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Agenda and minutes

Venue: Swale House, East Street, Sittingbourne, Kent, ME10 3HT

Contact: Democratic Services, 01795 417330  Democratic Services Officer

Items
No. Item

Audio Recording

411.

Prayers

Minutes:

The Mayor’s Chaplain said prayers.

412.

Emergency Evacuation Procedure

The Chairman will advise the meeting of the evacuation procedures to follow in the event of an emergency. This is particularly important for visitors and members of the public who will be unfamiliar with the building and procedures.

 

The Chairman will inform the meeting whether there is a planned evacuation drill due to take place, what the alarm sounds like (i.e. ringing bells), where the closest emergency exit route is, and where the second closest emergency exit route is, in the event that the closest exit or route is blocked.

 

The Chairman will inform the meeting that:

 

(a) in the event of the alarm sounding, everybody must leave the building via the nearest safe available exit and gather at the Assembly points at the far side of the Car Park.  Nobody must leave the assembly point until everybody can be accounted for and nobody must return to the building until the Chairman has informed them that it is safe to do so; and

 

(b) the lifts must not be used in the event of an evacuation.

 

Any officers present at the meeting will aid with the evacuation.

 

It is important that the Chairman is informed of any person attending who is disabled or unable to use the stairs, so that suitable arrangements may be made in the event of an emergency.

Minutes:

The Mayor outlined the emergency evacuation procedure.

413.

Minutes

To approve the Minutes of the Meeting held on 13 November 2019 (Minute Nos. 356 - 367) as a correct record.

Minutes:

The Minutes of the Meeting held on 13 November 2019 (Minute Nos.356 - 367) were taken as read, approved and signed by the Mayor as a correct record.

414.

Declarations of Interest

Councillors should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves or their spouse, civil partner or person with whom they are living with as a spouse or civil partner.  They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.

 

The Chairman will ask Members if they have any interests to declare in respect of items on this agenda, under the following headings:

 

(a)          Disclosable Pecuniary Interests (DPI) under the Localism Act 2011.  The nature as well as the existence of any such interest must be declared.  After declaring a DPI, the Member must leave the meeting and not take part in the discussion or vote.  This applies even if there is provision for public speaking.

 

(b)          Disclosable Non Pecuniary (DNPI) under the Code of Conduct adopted by the Council in May 2012.  The nature as well as the existence of any such interest must be declared.  After declaring a DNPI interest, the Member may stay, speak and vote on the matter.

 

(c)          Where it is possible that a fair-minded and informed observer, having considered the facts would conclude that there was a real possibility that the Member might be predetermined or biased the Member should declare their predetermination or bias and then leave the room while that item is considered.

 

Advice to Members:  If any Councillor has any doubt about the existence or nature of any DPI or DNPI which he/she may have in any item on this agenda, he/she should seek advice from the Monitoring Officer, the Head of Legal or from other Solicitors in Legal Services as early as possible, and in advance of the Meeting.

Minutes:

No interests were declared.

415.

Mayor's Announcements

Minutes:

The Mayor announced that Lady Colgrain DL, had been appointed as Lord-Lieutenant of the County of Kent in succession to The Viscount De L’Isle CVO MBE when he retired on 21 April 2020.

 

In his announcements, the Mayor compared the way residents of Swale received information about the work of the Council, since his last time in office as Mayor in 1986/87 and questioned whether all residents were receiving relevant information via social media.

 

Since the last Council meeting in November 2019, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor had attended a variety of events, mostly related to Christmas. He highlighted a church service attended by the newly installed Bishop of Dover, Bishop Rose at Eastchurch who was the first female Bishop to celebrate Holy Communion on the Isle of Sheppey.  The Mayor also spoke of his visit to Borden Church to see a collection of Christmas Cribs from across the World, owned by Libby Purves and used to raise funds for The Children’s Society. He also spoke of the many Christmas events involving children, the lonely and elderly residents of the Borough and said that he and the Deputy Mayor supported the Oasis Dementia café events.

 

Finally the Mayor advised that his Civic Service would be held on the afternoon of Friday 27March 2020 at St Georges School, Minster and would include pupils from local schools.

416.

Questions submitted by the Public

To consider any questions submitted by the public.  (The deadline for questions is 4.30 pm on the Wednesday before the meeting – please contact Democratic Services by e-mailing democraticservices@swale.gov.uk or call 01795 417330).

Minutes:

There were no questions submitted by the public.

417.

Questions submitted by Members pdf icon PDF 56 KB

To consider any questions submitted by Members.  (The deadline for questions is 4.30 pm on the Monday the week before the meeting – please contact Democratic Services by e-mailing democraticservices@swale.gov.uk or call 01795 417330).

