Agenda item

Questions from the Public Under Standing Order 19

Details of questions should be notified to the Corporate Manager Democratic and Civic Support via the 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.


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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 April 2021 they have removed over 700 instances of graffiti.


Exeter City Council are not the land owners for a large proportion of the structures that are vandalised city wide, with many owned by private residents or by other large organisations such as Network Rail, Devon County Council as Highway Authority or the Environment Agency.  To enable us to offer a free service to residents for graffiti removal, we try to get other organisations to take responsibility for their own assets and remove it themselves, or fund us to undertake the removal with our in-house team.   These, often much larger organisations, have their own funding streams and this approach maximises the amount of graffiti we are able to remove in the City.  We are in contact with them regularly.  The City Council works closely with the local neighbourhood policing team and the Community Safety Partnership over this and other associated anti-social behaviour.  We also retain a database of tags which when combined with evidence from the community and our own CCTV system has led to a number of arrests.  Evidence from the local community lead to three arrests recently following a spate of racist graffiti in the City.  The problem is taken very seriously and we use our resources as best we can to tackle the problem.


Mrs Hyde appreciated that the City Council were doing as much as they possibly could but she sought clarification about the process for reporting when the lack of identifying marks on the structures made identification difficult.


Councillor Harvey appreciated that identification was a problem and reassured Mrs Hyde that officers were looking into a process to request those organisations to identify their assets so that any such requests for graffiti removal could be treated properly.