This is a meeting of the Council of Basingstoke & Dean Borough Council held on the 23rd Mar 2023.

The last meeting of the Council was on the 22nd Feb 2024, and the next meeting will be 21st Mar 2024.

Meeting Status

Confirmed

Agenda Published

Yes

Decisions Published

No

Minutes Published

Yes

Meeting Location

Council Chamber - Deanes

Meeting Recordings

We know of no meeting recordings. If you know of one, let us know.

Agenda

Item Title Minutes
1 Apologies for absence

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Ashfield, Bowes, Carruthers (maternity leave), Court, Grant, Hussey, Toms and Williams.

 

Councillor Jeans arrived at 19:38.

2 Declarations of interest

There were no declarations of interest.

3 Minutes of the meeting held on 23 February 2023 Printed minutes 23022023 1830 Council

The minutes of the meeting held on 23 February 2023 were confirmed as an accurate record and signed by the Mayor.

4 Announcements

The Mayor referred to the King’s Coronation Fund, a grant scheme available to support local communities, voluntary organisations and businesses to organise events and activities to celebrate the Coronation.

 

He invited all councillors to identify local celebrations in their ward.  He stated that the Mayor and Deputy Mayor would visit as many events as possible to recognise the efforts of communities on the auspicious occasion.

5 Questions from members of the public

There were no questions.

6 Petitions

No petitions were presented.

7 Resignations and appointments Outside Bodies

There were no resignations or appointments made.

8 Pay Policy Statement 2023/2024 Report
Appendix 1 - Pay Policy Statement 2023-24

Council considered a recommendation from the Human Resources Committee at its meeting on 27 February 2023 to approve a pay policy statement for 2023/2024.

 

Resolved:     To approve the Pay Policy Statement 2023/2024.

9 Amendments to the Constitution - Overview and Scrutiny and Miscellaneous Report
Appendix 1 - Part 2 Article 6 Overview and Scrutiny (tracked changes)
Appendix 1a - Part 2 Article 6 Overview and Scrutiny (clean version)
Appendix 2 - Part 4 Committee Procedure Rules (tracked changes)
Appendix 2a - Part 4 Committee Procedure Rules (clean version)
Appendix 3 - Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rules (tracked changes)
Appendix 3a - Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rules (clean version)
Appendix 4 - Schedule of Amendments (Overview and Scrutiny)
Appendix 5 - Schedule of Miscellaneous Amendments to the Constitution
Appendix 6 - Revised Calendar of Meetings 2023-24

This item was withdrawn.

10 Members' Allowances Scheme 2023 2024 Members' Allowances Scheme 2023 2024
Appendix 1 - Members Allowances Scheme

Council considered a report which sought approval of the Member Allowances Scheme for the period 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2024 in accordance with Regulation 10(1) of the Local Authorities (Members Allowances) (England) Regulations 2003.

 

Resolved: To

 

1)     adopt the scheme of allowances as set out in Appendix 1of the report for the municipal year 2023/24, effective from 1 April 2023.

 

2)     apply the pay award agreed for officers on the National Joint Council for Local Government Services terms and conditions to 1 above from 1 April 2023.

 

3)     delegate authority to the Head of Law and Governance in consultation with the Executive Director of Corporate Services and Assets to:

 

(i)     take all necessary action to implement 1 and 2 above. 

(ii)    undertake the necessary publicity requirements in relation to the scheme adopted.

(iii)   update the constitution.

 

 

11 Notice of Motion - End Fuel Poverty

The following motion was moved by Councillor McCormick and seconded by Councillor Freeman:

 

This Council notes:

 

the work to date on the cost of living in our area, but acknowledges that thousands of households are estimated to be in fuel poverty and that more can be done to end fuel poverty by 2030.

 

This Council resolves:

 

  • To ask the Cabinet to create a strategy with the aim of ending fuel poverty in the area by 2030. This will be achieved by:

 

  1. improving the energy efficiency of social housing stock

 

  1. enforcement of existing regulations on energy efficiency and property standards, particularly in the private rented sector

 

  1. publishing a statement of intent and setting locally appropriate eligibility criteria to access Energy Company Obligation funding via the Local Authority Flexibility arrangements (if not already in place)

 

  1. levering in funds to improve the energy efficiency standards of all housing

 

  1. improving private tenants’ rights

 

  1. providing accessible information, advice and guidance in a variety of formats to those most in need

 

  1. maximising the incomes of low income households through the efficient delivery of Council-administered benefits, sensitive recovery of debt and the provision of advice and support

 

  1. working in partnership with other agencies and voluntary and community groups to implement and monitor delivery of the Strategy, including signpost, refer & follow-up cases of debt to ensure residents are supported.

      

·           To request that Cabinet report on progress on ending fuel poverty every six months.

 

·           To request the Council Leader writes to the HM Treasury asking for adequate funding to upgrade homes.

 

·           To request the Council Leader applies for the Council to become a Member of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition.

 

Council debated the motion. 

 

Whilst it was acknowledged that some residents were experiencing difficulties during the cost of living crisis some members commented that there were a number of local initiatives already in place to support residents as well as national initiatives and payments that had been supplemented locally. Actions documented in the council’s Climate Change Strategy were highlighted as was the introduction of the council’s new Green Team to support communities, the various grant schemes available and partnership working with housing associations and landlords to improve housing standards and energy efficiency.

