Agenda and draft minutes

Guildhall, High Street, Strategic Scrutiny Committee - Thursday 23rd September 2021 5.30 pm

Venue: Guildhall

Contact: Sharon Sissons, Democratic Services Officer  Tel: 01392 265115 or email  sharon.sissons@exeter.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

18.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 170 KB

To approve and sign the minutes of the Strategic Scrutiny Committee held on 10 June 2021.

 

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 10 June 2021 were taken as read, approved and signed by the Chair as correct.

19.

Declaration of Interest

Councillors are reminded of the need to declare any disclosable pecuniary interests that relate to business on the agenda and which have not already been included in the register of interests, before any discussion takes place on the item. Unless the interest is sensitive, you must also disclose the nature of the interest. In accordance with the Council's Code of Conduct, you must then leave the room and must not participate in any further discussion of the item.  Councillors requiring clarification should seek the advice of the Monitoring Officer prior to the day of the meeting.

 

Minutes:

No declarations of pecuniary interest were made by Members.

20.

Questions from the Public Under Standing Order 19

Details of questions should be notified to the Corporate Manager Democratic and Civic Support via the committee.services@exeter.gov.uk email by 10.00am at least three working days prior to the meeting. For this meeting any questions must be submitted by 10.00am on Monday 20th September 2021.

 

For details about how to speak at Committee, please click the following link -  https://exeter.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/councillors-and-meetings/public-speaking-at-meetings/overview/

 

 

 

Minutes:

In accordance with Standing Order 19, two members of the public, Mr Cleasby and Mrs Hyde submitted the following questions:-

 

1.   Mr Cleasby asked - Will the relevant Portfolio Holder please state the constituent elements of the Council’s current plans for the redevelopment of the area bounded by Sidwell Street, Paris Street and Cheeke Street, and provide a report of progress to date in achieving those plans?

The Leader, Councillor Bialyk attended the meeting and gave the following response stating that officer time had previously gone into providing an update on this topic. He referred Mr Cleasby to that statement, which was as follows - “The Memorandum of Agreement with the principal landholders has been provisionally agreed which provides for both a long term ownership structure of the site and for the joint promotion of opportunities as they arise. This will enable the Council and/ or the principal landowners to select development partners or deliver elements of the scheme themselves. We are currently in talks with both the Government Property Agency and the University regarding their joining with us to deliver the first phase of development, this being the Exeter Civic Hub, where the City Council and public sector partners can create a vibrant city core, anchoring activity in the city centre and contributing to its continued resilience.

 

Mr Cleasby appreciated the confirmation that there had been no change since that earlier statement. He asked a supplementary question and referred to a comment by the Portfolio Holder for Communities and Culture relating to a Council grant for the Positive Light Projects to occupy a vacant shop unit in Sidwell Street. He suggested this would play an important role in reinvigorating Sidwell Street and could be the spark for other artistic and cultural initiatives to follow.

 

The Leader confirmed that discussions with the relevant parties were continuing and officers were committed to putting partners together to find a reuse of this site. The redevelopment of the whole of the City Point site was some years away, but he was confident that a plan would come to fruition. 

 

2.   Mrs Hyde asked - Does the Council propose increasing the removal of Graffiti which has proliferated throughout the City, are they in liaison with those responsible for the Bridges affected, road signs, and junction boxes graffitied, and are the Police trying to identify the culprits?

 

The Portfolio Holder City Management, Councillor Harvey, attended the meeting and gave the following response stating that whilst very effort was made to solve the problem, graffiti remained a significant problem for the city. There was no additional funding for the Council’s graffiti service and with further central government budgets cuts forecast for the next few years, it was unlikely that we would be able to do so.  He referred to the importance of graffiti removal, which is why a free service has been maintained for residents, even though it was not part of the Council’s statutory responsibilities.  The team is always busy and since 1  ...  view the full minutes text for item 20.

21.

Questions from Members of the Council Under Standing Order 20

To receive questions from Members of the Council to the relevant Portfolio Holders for this Scrutiny Committee. The Portfolio Holders reporting to this Scrutiny Committee are:-

 

Councillor Bialyk -       Leader

Councillor Sutton -      Portfolio Holder for Net Zero Exeter 2030

Councillor Foale -       Portfolio Holder for Transformation and Environment

Councillor Morse -      Portfolio Holder for City Development

Councillor Wood -       Portfolio Holder for Leisure & Physical Activity

 

Advance questions from Members relating to the Portfolio Holders above should be notified to the Corporate Manager Democratic and Civic Support.