 

Topics of questions from Members published Tuesday 31 December 2019.

Minutes:

The Mayor advised that 10 questions had been received from Members.  Each Member was invited to put his/her question, which was responded by the relevant Cabinet Member.  The questioner was then invited to ask a supplementary question.

 

Details of the questions and responses are set out below:

 

Question 1 – Councillor Tim Gibson:

 

In the general election campaign Gordon Henderson indicated on his leaflets that the level of housing numbers being imposed by the Government were excessive. In view of the strong mandate the Government now has to continue with its housing numbers, how should this Council lobby for more reasonable targets and what part would the Leader hope local MPs could play in this lobbying?

 

Response – Leader

 

It is appropriate that our Local MPs should take a position on the punitive levels of housing allocations being demanded of this Council because, contrary to some local misconceptions, the drive in this direction comes from their government not from this Council. The pressure is unrealistic, taking little account of the restraints we have in terms of land supply and the nature of the market here. As we demonstrate that existing targets cannot be met, the Government response is to augment the unrealistic target with inflated figures for future years. It is a case of finding out what cannot be done and then demanding more of it.

 

Considerable lobbying has already taken place through this administration with blunt words being directed at the then Minister for Local Government James Brokenshire and with our frustrations being loudly articulated at meetings with other Kent local authorities and at Thames Gateway and North Kent leaders. We have also met with Homes England where our desire to re-balance housing supply in favour of affordable and social housing was well received but where we were told bluntly that the Government would be unrelenting in its target expectations.

 

And that was before a General Election that has greatly enhanced the Government's mandate to carry out all its policies including intensive housing growth in this and other South East boroughs. The Government can intensify the pressure, partly through appeal decisions and partly by making it obvious that infrastructure investment is not conditional on catching up on existing deficits but on the acceptance of radically increased housing allocations in the future. 

 

So, any support from Mr Henderson would be welcome but he, like us, is facing an uphill task. I will discuss these matters with him, as I have done before, and I can report that he has arranged a meeting with Esther McVey at Westminster on 27th January 2020, always presuming that she is still Housing Minister then. 

 

Supplementary Question and Response

 

There was no supplementary question

 

Question 2 – Councillor Winckless

 

During the General Election Campaign the newly elected M.P. for Sittingbourne and Sheppey said in a B.B.C. interview that it was not in his power to do anything about poverty. Is that your view as Leader of the Council that nothing can be done?     

 

Response –  ...  view the full minutes text for item 417.

418.

Leader's Statement

Minutes:

The Leader was pleased to report to Council that the Development Agreement with the consortium “Spirit of Sittingbourne” had ended. He said that this meant that the plans to build over 200 high rise apartments on three Sittingbourne town centre sites would not now go ahead, and that these sites had been been allocated free of cost to the developers by the previous Council. They included the Cockleshell Walk and Spring Street car parks and the land next to Fountain Street. The Leader said that Phase 2 of the Sittingbourne Town centre project, involving development at Swale House and around the centre of the town, near the Swallows Leisure Centre and library, was now cancelled and any pressure for further capital borrowing on unlikely projects had been avoided.  The Leader added that Spirit of Sittingbourne would complete the Cinema, restaurants and hotel development in the Forum but thereafter would not be involved in the regeneration of Sittingbourne.

 

In reference to the Development Agreement, the Leader said that the project was not the best way to regenerate Sittingbourne as a town, as it tried to do too much inside the confines of one project when a series of more specific plans might have been more productive. He said it was beyond the capacity of the Council to deliver, and too much control was handed over to one developer partner. The Leader said that, as a result, the Council, over the last 7 years or so, had been over dependent for delivery on that one partner and this had made the process too slow, with too many delays and, in reference to the roadworks, frustrating and below expectations.  He added that, from the start, there had been a lack of clarity and certainty about funding which eventually led to the Council, in 2017, deciding to become the main investor, with all the risks that that could entail. He said that the Council had borrowed a lot of money and must do all it could to ensure that this was not a financial burden over the next few years.  The Leader said that the Council had worked together in achieving its own Withdrawal Agreement with finesse.

 

In considering the potential benefits, the Leader said that it gave the Council, in consultation with the local community, the chance to take control again of how it wanted Sittingbourne to develop, to encourage the High Street in a realistic and responsible way and to preserve the heritage of the town and in the interests of local people.  The Leader went on to say that the Car parks in the Fountain Street sites should never have been handed over to the developers and it would be a relief to many local residents that the high-rise flats would not be built.  He said that the Council would now be able to use these sites in the best interests and needs of local people.