 

Some members welcomed the motion and the actions already taken but commented that further actions needed to be taken to reduce energy costs, oversubscribed foodbanks, improve housing standards such as better insulation to prevent mould and the issues faced by residents with prepayment meters and debt.

 

The work of Tadley Citizens Advice Bureau to provide first aid sessions to officers and members was also highlighted.

 

The motion was put to a vote with 24 votes in favour, 19 against and 1 abstention and was therefore carried.

 

Resolved:     That the motion be agreed.

 

 

12 Notice of Motion - Community Asset Transfer Policy (CAT)

Council debated the following motion proposed by Councillor K Morrow and seconded by Councillor P Basham:

 

Community Asset Transfer (CAT) is the transfer of ownership or management of land and property potentially at less than market value, subject to the Local Authority demonstrating that in doing so it will result in local improvements to social, economic or environmental well-being. The legislation which supports this is the General Disposal Consent (England) 2003.

 

Council notes that CAT presents local communities with the opportunity to breathe new life into public buildings, to preserve valuable community resources or develop exciting new services for local communities. It provides options for the future use of these assets to enable the continuation of services, which have been challenged because of cuts to funding.

 

Council believes that Basingstoke and Deane - given the Borough Council's substantial property portfolio - would benefit from a CAT policy, as this would provide a fair and transparent framework with clear timescales to judge and manage any requests for asset transfer.

 

Council resolves to request that Cabinet develops a CAT policy, which can be reviewed by CEP within the next six months.

 

The Cabinet Member for Finance and Property advised council that a draft report regarding council owned community centres had recently been discussed by senior officers and cabinet members and it was proposed that a report would be presented to the Community, Environment and Partnerships Committee in the new municipal year for comment.  This would provide the basis for a detailed CAT policy for the council.

 

Comments were made in support of the motion. It was commented that support to organisations and a very clear policy was important to ensure the liabilities and responsibilities that could be taken on by an organisation as a community asset were fully understood. It was also suggested the policy should have guidance on the societal value of an asset.

 

Resolved:     The motion be carried.

 

13 Notice of Motion - Child Poverty in Basingstoke and Deane

Councillor Harvey proposed and Councillor Tustain seconded the following motion:

 

The Council recognises that:

 

Child Poverty is increasing in our Borough. Statistics from children’s charity Action for Children show that 22.4 per cent – or seven children in every class of 30 – were living in poverty in 2020/21, which are the most recent figures available.

 

That figure of 22.4% equates to over 5,000 children living in poverty in Basingstoke & Deane.

 

Seventeen per cent of children in the Borough (31,285) are from a disadvantaged background making them eligible for free school meals. 

There were more than 10,000 food bank parcels distributed in Basingstoke and Deane by charity the Trussell Trust in 2021/22, which was an increase by 11 per cent compared to 2019/20. This does not account for all the food distributed by Food Pantries, churches and other organisations.

Over 600 families were supported this last Christmas 2022 by the Furniture Store, who provided presents and gifts to those who would have otherwise gone without.

 

CAMHS and Mental Health Services for children and young people are under extreme pressure and many families have children who are living without a diagnosis and many are in desperate need of support.

 

This Council acknowledges that:

 

The closure of Sure Start and Children’s Centres in communities across Basingstoke & Deane has had a direct negative impact on the local provision of support for children.

 

The closure of services such as the Connexions service has had a direct negative impact on the support available for young people.

 

The chronic underfunding of child mental health support services is having a direct negative impact on the well-being of children and many families.

 

The cost-of-living crisis is compounding the already existing issues many families living in Basingstoke & Deane are facing, therefore children living in poverty face multiple issues making their situation worse.

 

The Cost-of-Living Assistance Fund has made a difference to many families in the Borough, but it does not provide support for services that can directly make a difference to children and families living in poverty.

 

New evidence in Barnardo’s report ‘At what cost? The impact of the cost-of-living crisis on children and young people’ shows that:

 

·           More than half of parents (54%) have been forced to cut back on food spending for their family over the past 12 months. 

·           One in five parents said they have struggled to provide sufficient food due to the current cost-of-living crisis, and over a quarter (26%) said their child’s mental health has worsened due to the situation.?? 

·           Parents have admitted resorting to desperate measures, with a quarter (26%) having sold possessions, one in five (20%) having taken on new credit cards, extra debt or a payday loan.

 

This Council requests that Cabinet:

 

Explore what services could be commissioned and delivered directly by the Borough Council to support children who are living in poverty and their families. 

 

Develop how we use our Community Centres to offer direct support to children who are in poverty and their families. Therein, as per Barnardo’s recommendations, to develop ‘Family Hubs’: Family hubs provide a ‘local nerve centre’ for all family support within a community from stay and play groups, to breastfeeding support to help with issues such as finding a job or applying for benefits.

 

Lobby the County Council for investment not cuts to Children’s Services. The £200million hole in the County Council budget should not be found from further cuts to Children’s Services.

 

Reach out to our schools, nurseries, health sector and other partners to work together to identify what actions we can take to directly impact positively on the lives of children in our Borough who are living in poverty. To develop a Borough Action Plan for Tackling Child Poverty with tangible actions that will make a difference and measures to test we are actually reducing child poverty in Basingstoke & Deane.

