and aims to explain the Council tax position.

All the information you have referred to is available online and if a resident is not on-line they can access information about services by telephoning the CSC or in person at the Council Offices.

When important changes are made to bin collections, such as over the Platinum Jubilee and for Christmas arrangements posters are placed on the noticeboards throughout the District.

12d) Question to Councillor Sarah Nelmes, Leader of the Council from Councillor Reena Ranger

Why is this local authority actively discriminating against our older residents and those who are unable to easily access online services? Our car parks do not allow remote topping up of payments, our garden waste service is only available if payable by direct debit and our website is difficult to navigate to access services where applications forms need to be filled in and/or sent back via PDF.

Written response:

The Council is Not discriminating against older residents or indeed any resident. All of the Councils reposts and decisions are subject to an Equality Impact.

The Council recognises that Digital exclusion, the inability to access or use online products or services, remains an issue for some in our community. This is however not an issue exclusive to our older residents with affordability rather than age characteristics often proving to be the main barrier. The pandemic has increased internet participation levels including amongst those over 75 years, but more than a million homes (6%) of the UK population remain offline; this is not an issue unique to Three Rivers.

To tackle this issue locally we work with local partners through the Watford and Three Rivers Trust to support the ‘Staying Connected’ Digital Inclusion project. The project aims to tackle the struggles related to digital exclusion and participation for all our residents. The project addresses four key areas:

  • Access to equipment
  • Access to connectivity
  • Fear of using equipment
  • Skills in using the equipment

Further information on this and other support can be found at https://www.w3rt.org/digitalinclusion

If you have an example of how the website is difficult to navigate and suggestions for improvement please submit them the officers for consideration.

It is odd you are suggesting “remote toping up“ of payments whilst saying that residents are unable to undertake online activity!

12e) Question to Councillor Sarah Nelmes, Leader of the Council from Councillor Stephen Cox

Can the Leader of the Council advise and evidence what action precisely was, has and continues to be taken by this authority following the passing the of Labour’s motion at Full Council on 26 February 2019 concerning Modern Day Slavery regarding the ten points outlined below: 

  1. Train staff who undertake procurement tasks to understand modern slavery through the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply’s (CIPS) online course on Ethical Procurement and Supply, or other equivalent training.
  2. Require its contractors to comply fully with the Modern Slavery Act 2015, wherever it applies, with contract termination as a potential sanction for noncompliance.
  3. Challenge any abnormally low-cost tenders to ensure they do not rely upon the potential contractor practising modern slavery.
  4. [Highlight to its] Ensure that contractors and suppliers are aware that [contracted] workers are free to join a trade union and are not to be treated unfairly for belonging to one.
  1. Publicise its whistle-blowing system for staff to blow the whistle on any suspected examples of modern slavery.
  1. Require its tendered contractors to adopt a whistle-blowing policy which enables their staff to blow the whistle on any suspected examples of modern slavery.
  1. Review its contractual spending regularly to identify any potential issues with modern slavery.
  2. Highlight for its suppliers any risks identified concerning modern slavery and refer them to the relevant agencies to be addressed.
  3. Refer for investigation via the National Crime Agency’s national referral mechanism any of its contractors identified as a cause for concern regarding modern slavery.
  4. [Report publicly on the implementation of this policy annually]. Council further resolves to publish the Three Rivers Community Safety Partnership’s Modern Slavery Action Plan and its outcomes on an annual basis.

Written response:

National Living Wage and Modern slavery requirements are embedded in our contracts.  Specifically, the following measures are in place:

  • Relevant training for staff is included within the procurement toolkit.
  • Standard tender documents include all relevant practices and clauses required to ensure compliance with the MS ACT 2015 and suppliers who don’t meet this will fail the evaluation process. This includes challenging abnormally low cost tenders as standard practice.
  • The Council’s whistle blowing policy is published on the Council’s website. The scope of the policy includes raising concerns about contractors and suppliers in relation to ‘unlawful acts’ which includes failure to comply with the MS Act and relevant wage and employment legislation.
  • Contract management arrangements are in place for all contracts which would enable the Council to identify issues in relation to Modern Slavery.
  • The Council has not had to refer any contractors to the National Crime Agency as a result of concerns in relation to Modern Slavery.
  • The Council’s standard contract does not require contractors to adopt a whistleblowing policy.
  • The Council’s website includes information about Modern Slavery, how to spot the signs and how to report it.
  • The Council recognises that this is an complex issue it cannot solve alone and as such works in partnership, through the Community Safety Partnership Board to develop and prepare an action plan which includes specific actions related to the prevention, awareness raising of and combat of Modern Slavery  
  • A specific Action Plan to tackle the issues related to Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking was published in 2018 with progress against it published in 2019. Given the complexity and importance of this work stream it has since been fully incorporated into the annual priorities and action plan of the Community Safety Partnership (CSP).  As members will be aware, due to the sensitivities of the work managed through the CSP, whilst priorities are published annually, the detailed action plan which is reported to the Community Safety Board, with further oversight and governance in place through the wider Local Strategic Partnership (LSP), is not normally published. Copies are however available to any member on request.