 

Minutes:

In accordance with Standing Order 20, the following questions were submitted by Councillors D Moore and Jobson respectively.

 

Councillor Moore asked the following two questions –

 

1.   Can the Portfolio Holder provide details of the Devon Devolution proposals that the local paper says were sent to Government by local authority leaders in Devon?

 

The Leader, Councillor Bialyk responded and referred to correspondence on this matter between John Hart, Leader of Devon County Council from the Rt Hon Robert Jenrick, MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. Copies would be circulated to Members for information.

 

John Hart’s letter outlined a broad indication of Devon’s ambition for a county deal. Robert Jenrick’s reply relayed a further change of the position of Government with regard to local devolution. Councillor Bialyk said that Devon’s Leaders had already indicated their aspiration to create an economic county deal as opposed to a political county deal and a Memorandum of Understanding had been drawn up to that effect. Exeter City Council, along with the other Districts, wished to retain their political autonomy but could come together to share and benefit from funding opportunities rather than the prevailing method of local authorities effectively bidding against each other. Exeter, has been successful in a number of Government funding bids, but were now looking to establish more of a collective economic powerhouse for Devon with all of the benefits that might bring.  He anticipated that a Members’ presentation would be made at the appropriate time.

 

Councillor Moore thanked the Leader and referred to the level of unsustainable growth, and whether addressing climate change and dealing with the Ecological Climate Emergency would be considered as a top priority as part of any economic deal, and to clarify that an Elected Mayor was not included in the economic proposals.

 

Councillor Bialyk stated that climate change was at the heart of everything. He hoped to make an announcement very soon on the intention to lead on this matter with other partners, as it was clear that action was needed. He also confirmed that were no plans for seeking an Elected Mayor, but rather that Devon’s District Authorities would continue in a more collective and collaborative way.

 

2.   In May 21 the ‘Review of population estimates and projections produced by the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS)was published by the statistics regulator in response to perceived inaccuracies for household projections in cities with large student populations.

 

     As the ONS figures inform subsequent housing needs projections, please can the portfolio holder explain?

 

a) If they have or will approach the ONS on this matter, and

b) What actions they intend to take to ensure the housing needs data for Exeter is accurate.

 

Councillor Bialyk offered a prepared response on behalf of the Portfolio Holder City Development, Councillor Morse as she was unable to attend the meeting.

 

a)  The Council was aware of the review of the ONS population projections. Such reviews of methodology are not uncommon and are drawn to the attention  ...  view the full minutes text for item 21.

22.

Petition - received in relation to the Protection of Green Infrastructure in Pinhoe pdf icon PDF 325 KB

To consider the report of the Deputy Chief Executive.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillors Harvey and Wood attended the meeting as local Members to speak on this matter having given notice under Standing Order 44.

 

The Assistant Service Lead - Local Plan presented a report which reminded Members of the petition containing more than 2,000 signatures regarding the protection of green infrastructure in Pinhoe, which was submitted to Council in July and referred to this Scrutiny Committee.

 

The Chair invited the petition organiser, Kate Jago to speak on this matter. She thanked the Scrutiny Committee for the opportunity to speak and referred to the environment and biodiversity in Pinhoe which had been deteriorating over time. The community had been watching this happen with increasing anxiety.  The petition had found support from people across Exeter, with contact made by other groups concerned at the scale of loss in their areas. She suggested a Ridgeline Park project would protect the distinctive landscape of the northern hills and connect across the city and beyond, to the city’s valley parks and an extension to the Green Circle walk, to reach to the Greater Exeter areas of Poltimore and Cranbrook. This was an opportunity to safeguard these green spaces for local people and whilst there was already an amazing network of green spaces across Exeter, this would further develop the narrative of the City status and enhance the Council’s reputation of being ambitious for growth, development quality and environmental enhancement. 