 

Members discussed the motion which was unanimously supported. 

 

Comments were made regarding funding streams, partnership working and empowering communities to make a difference and the effect of cuts to children’s services such as mental health and school transport. The wide range of effects of poverty on children such as absence from school, poor health, future employment prospects and crime were also highlighted.   Inequality was unacceptable and urgent action was required to address it.  Services and grant funding provided by Hampshire County Council, community activities and the work of the YPI youth counselling service were also highlighted.  It was suggested the services offered by community centres should be mapped to identify gaps in service provision. A cross party approach to tackling the issues raised was welcomed.

 

Resolved: The motion be carried.

 

 

14 Questions from Members of the Council on notice

Question 1

From:  Councillor Jeans

To: Cabinet Member for Residents Services

 

Following recent notification to all residents, the Resident Parking Scheme will no longer be administered by BDBC but instead will transfer on the 1st of April 2023 to HCC. As part of this change HCC will introduce a digital parking permit system, operated by MiPermit, which will come into force once the residents current paper parking permit expires. Whilst I am essentially supportive of a move to a more efficient and effective service, my residents have a number of concerns which they believe that HCC has not taken account of. There are many vulnerable residents in the borough who require homecare, often multiple times per day and which is delivered by visiting carers or family members which can be mean that some households may need to utilise 6 or more visitor permits per day. An annual visitor permits can be purchased from HCC for £50 or maximum 150 daily visitor permits at a cost of £150, however, for each vehicle visiting the property a notification is to be sent to MiPermit with registration details and also the limit may not be enough to cover all necessary visitor requirements. Many of these residents either do not have access to the internet and are also unable to use the telephone service to MiPermit due to personal restrictions.

Therefore, I would like to know what we as a borough can do to support our vulnerable residents to alleviate the stress of getting our most needy the help and services that they require to help them continue to independently reside in their own homes by enabling their families and carers to be able to park?

Answer

Thank you, Councillor Jeans, for bringing this question forward this evening. Hampshire’s parking team are aware that there will be vulnerable customers in all areas of the county and to assist with this situation, are introducing carers permits, for both professional carers and family members, or relatives which will be free of charge. They can request these via the MiPermit system which can then be managed on behalf of the resident. There is no limit on these per property, so if a resident has six carers a day for example, each carer will be able to request a permit. This should go live on HCC’s website from the 1st of April. In recognition of the fact that not all residents are able to use the internet or telephone services, HCC can issue paper permits in circumstances where they are really needed. The requests will need to be made via telephone or email but can be done by a family member or care worker and HCC’s parking team will then review the request and come back with a solution that they feel would work best. HCC currently operate the MiPermit in four other districts of the county and have overcome such problems. For anyone who is particularly worried, I’d urge them to please get in contact with HCC’s parking team who will discuss the options with them and I’m happy to provide these details to any councillors who need them. I would welcome any feedback Councillor Jeans or other councillors have from residents as the updated scheme is rolled out, and if residents experience issues and concerns, we can in the future consider adding a review of on-street parking to an appropriate committee, inviting HCC to explain how the service is operating after its first year. Thank you.

Question 2

From: Councillor Phillimore 

To: Cabinet Member for Planning and Infrastructure

 

Considerable efforts and inputs of numerous volunteers, our residents, across the Borough, have contributed to the creation, examination, and adoption of Neighbourhood Plans in communities across our Borough.

These volunteers have given thousands of hours, to the scale, complexity and time needed to produce their specific Neighbourhood Plans.

These communities were told that Neighbourhood Plans would enable them to determine how many homes could be built and where they could be sited within their villages and towns.

Therefore, my question is, why are we as the Local Planning Authority allowing developers to over-ride the wishes of our residents who have compiled these Neighbourhood Plans?

Answer

Thank you, Councillor Phillimore for the question. The council strongly advocates neighbourhood planning and has actively supported the making of 16 plans in the borough to date. These are an important part of the planning framework determining the planning application and have enabled communities to help shape their locality in their areas, so I commend all the work done by the parish councils and community groups to do these neighbourhood plans and update them on a regular basis. As Council is aware, the borough currently lacks a five-year land supply of deliverable housing sites and the national planning guidance explicitly sets out that when this is the case, the policies relating to housing delivery in local and neighbourhood plans are considered out of date. So, the planning authority must therefore determine planning applications in line with national guidance and the tide will balance. So, this effectively means that schemes should be permitted unless the adverse impact outweighs the benefits, but non-housing delivery related policies in neighbourhood plans continue to be used in the determination of planning and applications, and the plans continue to have a planning way. So, the Council is working proactively with the development industry to deliver suitable sites which will help towards restoring the land supply position. The adopted Local Plan is also being updated to develop a robust strategy for meeting housing needs into the future. So, support continues to be given to the communities wishing to develop new plans and those reviewing and updating existing plans. The up-to-date plans in the borough which meet their indicative housing needs already benefit from two years of protection from the land supply position and government is currently considering extending this to five years protection. Therefore, this remains a benefit to local communities in progressing new and updated plans. So as councillors we should encourage parish councils and community groups to draft neighbourhood plans or update them on a regular basis.