Alongside the work undertaken through our procurement channels, this Council, in March 2020 published an updated Safeguarding Children, Young People and Adults at Risk Policy. The policy now supports the Council’s commitment to ensuring staff and contractors are aware of the risks of modern-day slavery, and the criminal exploitation of children and adults in relation to drug dealing through ‘County Lines.’ https://www.threerivers.gov.uk/news/safeguarding-against-criminal-exploitation-and-modern-slavery

12f) Question to Councillor Sarah Nelmes, Leader of the Council from Councillor Sara Bedford

Have there been any discussions with the Returning Officer regarding the errors and lack of information provided at this year’s local elections?

Written response:

Along with the Deputy Leader I have raised concerns about the election process and count arrangements with the Returning Officer at our first meeting after the election. These and any other issues will continue to be discussed between the Returning Officer and relevant staff to ensure as smooth a process as possible next time with any lessons learnt being incorporated as necessary.

I understand that two special meetings have been arranged with the election agents to discuss issues, concerns and future processes.

12g) Question to Councillor Sarah Nelmes, Leader of the Council from Councillor Sara Bedford

What are the Council’s standards for responding to emails, letters and phone calls from residents? How is adherence to this monitored and recorded?

Written response:

The details are:

Emails – Initial response within 3 working days and full response within 10 working days.  If this is not able to be met, then the officer needs to inform the customer of the new timescale.

Letters - Initial response within 3 working days and full response within 10 working days.  If this is not able to be met, then the officer needs to inform the customer of the new timescale.

Phone Calls – Returning a phone call should be within 48 hours (note working days only)

Monitoring and recording of letters and phone calls are the responsibility of the Manager/Head of Service

12h) Question to Councillor Sarah Nelmes, Leader of the Council from Councillor Sara Bedford

What methods are used to ensure the Council meets statutory deadlines and that other legal communications are replied to on time?

Written response:

The question lacks particularity, however, regarding the meeting of statutory deadlines, the Council has numerous statutory deadlines, in respect of multifarious functions.  For this reason the various Heads of Service are charged with ensuring that such deadlines are met.

In respect of “other legal communications” – this query might cover any matter which the Council has legal responsibility for, or a member of the public might perceive they do.  As such, it is not possible to speak of replying “on time”.  Heads of Service are charged with ensuring that timely responses are provided in relation to all communications.

INFRASTRUCTURE, HOUSING AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Reports from the Lead Member for Transport and Economic Development (Cllr Paul Rainbow), Lead Member for Infrastructure and Planning Policy (Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst), Lead Member for Housing (Cllr Andrew Scarth).

12i) Report from Councillor Paul Rainbow, Lead Member for Transport and Economic Development

Primrose Hill Area Parking Consultation - It is proposed a preliminary scheme will be consulted on in late summer this will include the following streets; Railway Terrace, Lower Road and Primrose Hill. It is also recommended that despite current low response Water Lane is included as there was a strongly-supported petition in 2019 but could be removed at next stage if consultation does not indicate support. Following high interest it is also proposed that Harthall Lane is included with proposed waiting restrictions on the residential section of its western end.

Should the scheme be taken forward any adjoining streets where parking displacement is envisaged will receive an ‘excluded streets’ letter. It is proposed the streets to be included in this exercise will be agreed through by delegated authority.

Chorleywood South Parking Consolation - Ward Councillors have now received the Draft Report following the first stage of consultations.

Croxley Green Permit Parking Zone Survey - Surveys have been issued to residents in the Croxley Green Permit Parking Zone as part of the process to review the effectiveness of the scheme. The purpose is to assess how the scheme is working now and find out how it will continue to help with parking in the future.

Rickmansworth High Street Closure Scheme - The temporary closure of Rickmansworth High Street during the day continues with HCC leading on the required Traffic Order process.  The continued closure is expected to last until at least September 2022 but with an ongoing consultation exercise so any interested party can provide feedback on the closure.  Three Rivers District Council has provided funding from the Welcome Back Fund to support BCC in providing planters in the High Street and to enable the monthly market. 

further-update.pdf (pdf)

12j) Question to Councillor Paul Rainbow, Lead Member for Transport and Economic Development from Councillor Andrea Fraser

12j i - At the February 2022 Full Council meeting the then Lead Member took pride in “The Liberal Democrat Council had also frozen parking charges for another year in recognition of supporting our High Street and supporting residents during the cost of living crisis” - with Rickmansworth Town Centre the only outlier in car parking charges, is this not the time to bring the same fee structure as all other TRDC car parks in the District if this administration truly believes in supporting our residents (at this time of higher cost of living) as well as our retailers and High Street.