 

Ms Jago suggested new policy frameworks should be explored for carbon offsetting and other nature recovery investment models. Natural England has already begun this process. Local Plan consultations needed new models of mapping and protecting green infrastructure to recharge the sense of civic participation. Councils could develop a new model for community housing, with local housing for local people alongside the Liveable Exeter and Exeter Net Zero plans. Exeter City Council had the opportunity to lead on this as it builds a new Local Plan and a Ridgeline Park would achieve these objectives. She asked Members to help create change to begin the process of priority that could uniquely shape this city in a new direction.

 

The Assistant Service Lead - Local Plan referred to the opportunity to discuss this matter and inform the early discourse on the Local Plan, currently out for consultation. The circulated report referred to the Council’s existing planning policy, acknowledging the importance of our green infrastructure including in the areas north of Pinhoe. This was already set out in our core strategy and our local plan review.  Early work on the Local Plan will help to create a strong framework for the Liveable Exeter programme, and bring forward strategic brown field sites in order to create liveable neighbourhoods and avoid environmental losses such as areas like the north of Pinhoe.  It was also relevant to bring in the work of the County Council and links to the city’s Transport Strategy. The report also made reference to neighbourhood planning and neighbourhood activity which can also help inform local policy. He was keen to understand  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22.

23.

Graffiti Service pdf icon PDF 799 KB

To consider the report of the Director Net Zero Exeter & City Management.

 

Minutes:

The Chair invited Councillor Vizard to make a brief introduction as he had submitted a proforma request to the Scrutiny Programme Board for a review to be undertaken on the graffiti service. The Board referred the request to this Committee.

 

Councillor Vizard spoke and advised that Councillor Oliver, had made the original suggestion at Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee but it was also thought appropriate to discuss the matter here. He welcomed the detailed report.

 

The Operations Manager (Parks and Green Spaces) referred to the challenging financial constraints faced by the Council, following Covid -19, which had resulted in the Graffiti Service being paused for nine months to enable budgetary savings to be made.  The removal of the service, barring the cleaning of offensive material, quickly showed that the level of graffiti and tagging extended beyond the contained levels seen prior to the suspension, and had a particular impact on neighbourhoods. Complaints went up significantly in line with the increasing graffiti levels. The service was reinstated in April 2021 and demand for graffiti removal has remained high, with an excess of over 1,130 reports made via the Council’s on line reporting portal. This discretionary service only had the capacity within the available budget for one full time graffiti operative.

 

Exeter City Council has looked to support the continuation of the free service to residents by working with other organisations and landlords and securing external grant funding. In terms of looking to the future, the community element of the ‘Save the Streets Project’ will look at prevention measures within the city and include further opportunities for mural art, and engagement with external organisations including utilities companies, and the community to identify where such measures would be the most effective.

 

A Member suggested there must be good examples of quality public art around the city and that could include graffiti, the ‘quirky bird’ art which appeared during lockdown was a good example of sponsored public art. Whilst, initiatives such as graffiti walls were unlikely to offer an outlet for the greater nuisance of tagging, which fostered an unacceptable downgrading of neighbourhoods and created negative anti-social consequences, he did appreciate that some opportunity to enable these perpetrators to release their creative energy might have an effect.

 

The Operations Manager (Public and Green Spaces) made the following responses –

 

·      Exeter City Council does not routinely keep a profile or database of those who carry out graffiti or tagging. However, a database and photographic record of all tags that are removed is kept. This information on the Council’s Firmstep reporting system can be shared with the Police, and used towards any investigation and subsequent prosecution. A request would be made to Exeter Community Partnership to enquire if they maintained a similar database or could establish a database.

·      grant funding was part of Devon County Council’s ward funding and there was scope for further funding throughout the city whenever necessary.

·      residents could still telephone and report graffiti on utility boxes or structures that had no identifying marks.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 23.

24.

Forward Plan of Business

Please see for noting a link to the schedule of future business proposed for the Council which can be viewed on the Council’s web site -

https://exeter.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/councillors-and-meetings/forward-plan-of-executive-decisions/

 

 

Minutes:

Members noted the Forward Plan.

25.

Chair of Strategic Scrutiny Committee

Minutes:

The Chair, Councillor Sills announced that whilst he would remain on the Scrutiny Committee he would be stepping down from the role of Chair due to his growing work commitments. He had welcomed the opportunity that the last four years had given him and thanked Members and officers for their support.

 

The Committee thanked Councillor Sills for his enthusiasm and focus.