Supplementary Question

Nearly every ward in our borough, whether rural or urban, from Bishops Green to Old Basing, from Cliddesden to Kingsclere have suffered or are under threat from unplanned, speculative development caused by this Conservative administration’s abysmal failure to achieve a five-year land supply. Can the Cabinet Member please inform the Council when we will achieve a five-year land supply?

Answer

As I’ve just answered the question earlier, the Council has been working to bring the five-year land supply to date, and we have just been informed that our five-year land supply is up to 4.7. So, we will be working to make sure that we get to the point where speculative applications won’t be an issue in the future. Thank you, Mr Mayor.

Question 3

From: Councillor Koniezcko

To: Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Action

What has happened to expanding the Biodiversity Improvement Zones across the whole Borough, as announced by then Portfolio Holder back in 2021? We were told that work would be undertaken to look at the possibility of introducing them in numerous wards - such as Brighton Hill, for example. However, despite asking Cabinet members for an update, we've yet to hear anything.

Answer

Thank you for your question, I was not aware that you’ve contacted me directly about this and had you then I’m more than happy to discuss and I am happy to discuss it further at a later date as well. A list of areas that are currently managed for biodiversity improvement is available on the Council’s website at the Ecological Emergency webpage, and this does confirm that there is a BIZ in every ward and work is ongoing to help grow that, and the diversity of wildlife and plants in every ward across the borough. The Council has taken active steps to manage but protect, enhance, and restore nature across the Borough in a number of ways in line with its Green Infrastructure Strategy. This includes policy setting in the Local Plan, agreeing ecological enhancements as part of planning permission, looking after areas with green space management plans and working with partners and volunteers. We have the council’s Rangers, who work alongside community groups and volunteers to improve and enhance the diversity of plants and animals on over 300 hectares of natural green space. Additional resources have been made available to this team in the coming year to enhance this service and support a greater number of conservation groups and volunteers.  Our Natural Environment team also plays a vital role, supporting the delivery of biodiversity enhancements and managing habitats across the borough including over 80,000 trees while ensuring ecology and biodiversity are taken into account in decision making in all council departments. The new Council Plan includes a commitment to develop a new Biodiversity Strategy this year which will set out how we will seek to protect and enhance biodiversity across the borough. Council teams work closely with volunteers throughout conservation groups such as Natural Basingstoke, as well as partners including the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust through its Wilder Basingstoke and Deane Scheme. We have reviewed many of the borough maintained parks, and we are open to explore opportunities to further enhance biodiversity where there is the potential to do so, taken into consideration the value of the potential gain, maintenance access and impact on the site’s other functions such as sports, events space or other recreational uses. I have asked our officers to contact you to explore possible opportunities for BIZ areas in Brighton Hill, and I’m happy to attend any meeting in that regard.

Question 4

From: Councillor Edwards

To: Cabinet Member for Planning and Infrastructure

Getting to and from town and around the Borough is very important to our residents. The Borough is constantly growing in population due to factors such as house building. Unfortunately, our transport network has a lot of catching up to do and many residents who don’t drive are reliant on buses and taxis. It has come to my and several colleagues’ attention that the private hire companies are delivering a low-quality service, this is unacceptable. Examples include a resident who had to ask their neighbour to drive them to Southampton Hospital, so they did not miss their cancer treatment appointment – the booked car failed to turn up. Other issues include the app showing a confirmed booking, but the car is late or fails to arrive. Alpha and Delta cars have a large monopoly in Basingstoke and residents are desperate to have a basic facility where they can book a private car, that will just turn up on time.

I therefore ask the portfolio holder Cllr Jay Ganesh for transport, what can we as a Borough do to encourage companies such as Uber and Addison Lee to our town and surrounding areas?

Answer

Thank you, Councillor Edwards for the question. I sympathise for the residents who have been experiencing these delays and unable to book or cancel from our local taxi company. I am aware of the issues, this is an issue not just for the Chineham ward but pretty much all around the borough, including the ward that I represent. The licensing authorities, not just us, all around the country has seen this issue post-Covid in terms of declining number of drivers. So as a borough, we’ve had 315 licensed drivers pre-Covid, and it dropped drastically, now we have been steadied and we have around 285 licensed drivers. But the Licensing team are currently processing 55 new driver applications and therefore we anticipate that the overall number of licensed drivers will increase above pre-pandemic levels, which should lead to a noticeable improvement in the level of service. Our Licensing team have been working closely with the local private hire operator to address issues like driver shortages. Next month on 17th April, the Licensing Committee will be considering changes to the current Licensing Policy which intend to make it easier for private hire drivers to obtain licenses. The Licensing team have also revised all the application paperwork to simplify and clarify the process for new applications. So, last year when I took over this portfolio, I have had these conversations with the Head of Service, and they have done a bit of work around it to find out if there is any app-based operators interested in coming to the borough, but we’ve been told that Uber are no longer keen on establishing new operating bases. Their only sort of a version of operating in new towns is to collaborate with another company and operate locally. As a borough, I think we should do everything to make sure that we do ensure that connectivity and accessibility for our residents is assured. So, I will be asking the officers, not just solving the drivers shortage, but we approach all the app-based operators to welcome them to the Borough and if there’s a way, to find out if they can operate to address this issue.