TRDC’s own High Streets survey in 2021 with 731 responses brought up the cost of parking several times and had indicated that there is enough parking so there are no concerns about churn.

Written response:

The service provided in the short-stay shopper car parks in Rickmansworth is designed to enable shoppers to easily find parking very near to the shops and services in the High Street and generate a “churn”.  Rickmansworth is not comparable with other public car parks in the District which are typically long-stay and do not have a major London Transport interchanges so close to the short term parking. There are no other dedicated shopper car parks that would require this kind of service. 

The first one hour free and the next hour at one pound is not only the cheapest in Hertfordshire, if not the country.  It has not been increased since it was introduced despite inflation and increased running costs.  Failure to ensure a churn would most likely lead to the nearest shopper car park having all day long commuter/office worker car parking. This issue had previously been identified in reports by consultants prior to this charging. It should be noted that independent consultants had proposed 30 minutes only free but this council opted for one hour free.

You are at liberty to propose a different charging regime with the funding to balance the ”books” at the budget making process.

12j ii - What justification is there now for penalising Rickmansworth with a unique parking fee structure through parking machines which do not allow shoppers to top up whilst shopping electronically and mean that shoppers do not have the luxury of changing any plans to enjoy our High Street without the risk of penalty or a trip back to the car park?

Written response:

The service provided in the short-stay shopper car parks in Rickmansworth is managed using parking machines rather than a ‘phone payment’ system (which I assume is what the question refers to) because the additional of any system like this increases the overall cost of parking.  Any electronic system would increase the cost by approximately 10% plus as a service is charged.  The Council would have to pass this on or find savings/ reduce other services to cover its cost.

The Council preferred to keep the charges lower by using cashless parking machines.  The District Council has received minimal requests from customers for a phone payment system since the current service started in 2018.

If however you would like to suggest such a system and the increased cost please do so at the budget making process time or earlier.

12j iii - The Council has made a commitment to help local residents and retailers during the current cost of living crisis. Parking in the centre of Abbots Langley is free and it is free for the first two hours in Chorleywood and Croxley Green.

Will the Council please bring Rickmansworth Town centre in line with every other area and reinstate two hours free parking in all the car parks providing valuable help to both residents and retailers?

Written response:

I refer to the earlier question on the same subject, it is reiterated the service provided in the short-stay shopper car parks in Rickmansworth is designed to enable shoppers to easily find parking very near to the shops and services in the High Street.  These are not comparable with other public car parks in the District such as those in Croxley Green or Chorleywood, as those are not dedicated shopper car parks that would require this kind of service. The main car parks in those settlements provide long-stay parking (for 36 hours and 4 hours, respectively)

12k) Question to Councillor Paul Rainbow, Lead Member for Transport and Economic Development from Councillor Sara Bedford

Parking provision is necessary for thriving local shopping areas. What is being done to provide greater short-term parking for shoppers in different areas of the District?

Written response:

Short-stay parking is well provided in the principal centre, district and local centres for shopping and services, with free short-stay parking dedicated on-street (over a thousand bays across these retail centres not including those in car parks).  New public parking opportunities have been provided through development (e.g. South Oxhey), capacity improvements in town centres (over 40 new spaces created and in process in Rickmansworth).

12l) Question to Councillor Paul Rainbow, Lead Member for Transport and Economic Development from Councillor Sara Bedford

What provision is being made for new cycleways to assist with lowering emissions and congestion and enabling safe cycling?

Written response:

The District Council is working with the County Council to develop improvements to several new local routes featured in the current Cycling Strategy (details here https://www.threerivers.gov.uk/cycling and the new Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan will propose new direct cycle routes connecting local towns and villages across the District.  This is shortly to be consulted on by HCC.

12m) Question to Councillor Paul Rainbow, Lead Member for Transport and Economic Development from Councillor Sara Bedford

What representations have officers made to bus operators or the County Council regarding recent cuts to local bus services?

Written response:

TRDC has no direct involvement on running bus routes and this overseen but HCC and Interlink. HCC are not involved with commercial decisions by bus operators that do not affect subsidised routes but are advised by the of route changes.  HCC has only informed TRDC once any new routes are agreed. It should be noted that with limited staffing in this area of the council’s operations and that we have no legal responsibility it would be impossible to monitor all changes especial if not informed in advance.

Having said that HCC has sought to adjust or secure revised routes when commercial operators make changes the most recent one that significantly affects Three Rivers is regarding the Route 103:

*HCC Officers have been in active discussions for the past 2 weeks with officers from Bucks CC

*As a result a solution has been found to maintain cross boundary links, albeit reduced.