 

In reference to the rest of Phase 1 (the cinema, hotel and restaurants), the Leader  ...  view the full minutes text for item 418.

419.

Progress on The Climate Change and Ecological Emergency Declaration pdf icon PDF 80 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Cabinet Member for Environment introduced the report and referred to the motion agreed at Council on 26 June 2019, when Swale Borough Council declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency.  He acknowledged the amendment submitted by Councillor Nicholas Hampshire in pledging that an annual progress report be submitted to Council every January.

 

The Cabinet Member for Environment went through the progress highlights on page 6 of the report drawing particular attention to the work under way by the Carbon Trust in developing an action plan to achieve net zero carbon by 2025 on the Council’s own estate, including the refurbishment of Swale House. He spoke of the energy efficiency measures requested in planning applications for new developments as well as the provision of new Electrical Vehicle (EV) chargers in the Borough, including near junction 6 of the M2.

 

In response, the Leader congratulated the Cabinet Member for Environment and Members and officers of the steering group.

 

The Leader of the Conservative group was critical and disappointed with the lack of progress in the report, and said that it lacked information on the changes required and the impact on residents and businesses in Swale who would need advance warning on what they should do and the policies being introduced to help them, or that may place obstructions in their way, so they could prepare for the longer term.  He questioned the costs and unrealistic timescales of insulating properties and whilst acknowledging the approval from DEFRA in September 2019 for the Air Quality Management Plan, reminded Members that  this was written by the previous administration.  The Leader of the Conservative group questioned what the targets were and how they would be measured, and raised concern over the costs to the public.  Lastly, the leader of the Conservative group questioned whether other services in the Council would be reduced to pay for the plan.

 

Other Members raised points which included:

 

·         Not enough detail in the report;

·         developers needed to know what was required before submitting a planning application;

·         there were no on-street charging points, as there were in other Boroughs;

·         disappointed that the steering group was not cross-party;

·         few solutions;

·         needed to have the electric bus depot in the Borough ;

·         the new hotel had new electric charging points;

·         it took time for changes to filter through;

·         there would be more control now that SBC were free from Spirit of Sittingbourne;

·         it was work in progress;

·         20’s plenty would not necessarily assist;

·         glad to see single use plastic reduction;

·         what plans were there to support initiatives such as the recently approved storage facilities at Nicholls Transport?;

·         how would the needs of the largest Industrial site in Kent be met and allowed to continue to grow and thrive?;

·         needed sustainable communities, not being car dependent;

·         should aim high, there was lots to do but were restricted;

·         should lobby Central Government to seek a policy change on the restriction of solar panels on school buildings;

·         drew attention to Plastic Free Sheerness;

·         why turn down development on  ...  view the full minutes text for item 419.

420.

Appointment to Outside Bodies - Queenborough Fisheries Trust pdf icon PDF 66 KB

Minutes:

The Mayor announced that Item 11 – Appointment to Outside Bodies – Queenborough Fisheries Trust and Item 12 – Appointment to Outside Bodies – Faversham Pools had been withdrawn from the Agenda, and he asked the Leader to speak.

 

The Leader explained that more consideration was required for Outside Body appointments since it had been many years since the last review.  He advised that the matter would come back to Members for consideration in due course.

421.

Appointment to Outside Bodies - Faversham Pools pdf icon PDF 64 KB

Minutes:

This item was withdrawn from the Agenda.

422.

Appointment of Local Independent Members for Swale to the Independent Members' Remuneration Panel pdf icon PDF 70 KB

Minutes:

The Mayor referred to the exempt appendix and Members indicated there would be no discussion on it.

 

The Leader proposed and the Leader of the Conservative group seconded the recommendations in the report.

 

Resolved:

 

(1)  That the extension of the appointment of Mr Lionel Robbins as a Local Independent Member for Swale to the Joint Independent Remuneration Panel for a further three year term of office be agreed.

(2) That the appointment of Mr Christopher Webb as a Local Independent Member for Swale to the Joint Independent Remuneration Panel for a three year term of office be agreed.

(3) That it be noted that Independent Members of the Independent Remuneration Panel is restricted to two consecutive three year terms of office to maintain their independence.

423.

Recommendations for Approval

Council is asked to note the recommendations from the following meetings:

 

Cabinet meeting held on 18 December 2019

Minutes:

Resolved:

 

(1) That the recommendations in Minute No.401 from the Cabinet meeting held on 18 December 2019 be noted.

424.

Exempt appendices for Appointment of Local Independent Members Remuneration Panel

Minutes:

There was no discussion on the exempt appendices.

 

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