Question 5

From: Councillor Tomblin

To: Leader of the Council

Does the leader of the council share the serious concerns over the fire safety of the battery storage installations that have been given planning approval in Basingstoke and Deane from 2020 to 2023?

Are we facing another “High rise building cladding” debacle?

For Bramley and Silchester there will be approx. 90 off 40ft. long shipping battery containers/structures and 40 off 20 - 40ft. long electrical equipment containers concentrated across the surrounding fields to the National Grid installation at Bramley Frith. These sites are located in remote, open, countryside with poor access and in close proximity to established water courses.

For the Old Basing site with 15 containers / battery boxes the land is immediately adjacent to the river Loddon with a potential massive and long-lasting impact to the river’s water quality should any fire result in fire-water entering the river.

It is worth noting that 2 of these applications were rejected by the DC committee and during each debate leading to rejection, a common theme of battery safety and how any potential fires and pollution may be tackled was highlighted. It is clear from these applications that there is a lack of investment in any fire-water containment solutions made by all applicants such that groundwater in the local areas will be at risk in the event of a major fire.

Only 2 applications include a fire management plan but all that these documents indicate is a control system architecture of fire detection systems and internal suppression systems which are unlikely to extinguish any Lithium Ion battery fire. Explosion panels are also proposed in the construction of some of the containers which will simply allow the escape of toxic gases to atmosphere.

The fire service consultation response suggests they will clearly use chemicals or leave the fire to burn and that they are concerned for fire water contamination in the local water courses. However, they only recommend that the applicant should pay due regards to this issue. They do not mandate design specifications. The Chief Fire officer of Hampshire and The Isle of Wight is also on record at expressing grave concerns.

Will the leader note that the Buncefield oil depot fire in 2005 has resulted in massive fines for environmental contamination and in part suggesting where blame lies at inadequate fire water contamination (bunding) systems being in place at the time?

  • Should we, BDBC as a local planning authority, be seen to adopt the precautionary principle given this councils declaration of an environmental emergency?
  • Whilst the probability of a fire might be low, any fire would be catastrophic for our environment both by air and water contamination. Are we confident that our Building Controls and teams are sufficiently robust to make sure that the current designs of inadequate base structures proposed and bunding methods will be upgraded by our involvement to avoid future environmental destruction?
  • If not, are we content to sit back and allow others to manage this potential risk knowing that we could have done something about it?
  • We will be content that we will not have to spend any council resources on any subsequent clean up and rebuild of the environment?

Answer

I have a technical answer to read because it’s a planning matter, but actually fundamentally I think Councillor Tomblin asks me a much more in principle question that says am I concerned? I think we should all be concerned frankly. We have all sorts of technologies coming down the track to supposedly help us all be more environmentally friendly and make sure we do the right thing for the planet. Fundamentally this issue shows us that legislation has to keep up. Technology moves really quickly and something that could be sold to us as an enormous benefit can have some enormous unintended consequences which lots of people will be looking to us to protect them from. The legislation doesn't allow us to do that. So, do I share Councillor Tomblin’s concerns, absolutely. It’s one of the reasons why I sent a letter to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs back in December to support the bill to put the legislation in place, to make sure that we did consult on these planning applications. For the planning applications that are mentioned, of course, we do have legislation that we have to follow today. So, it’s very important that we determine those planning applications in accordance with the Development Plan unless there are material considerations that indicate otherwise. Of course, I think we should all be aware of these three sites that are mentioned. One was refused by Development Control Committee. The decision to refuse was then appealed by the applicant and the Planning Inspectorate allowed the appeal. We all know how frustrating that can be, particularly if we have significant concerns. There is a complexity around the absence of regulations and on lithium batteries but I think we should all work really hard to make sure that the legislation catches up.

Supplementary Question

Would this Council, would the leader, sanction us working with Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Fire Brigade, given the comments that they are making? It’s a specific issue about how we could control some construction standards, not about its bad news we’ve had these put through planning. It’s about our ability just to make things right to avoid what could be a potentially disastrous environmental impact. So, I just would hope that we would be able to embrace the fire brigade, work with them, and see if we can get the legislation through and not so much that as getting it built correctly.

Answer

I think fundamentally we’ll need to take some technical advice about what the art of the possible is as far as those plans. If you haven’t read it, you should read it, the letter from Neil Odin, the Chief Fire Officer, is truly scary, as far as the choices, should there be a fire at one of these installations, that the fire service has, it should worry us all. So, absolutely, let’s look at the technical details, I haven’t got an answer for you but I’m absolutely happy to ask the officers to make sure we do the work.

Question 6

From: Councillor Slimin

To: Leader of the Council

As a councillor I am aware that there are occasionally issues with our emails getting delayed in delivery or messages that you have reported something when you have not and the IT officers soon advice that this is a glitch and all returns to normal.

Recently however when checking for information on the online public planning pages I have found that documents were not available or could not be downloaded for several days. More worrying one of my residents was Informed by someone in planning that they had been unable to deal with their emails as their laptop had not been working correctly for several weeks and so had been unable to access emails and thus reply to them.

In the current new ways of working the Cabinet member must be aware that our IT systems need to be robust and reliable so we can offer good customer service at all times as per the just adopted corporate plan.

Therefore, can the Portfolio holder please advise us whether these problems are a major concern or just temporary glitches and what is being done to make sure our staff are supported with the reliable tools to carry out their role and that the public and councillors have the systems they need available to them also?