*As part of this there will be a new service numbered 335/336 between Chorleywood and Watford but with four journeys each way (three on Saturdays) now extended from Chorleywood to Chalfont & Latimer Station and Amersham so retaining a cross-boundary link, connecting with the new 103.  We are awaiting costs in the next day or so but the service still incorporates the use of an existing school bus so additional costs are thought to be minimal and will be picked-up by BCC in any case.  The service is still on schedule to start at the end of July without any break in service.

*HCC Officers will be working on passenger communications to explain the changes in more detail, particularly those who will be travelling cross boundary

*Once the timetables are finalised, the team will also share them via this email chain for early visibility

12n) Report from Councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst, Lead Member for Infrastructure and Planning Policy

I am pleased to report that after a successful recruitment campaign we will have a new Head of Local Planning in place from 15 July. In addition we have secured at least for six months an addition senior planner to assist with workload and local plan activity.  I will be discussing with senior officers the staffing and workload of the team after the new Head of Local Planning arrives along with timescales and will issue any changes and an update to councillors and the public as soon as possible.

New dates have been agreed for the Local Plan Sub Committee and we currently remain on target to process the local plan as per the agreed timeframe that went to Council in February. Recommendations for those meetings will have to go to P&R for decisions that may affect this obviously but that will be for Members to decide.

Report: Not enough brownfield land capacity to meet housing demand

A detailed report https://www.lpdf.co.uk/wx-uploads/files/newsletters/Banking%20on%20Brownfield%20-%20Lichfields%20-%20Final.pdf

Has been produced that shows If every piece of land on councils’ brownfield land registers were to be built on, this capacity equates to just 31 per cent of the 4.5 million new homes needed over the next 15 years to meet demand.

The report says that banking on brownfield is not the solution to the housing emergency even if “significant” government support were forthcoming.

Published by the Land Promoters and Developers Federation (LPDF) and put together by planning consultancy Lichfields, the study considers whether previously developed land can supply enough of the right type of homes in the right places. The conclusion is that it is not possible.

The organisations explain that the analysis comes in response to the levelling up white paper, speeches at the 2021 Conservative Party Conference, and the £1.5 billion brownfield housing fund – all of which suggest that such land will satisfy housing need.

According to the report, the estimated capacity for land on brownfield registers is 1.4 million. This is the figure after 58,000 have been disregarded for double counting. Of the potential homes on the registers, 48 per cent are estimated to be flats. However, 17 per cent of households are likely to live in flats.

Paul Brocklehurst, chair of the LPDF, said: “If the government wants to meet its target of building 300,000 homes each year, no source of land can be ‘off the table’. Our analysis in this report shows that there is simply not enough brownfield land in any part of the country to meet housing needs alone.

“The reorientation of housing policy, and Homes England efforts towards brownfield regeneration, may help support the conditions where viable and developable land can come forward, but many of these sites will also require grants to unlock them, at greater expense to the taxpayer. Even with this policy support, greenfield land development will still be needed in every region, to meet current housing need.”

The report confirms concerns that many brownfield sites are also earmarked for apartments, when the overwhelming demand is for houses with gardens.

Banking on Brownfield can be found on the Land Promoters and Developers Federation website (pdf).

Local Plan concerns raised at Annual Local Government Conference

Having recently attend the LGA Annual Conference I had to the opportunity to not only discuss local plans concerns and the housing numbers imposed by central government but to discuss approaches made by Councils of different political control.

The Town and Country Planning Association has confirmed again that No Council has managed to have a Local Plan adopted with a lesser figure than proposed by the government and the Planning Inspectorate has rejected every approach for a plan that has a lesser figure, and that if lesser figures are proposed they have to be agreed under the “duty to co-operate” requirements.

An increasing number of Councils including like those of our neighbours in Hertfordshire, Hertsmere and Dacorum, has either postponed, delayed or suspended their local plan process.

It was clear from my conversations that we all agreed that the current process is divisive, bruising, and at times unpleasant. It has fractured communities and turned councillors against each other. The reason for the acrimony is easy to discern: the government’s brutal housing target which eclipses everything else in the plan-making process. Forget the semantics that it is a ‘housing need’ figure; it is for all practical purposes a rigid target.  It is clear Three Rivers is not alone.

Other authorities, in trying to find acceptable solutions, have made no progress over years of seemingly futile attempts to advance their plans that do not meet the imposed housing need. This approach runs the very real risk of leaving planning decisions to be made in a local policy vacuum with government inspectors making decisions that have huge implications for our district with no accountability to our residents.

The government methodology is deeply flawed and is focused on a misleading algorithm for what is needed without any real consideration of what is possible. It is based on out of date district-wide data and does not make any concessions for the 76% of the Green Belt covering the area.