Answer

There are several processes involved in publishing documents within the online planning system. The IT solution manages this under the direction of the Planning team. The Planning team need to ensure that all necessary steps for the documents have been adhered to before it can finally be made available, including redacting the documents for any sensitive information. The IT Service have informed me that there was a recent issue with a number of laptops within the organisation, including several staff in the Planning team. This impacted their ability to process the documents within the planning system as quickly as they normally would and is likely the cause of delays and documents being made available in a timely manner. The IT Service has also tested the download function and it is working as expected, and they believe that this incident may have been related to a single computer, not a system-wide incident. I’ve been assured that the issues relating to the council laptops was a one-off and that all impacted laptops were operational within one week, with many operational within a few days. The IT teams are not aware of any Planning team that has long-standing IT issues of the nature described in the question. However, they will be investigating this further with the Planning team in the coming days. They will also look to provide them with the alternative means to access information, should there be any long delays in the future for staff. I’ve also been informed that staff can access emails through the Webmail if everything else fails.

Supplementary Question

I’m afraid I have a copy of the email that was sent to a resident which actually contradicts some of that. In fact, they said that she’d been operating with limited access onto the server for a few weeks and for now for getting the opportunity to respond to a member of the public who was waiting for a response to an application. And can I also ask a question, I believe at Scrutiny on Tuesday, there was a sign of a ways of working and I looked at the paper and I couldn’t see any reference to whether or not our I.T. systems were robust and reliable enough to be able to allow people to do exactly working from home so I hope that has also been addressed because I know that you’ve signed off the ways of working I believe.

Answer

Happy to get the answer, Mr Mayor, it’s not helpful with a member referring to a specific email, if that hasn’t been shared for anybody to respond to, so I’d appreciate that being shared and we’ll get a response.

Question 7

From: Councillor Mummalaneni

To: Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Action

Can the portfolio holder please explain the reasons behind the decision to permanently close the Eastrop roundabout dancing fountains, given the previous promise to open them 'as quickly as possible' and the subsequent efforts by officers to repair and replace parts? Furthermore, could the council share their alternate plan to provide a similarly beloved attraction for the residents who enjoyed this feature?

Answer

These water fountains were installed over 20 years ago to provide a gateway into Basing View and the town centre. The water feature was switched on in the spring and summer months but has been switched off since 2019. Initially this was in line with Covid restrictions, but this was followed by issues including the corrosion of the equipment in the park room that powers the fountains and the difficulty of sourcing and replacing parts, given the age of these. As I’m sure you are aware, the fountains were designed to provide a decorative feature only. We have two water play facilities for families to enjoy. One is just a short walk away in Eastrop Park, where there is a paddling pool which is open in the spring and summer months for families to use and a splash pad is also available at Chineham Park in Popley during this time. A recent inspection has confirmed the significant amount of work and costs that would be involved in repairing and replacing these fountains as they have reached the end of their usable life. We have therefore taken the decision that it is not cost effective to repair or replace them. This therefore provides us with an opportunity to look at how this area could contribute to the improvement of the environment in the town centre in the future while also supporting the council’s climate change emergency pledges better. Through our project to create an enhanced green route through parks and open spaces, we are exploring opportunities to improve the facilities at Eastrop Park, which includes water play facilities. 

Question 8

From: Councillor Tuck

To: The Leader of the Council

Basing Fen battery planning application has been fraught with controversy. Rightly, given that nationally, with only 100 battery plants operating within the UK, we have already had a major fire and there are over 300 more plants in the pipeline – four of which are within a few miles of here (pre-app or approved). I readily acknowledge that the probability of thermal runaway, when the batteries catch fire and explode is low – ONLY 1 in 100 it would seem; but the impact when it does is high and never more so than when located very close to a water course. Caustic smoke will close the Hampshire clinic hospital opposite and residents across the road and along the river valley through Basing & Lychpit, to Chineham and Sherfield on Loddon, will see and feel the effects; unless the wind is from the East when the town centre may catch it.

This is a new technology that regulatory legislation has yet to catch up with. In my view it has all the potential to be the next cladding scandal. Overly concerned you might say of me. What does our Fire Chief, Neil Odin say:

‘’Whilst we recognise the positive contribution that these types of installations can play in providing solutions to cleaner energy, we remain concerned about the impact of the chosen locations that could have such a detrimental effect on the local environment and important infrastructure should a fire occur.

‘’In the event of a fire our teams would face an impossible choice between protecting the community from a potential toxic or explosive gas plume or applying water that would pollute the watercourse for many years.’’

The Basing Battery application expired on 10th March and predevelopment condition 9 [relating to ‘non migratory material’ for 6m from the road] had not been completed. [It was just a muddy entrance. ] I have asked Enforcement to review.

Since then, we have discovered that a Planning Variation was sent to the Council the day before, seeking quite a few changes. We know that we have discretion as a Local Authority to decide on what is considered a minor amendment and what requires a full new planning application. This case has eleven new documents detailing changes; it changes the entire layout, it adds 5 posts 4m high with CCTV; it changes the fence from wooden boarding to metal palisade with spikes and it changes the footprint and area of the red line of the site. How many more aspects does this application need to change before being classified as a new planning application?

  • Can you assure me that the interests of the hospital, residents and the natural environment are paramount in this application?
  • Will the Leader and Portfolio Holder personally review this application?
  • How are we going to demonstrate that this Council is not legally and morally negligent when faced with an environmental catastrophe and danger to hospital patients, to residents and our environment?

 

Answer

Before I respond, as I think it will be technical, I’m afraid, I would just like to put on record my thanks to Councillor Tuck whose passion and commitment to this subject doesn’t go amiss, certainly in my inbox as far as emails and the conversations that we have. As set out in my answer in the earlier question, I am, of course aware of the work that Basingstoke MP Dame Maria Miller has done to table the Lithium-ion (Fire Safety and Environmental Permits) Bill 2022, seeking to make local fire services statutory consultees for battery storage planning applications and I know Councillor Tuck has been doing lots of work behind the scenes with Dame Maria, and for the granting of environmental permits. It is not currently a statutory requirement to do so, but in the meantime as a matter of practise, this council does consult Hampshire Fire and Rescue Services on all such applications. In relation to the Basing Fen site in particular, the matter regarding implementation of the original planning permission is subject to a current enforcement investigation which has yet to be completed. With regards to the amended application of the Basing Fen site, the scale and nature of the application is such that it can be considered as an amendment to the original planning permission but the process for the application in relation to consultation, notification of residents and ultimately decision making is the same as if the application had been made in full.

Question 9

From: Councillor Edwards

To: The Leader of the Council

Parents across Basingstoke have been disappointed and left stressed and anxious since they received confirmation of where their child has been allocated a place at secondary school in September. Myself, Cllr Miller and Vaux have received many emails highlighting the issues parents and children will face in September.

In Chineham, Four Lanes Junior school have had a temporary hut in the grounds since 2019 and this will be removed later this year. Why is it there? It is because there is a ‘bulge year’ due to an above average birth rate in 2011 and 2012. Therefore, Hampshire County Council knew additional places for secondary intake for 2023 would be needed. They have clearly failed to make a provision for this. The result is children from Chineham and Sherfield Park are going to have to travel to Aldworth School and even further to The Clere, which is 18 miles away. Getting to Aldworth will mean catching two buses to complete the 6.5mile journey, which will take over an hour. The Clere has advised parents that it offers no after school clubs, as many students get the bus to and from school and live far away. This will deprive our young residents of opportunities that closer to home schools offer.

The recent creation of new places in Brighton Hill Community School has brought some positive change to parents but does not go far enough. Hampshire County Council are asking parents to just follow the appeals process, which fails to address the root cause of the problem. Chineham and Sherfield Park children are in the catchment area for The Vyne and The Costello.

In 2022 there were 149 places available at The Vyne and 296 children applied. In 2023, 148 places were available, and 405 children applied. For The Costelllo school, in 2022, 260 places were available, and 468 children applied and in 2023 there were 260 places and 586 applications. These figures show there were no provisions made, across Hampshire. There were only an additional 266 places created by the County in 2023 compared to 2022.

Can I ask the Leader of the Council Cllr Minas-Bound, to urgently request Hampshire County Council review this year’s admissions and make necessary changes. This could include providing appropriate transport where required such as a school bus from Chineham and Sherfield Park to Aldworth.

Answer

For your information, I have contacted the relevant officers at HCC regarding the position and I’m awaiting a response to the status of any reply. I’m sure my request has been welcomed by the officers because of course it was school places that initially got me into local politics personally myself. So, I have a long and colourful history with the officers when it comes to strategic place planning at the County Council. I will of course, Councillor Edwards let you know as soon as I have an update. Hampshire County Council are already reviewing the position with schools and additional provision since the day of the offer. I would also just like to thank the Chineham Councillors for sharing with me the details as far as where the schools are, how far children and parents will need to travel and how difficult those journeys will be.

Supplementary Question

Thank you, Leader. In the coming years, its likely hundreds of new homes will be built in the east of Basingstoke. We have no local secondary school, and the catchment schools seem to be unable to accommodate for the population as it is. Can you ask for assurance and a plan from Hampshire County Council on how they are linking their projections of population growth with the Borough’s Local Plan?

Answer

Thank you very much, I agree and want to suggest a meeting with Hampshire County Council to address this issue. We spent a lot of time, particularly in EPH talking about the growth of Basingstoke and what those growing pains have been. I think a bulge-year shows what those pains are because an ordinary bulge-year in many boroughs wouldn’t be quite as painful unless you have had the growth that we have had in the past. So, from the council’s perspective, HCC’s education department are a key stakeholder in the Local Plan process and have been involved in and directly fed into the site assessment process for the Local Plan update, which considers relevant site-related factors including the impact of development and any infrastructure constraints and any required mitigation. This looks at sites both individually and cumulatively. Their input will be required throughout the process as the strategy develops. Any required infrastructure will be reflected in the Local Plan site allocation policies, won’t that be an exciting read, ladies, and gentlemen. Information on the delivery rates associated with new developments is provided to HCC to inform their decision making now and going forwards.

 

15 Questions to the Chair of Cabinet and/or a committee

There were no questions.