Like other Councils our District's housing target was increased from 180 homes to 665 a year (12,316) during the plan period and that prior to increase Three Rivers was meeting the target. Like other Councils and the LGA we will continue to challenge this.

At the LGA other authority Leaders agreed with me that delaying, or postponing the local plan process whilst we continue to pressure the government for reduced targets, or better still a locally lead target was the right way as once a plan is agreed with a high target, using as in our case mainly Green Belt, there is no ability to row back.

LEAD LOCAL FLOODD AUTHORITY ADVICECE - We have demanded County Council fulfil its Statutory Duty

Since October the LLFA (HCC) has failed to provide advice on flooding issues to this authority. Despite assurances in December and February that this would be resolved it has not. The Council has advice from the Council’s Solicitor, who subsequently discussed matters with Counsel.  The Council’s Solicitor has confirmed the legal position is entirely uncontroversial: HCC have a legal duty to provide a substantive response as the LLFA when consulted on major applications. That legal duty cannot be avoided and is not discharged by pleading recruitment difficulties or financial constraints.

Although the matter has been raised with HCC at a Leader and Chief Executive level, it has still not been resolved.

The matter has now been escalated with a formal letter from myself and the Leader to the Chief Executive at HCC and the Chief Legal Officer pointing out the Council’s statutory duties and demanding that they immediately restore its provision of advice.

Given that the council is being frustrated by Hertfordshire County Council’s chronic failure to perform its statutory duty as the Lead Local Flood Authority, the Council is to instruct suitably qualified flood experts to advise it.

Given a “no comment” response from HCC, the Council would, arguably, be in breach of its statutory duty under Section 70 were it not to then seek and take into account professional external advice on surface water drainage / flooding where the issue was a ‘material consideration’ in respect of a planning application.  

12o) Question to Councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst Lead Member for Infrastructure and Planning Policy from Councillor Andrea Fraser

What due diligence is being taken to ensure sites considered for the Local Plan are available and deliverable before they are taken to consultation?

Written response:

The huge number of regulation 18 consultation responses are still being categorised and assessed by officers, including deliverability and availability,  and will be reported to the Local Plan Sub Committee in July and August. Sites are assessed on a number of criteria through the Strategic Housing and Employment Land Availability Assessment by professional officers and the full process will be discussed at the Sub Committee meetings which all Members are able to attend.

12p) Question to Councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst, Lead Member for Infrastructure and Planning Policy from Councillor Philip Hearn

Will the new Officers recruited to work on the Local Plan have an objective of collating the evidence required to support lower housing targets for Three Rivers as the current target would have a devastating impact on the Green Belt?

Written response:

The officer’s role is to present the factual information to Members based on Members policy decisions.  Officers are well aware that the administration view that the governments housing target for Three Rivers is unacceptable and continue to support the administration in providing evidence and support in pushing back against this in our attempts to persuade the Government change its view. I will of course be discussing this with the new officers appointed.

National policy remains such that Government Inspectors expect the District’s housing target as calculated by the standard method to be met in full.  To date no Local Plans with lower housing numbers have been successful at examination using the argument of protecting Green Belt.

12q) Question to Councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst, Lead Member for Infrastructure and Planning Policy from Councillor Abbas Merali

Can a breakdown be provided of Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) money collected by Ward? It is understood that over £7m in CIL money has been intentionally accumulated over several years in order to fund larger projects.  What is the strategy to allocate these funds proportionate to the infrastructure needs created by those developments that have contributed to the CIL?

Written response:

A breakdown of CIL collected by Ward can be provided, I will ask Officers to send to you.  The provision of funding will depend on the need for infrastructure in any area of the District.  The Council’s priorities for spending are set out in The Regulation 123 List which has now been superseded by the Infrastructure Funding Statement. Both documents can be found on the TRDC website.  The priorities for spending will evolve as the new Local Plan progresses.  We will also have requests from third parties and other infrastructure providers that will need to be assessed.

12r) Question to Councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst, Lead Member for Infrastructure and Planning Policy from Councillor Rue Grewal

At the last Local Plan sub-committee the Chair mentioned that “harm to communities” is now a consideration. What metrics will be used to measure this and ensure there is equity amongst sites?

Written response:

As advised already, officers will summarise the full consultation responses and it will be for Members to make the decisions as to what sites are taken forward once it has been agreed they meet the agreed criteria.

12s) Question to Councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst, Lead Member for Infrastructure and Planning Policy from Councillor David Raw

What are we going to do to reduce the costs of applications going to public enquiry as a result of us delaying the Local Plan?

Written response:

Update: I’m not sure what costs the Councillor is referring to.  There have been no recent costs awards against Three Rivers and where costs have been awarded in the past it has been due to Member overturns not being upheld by Inspectors rather than any issue with the Local Plan.

12t) Question to Councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst, Lead Member for Infrastructure and Planning Policy from Councillor Ciaran Reed

How has the Council considered the impact of the Chilterns Beechwoods Special Area of Conservation (SAC) on Three Rivers?

Written response:

All constraints are considered by officers when planning applications are assessed. Our planning application reports are very thorough. Officers weigh up sometimes competing policies and designations, assess whether they consider there is harm or not and make a recommendation accordingly.

The Chilterns Beechwoods Special Area of Conservation (SAC) was designated in 2005. Officers have repeatedly made requests to Natural England for guidance on how they consider the Zone of Influence relating to the SAC should be taken into account in planning decision making, however to date no guidance has been received. Three Rivers were not notified of the Zone of Influence by Natural England, because the District generates less than 2% of visits to the SAC.

The SAC is a consideration for the Council when determining planning applications, and consideration is given to development plan policies, to the statutory duties set out in the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, to the evidence relating to harm and to the relationship between TRDC and the Zone of Influence, both spatially and in terms of the number of visits generated from TRDC.

12u) Question to Councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst, Lead Member for Infrastructure and Planning Policy from Councillor Ciaran Reed

Does Three Rivers take seriously the need to keep green spaces between our settlements?

Written response:

Yes - The Council has undertaken a Green Belt review as part of its evidence work for the Local Plan.  This considered how parcels of land adjoining the District’s settlements performed against the five purposes of the Green Belt as set out in the NPPF and as a result a number of sites were excluded from the Regulation 18 consultation as agreed by Members.

12v) Question to Councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst, Lead Member for Infrastructure and Planning Policy from Councillor Ciaran Reed

When we will be able to see the public response to the Local Plan consultation?

Written response:

As all Members will know I hate to have to keep repeating myself, officers are still assessing the very high number of Regulation 18 consultation responses and these will be reported to the Local Plan Sub Committee in July and August and at other dates as required.  Also as the Member will know the departure of the Head of Planning and appointment of a new one has unfortunately led to an initial delay to which was reported at the last Council meeting.

12w) Question to Councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst, Lead Member for Infrastructure and Planning Policy from Councillor Rue Grewal

The fundamental aim of Green Belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open; the essential characteristics of Green Belts are their openness and their permanence.

  1. Green Belt serves 5 purposes:

(a) to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas; (b) to prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another; (c) to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment; (d) to preserve the setting and special character of historic towns; and (e) to assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land.

What is the justifiable reason to include sites like CSF13, CSF13, CFS69a, PCS47 and CFS52a in Carpenders Park alone that will merge different Boroughs into one and one and in some cases merge Greater London into Hertfordshire?

Written response:

As the Member well knows the Council is not legally able to discuss individual sites at this meeting and I must again refer to my previous answer and answers giving by the previous lead member and Chair of the Local Plan Sub committee.

The fact remains that until official Government policy changes, never mind Ministers letters or press statements which are not the same thing, Three Rivers will have some very difficult decisions to make to ensure there is sufficient new affordable housing, new employment opportunities and new infrastructure to support these, given that 76% of the District is Green Belt.

Whilst it the case that some additional development in Three Rivers is and will be required to support local communities and ensure housing prices  do not continue to rise locally beyond what local people and their families can afford to pay, employment opportunities decline as firms are unable to recruit locally because people cannot afford to live here, schools close as an aging static population no longer requires them and all growth grinds to a halt the figures ae in this administration view too high.

We as the administration are trying to strike a balance that does enable growth, but in a managed sustainable way and may I remind you that the regulation 18 first consultation that we undertook did propose a housing figure lower than the official Government target.  As my earlier report to this Council states the figures imposed by this government are unrealistic and too high. It would of course be helpful if the Members of Parliament from the members own party who represent parts of Three Rivers actually stood up in Parliament and said to the Secretary of State reduce the 12,316 figure for Three Rivers now.  Unfortunately to date they have not and continue in their statements and leaflets blame this Council for the Government’s figures.

Turning to the some of the points in the question it is a pity that like the Members of Parliament the Member has also made a false claim or as some would say “fake news” claiming that certain sites in the Regulation 18 Consultation, which of course is NOT the final decision of this Council, will merge Three Rivers with the London Borough in terms of built development.  This is NOT the case.

None of the consultation sites, which were proposed by land owners,  where they to be built on would merge new house building with built communities in another London Borough, namely assume he means Harrow as there will remain  either an open space or Green Belt buffer between Three Rivers and Harrow and indeed Hertsmere. Indeed the above issues regarding the Green Belt will again be considered as part of the reports on the consultation.

I would also point out that the members of Councillors party Supported the inclusion of the mentioned sites in the consultation with the public

I hope that the Government will after all listen to all the Shire Districts, not just Three Rivers, that are making the same comments about the unreasonable housing numbers.

12x) Question to Councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst, Lead Member for Infrastructure and Planning Policy from Councillor Sara Bedford

What communications has the Council had with Ministers in the past 12 months regarding lowering the numbers required for the Local Plan due to the high level of Green Belt in the District? What firm commitments have been received from Ministers?

Written response:

All written correspondence has been published in the Members Information Bulletin as far as I am aware for all see. Letters were sent in November 2021 to Michael Gove and Feb 2021 to Robert Jenrick.  Also on 10 December we assisted Daisy Cooper MP in writing to the Minister of State, Chris Pincher regarding housing targets and the Planning Inspectorate’s conclusion that the “provision to protect the Green Belt has not incorporated with the NPPF.  No commitments to allow for a reduced housing target or additional protection for the Green Belt have ever been received, and Government policy and targets remain, despite press comments.  I sincerely hope this changes.  Equally the Government says is committed to using 2014 data rather 2018 or indeed not even the latest census data for calculating housing needs.

12y) Urgent question to Councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst, Lead Member for Infrastructure and Planning Policy, received after the deadline for questions but agreed by the Chief Executive to be taken as an urgent question, from Councillor Sara Bedford

What are the risks to the Council and to residents following the decision of the Lead Local Flood Authority (a Statutory Consultee) to respond with 'No comment' to consultations from Local Planning Authorities?

Written response:

HCC have a legal duty to provide a substantive response as the LLFA when consulted on major applications. That legal duty cannot be avoided and is not discharged by pleading recruitment difficulties or financial constraints. The Council has sought legal advice and the HHC appears to be breach of legal objections,

This later was raised some months ago both by chief Officers and the Leader of Council direct with County Council and despite assurances that the matter would be resolved it has not..

If HCC do not provide a substantive response, and officers not being satisfied on objective grounds relating to the size of the proposed development, flood plain, ground conditions or other relevant data, that it constitutes a “substantive response” and HCC refuse to respond further, the Council would, arguably, be in breach of its statutory duty were it not to then seek and take into account professional external advice on surface water drainage / flooding where the issue was a ‘material consideration’ in respect of a planning application.  As a result officers are currently seeking specialist consultants to provide this advice on relevant planning applications.

Officers consider it appropriate that in circumstances where the determination of a major planning application is being frustrated by Hertfordshire County Council’s chronic failure to perform its statutory duty as the Lead Local Flood Authority, the Council instruct suitably qualified flood experts to advise it. Officers note that HCC currently are seeking outside help itself from such companies in discharging its duties. In those circumstances, officers are of the view that it is unlikely that any court would find that the Council had acted carelessly or negligently in seeking and relying on such expert advice were a claim to be later made. Notwithstanding this substantive point, as matter of general public law, the local planning authority are not liable, other than in exceptional circumstances, to neighbouring landowners in negligence for granting planning permission for development adversely affecting their interests.

Given the above myself and the Leader of the Council have written a letter to the Chief Executive of HCC and the Chief Legal Officer (now circulated to members) pointing out the legal duty of the County Council and asking them to immediately restore the legal duty to provide advice.

12z) Report from Councillor Andrew Scarth, Lead Member for Housing

I am pleased and proud to report that as of 27 June, 81 Ukrainian refugees have moved to the District via the Homes for Ukraine Scheme. These composed of 59 adults and 22 Children.

However there was a concern that if these and any other future Ukrainian families need to leave their present accommodation, they may make a homelessness application and put pressure on the Housing team having to find them temporary accommodation in the District, or outside.

Government guidance has changed regarding Ukrainians. They can now be put up in B&Bs.

The Housing team are still trying to get suitable accommodation for one Afghanistan family within the District. Government guidelines are such that finding private properties at low rent within Three Rivers for a family is an ongoing challenge.

Council has 5 properties to provide for single homeless tenants. 5 more are in the process of being purchased.  These are as a result of successful bids for Government grants.  All are managed by Watford Community Trust [WCH] and the tenants receive wrap-around support from New Hope Trust.

As of 27 June, all Temporary Accommodation [TA] units in the District owned by Council were fully occupied, which had required the Housing team to place 3 families in Luton, 1 in Dunstable, and 1 in Hemel Hempstead. These are on the basis of nightly lets, but the team hope to be able to move them back into the District soon.

As a result of Kimberley Grout’s promotion to Executive Head of Services, the Housing team will be managed jointly by the Strategic Housing Manager and Housing Operations Manager. This also includes some changes to current responsibilities. From now on the Strategic Housing Manager will be responsible for Residential Environmental Health, private sector housing, refugee support and all Housing strategies and policies. The Housing Operations manager will be responsible for Housing Options, temporary accommodation and the housing register.  Finally, I am pleased to report that all vacant posts in the Housing team have been filled.

12aa) Question to Councillor Andrew Scarth, Lead Member for Housing, from Councillor Sara Bedford

How will changes to the affordable housing funding programme signalled by the Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ White Paper affect the provision of social housing in the District?

Written response:

It is assumed that the question relates to: “The £11.5bn Affordable Homes Programme will deliver up to 180,000 affordable homes with 75% of these delivered outside London, and lever in an additional £38bn in public and private investment in affordable housing. The UK Government will also increase the amount of social housing available over time to provide the most affordable housing to those who need it. This will include reviewing how to support councils to deliver greater numbers of council homes, alongside Housing Associations.”  Taken from page 224 of the document.  Unfortunately, without greater detail, it is difficult to predict what impact this will have on the Council and future affordable housing.

LEISURE, ENVIRONMENT AND COMMUNITY

Reports from the Lead Member for Leisure (Cllr Chris Lloyd), Lead Member for Environmental Services, Climate Change & Sustainability (Cllr Phil Williams), Lead Member for Community Safety and Partnerships (Cllr Roger Seabourne) and questions.

12bb) Report from Councillor Chris Lloyd, Lead Member for Leisure

Watersmeet

  • Accessible Toilet – contract awarded. Work Scheduled for August. Thanks to Friends of Watersmeet and Friends of Watersmeet Film Society who have provided in funding. (The film society are paying for all of it)
  • Panto sales continue to be on track and civic night date is TBC
  • Ticket solve awarded box office system contract, due to go live in September
  • Congratulations to Josh Sills who is now Head of Customer Experience
  • Tickets sales continue to improve for live theatre although film sales remain lower then pre-pandemic levels and the hires calendar has not returned to 2019 levels of bookings until September.

Health

  • Everyone Active in partnership with Kaleidoscope Dance & ColourPath Golf is running TWO HAPPY programmes at Rickmansworth Golf course this summer. Running every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10:00 – 14:00 with a Hot Lunch included for each participant, the programme is targeted to young people aged 12 – 16 who are in receipt of free school meals, commences on 26 July and runs through till 25 August with 10 Spaces on each programme for each day.
  • Stephanie Singer has taken over from Cllr Alison Scarth as TRDC member on HCC Health Scrutiny.  Topics scrutinised included Long Covid and Digital improvements of GP practices.
  • Development of the health and wellbeing partnership as a substructure of the LSP, and
  • Development of a health inequalities plan as part of the work on Place Based Health Inequalities which is funded by County

Leisure

  • Site Visit to look at Grassland management in Leavesden Country Park on 30 June. There was a second opportunity on 11 July.
  • Cattle due (Red Devons) due in Horses Field @ Leavesden County Park w/c 11 July
  • Cattle on the Moor w/c 28 April 2022
  • Sheep at Withy Beds (unknown) w/c 28 April 2022
  • Cattle at Chorleywood House Estate - TBA but were due on site w/c 27 June – however possible delays due to ongoing damage of the fencing of the North Hill field compartment
  • Consultations on Management Plans at Aquadrome and South Oxhey Play fields have been completed. Responses being analysed and report to LEC latter in the year.
  • Planning permission has been granted for Eastbury Gym. Thank to you ward members, Batchworth Community Council and officers for all the work getting us to this stage.
  • I attended the 5th Anniversary of Leavesden Junior Parkrun on Sunday 26 June. Spoke briefly and then volunteered as Marshall.
  • Leavesden Parkrun is due to start in the autumn. Let me know if you would like to join the Volunteers list.
  • I attended Watford and Three Rivers Sports Partnership Annual Awards held on Watersmeet on Monday 20 July. Gail Emms was the Guest Speaker. (Presented one of the Awards and plugged Parkrun). This event was not held in person in the last 2 years.
  • I attended Herts Sport Partnership Event on Sunday 10 July @ Hertfordshire Sports Visit in Hatfield

12cc) Question to Councillor Chris Lloyd, Lead Member for Leisure from Councillor Lisa Hudson

Why does the working group discussing the Rickmansworth Bowls club not have any Councillors from the Rickmansworth Town Ward on it?

Written response:

The working group is an informal discussion group comprising Members & Officers, which was established to progress the re-letting of the Bowls Clubs on a more financially sustainable basis. It is not an official Sub Committee or Working Party reporting back to a Council Committee.

The purpose of the group is essentially to inform the revised terms upon which a new lease or licence could be offered to the Bowls Clubs at Basing Gardens (Rickmansworth) and Mill End.

It is not possible to include the remaining part of the summons as part of the webpage but it can be found in the document heresummons-from-question-12dd-to-part-ii-business-including-motions2-1.pdf (pdf)

Joanne Wagstaffe, Chief Executive, 4 July 2022