Meeting Attendees

Councillor Andrea Bowes photo
Committee Member
Chair of the Human Resources Committee
Councillor Andrea Bowes

Liberal Democrat

Apologies

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Councillor Andy Konieczko photo
Committee Member
Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning and Infrastructure
Councillor Andy Konieczko

Liberal Democrat

Present, as expected

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Councillor Gavin James photo
Committee Member
Co-Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Property
Councillor Gavin James

Liberal Democrat

Present, as expected

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Councillor John McKay photo
Committee Member
Cabinet Member for Communities, Partnerships and Inclusion
Councillor John McKay

Liberal Democrat

Present, as expected

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Councillor Jo Slimin photo
Committee Member
Vice-Chair of Standards and Community Environment and Partnerships Committee
Councillor Jo Slimin

Liberal Democrat

Present, as expected

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Councillor Kerry Morrow photo
Committee Member
Cabinet Member for Sports, Leisure and Culture
Councillor Kerry Morrow

Liberal Democrat

Present, as expected

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Councillor Ronald Hussey photo
Committee Member
Councillor Ronald Hussey

Liberal Democrat

Apologies

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Councillor Alex Lee photo
Committee Member
Chair of Community, Environment and Partnership Committee
Councillor Alex Lee

Labour

Present, as expected

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Councillor Andrew McCormick photo
Committee Member
Chair of the Development Control Committee
Councillor Andrew McCormick

Labour and Co-Operative Party

Present, as expected

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Councillor Angie Freeman photo
Committee Member
Chair of the Manydown Committee
Councillor Angie Freeman

Labour

Present, as expected

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Councillor Gary Watts photo
Committee Member
Chair of Economic, Planning & Housing Committee
Councillor Gary Watts

Labour

Present, as expected

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Councillor Jacky Tustain photo
Committee Member
Leader of the Labour Group
Councillor Jacky Tustain

Labour

Present, as expected

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Councillor Marc Connor photo
Committee Member
Deputy Leader of the Labour Group
Councillor Marc Connor

Labour

Present, as expected

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Councillor Sajish Tom photo
Committee Member
Councillor Sajish Tom

Labour

Apologies

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Councillor Stephanie Grant photo
Committee Member
Councillor Stephanie Grant

Labour

Apologies

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Councillor Tony Jones photo
Committee Member
Chair of the Licensing Committee
Councillor Tony Jones

Labour

Present, as expected

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Councillor Kate Tuck photo
Committee Member
Councillor Kate Tuck

Independent Member

Present, as expected

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Councillor Onnalee Cubitt photo
Committee Member
Cabinet Member for Major Projects and Regeneration
Councillor Onnalee Cubitt

Independent Member

Present, as expected

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Councillor Sven Godesen photo
Committee Member
Councillor Sven Godesen

Independent Member

Present, as expected

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Councillor Michael Howard-Sorrell photo
Committee Member
Councillor Michael Howard-Sorrell

Green

Present, as expected

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Councillor Abigail Compton-Burnett photo
Committee Member
Councillor Abigail Compton-Burnett

Conservative

Present, as expected

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Councillor Arun Mummalaneni photo
Committee Member
Councillor Arun Mummalaneni

Conservative

Present, as expected

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Councillor Dan Putty photo
Committee Member
Deputy Mayor
Councillor Dan Putty

Conservative

Present, as expected

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Councillor David Leeks photo
Vice-Chair
Mayor
Councillor David Leeks

Conservative

Present, as expected

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Councillor David McIntyre photo
Committee Member
Councillor David McIntyre

Conservative

Present, as expected

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Councillor Diane Taylor photo
Committee Member
Vice-Chair of Licensing and Manydown Overview Committee
Councillor Diane Taylor

Conservative

Present, as expected

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Councillor Graham Falconer photo
Committee Member
Vice-Chair of the Audit and Accounts Committee
Councillor Graham Falconer

Conservative

Present, as expected

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Councillor Hannah Golding photo
Committee Member
Councillor Hannah Golding

Conservative

Present, as expected

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Councillor Hayley Eachus photo
Committee Member
Councillor Hayley Eachus

Conservative

Present, as expected

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Councillor Jay Ganesh photo
Committee Member
Councillor Jay Ganesh

Conservative

Present, as expected

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Councillor Jenny Vaux photo
Committee Member
Councillor Jenny Vaux

Conservative

Present, as expected

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Councillor John Izett photo
Committee Member
Councillor John Izett

Conservative

Present, as expected

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Councillor Ken Rhatigan photo
Committee Member
Councillor Ken Rhatigan

Conservative

Present, as expected

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Councillor Laura Edwards photo
Committee Member
Councillor Laura Edwards

Conservative

Present, as expected

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Councillor Nicholas Robinson photo
Committee Member
Vice-Chair of Development Control Committee
Councillor Nicholas Robinson

Conservative

Present, as expected

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Councillor Paul Gaskell photo
Committee Member
Vice-Chair of the Audit and Accounts Committee
Councillor Paul Gaskell

Conservative

Present, as expected

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Councillor Paul Miller photo
Chair
Chair of Scrutiny Committee
Councillor Paul Miller

Conservative

Present, as expected

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Councillor Rebecca Bean photo
Committee Member
Councillor Rebecca Bean

Conservative

Present, as expected

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Councillor Richard Court photo
Committee Member
Councillor Richard Court

Conservative

Apologies

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Councillor Samir Kotecha photo
Committee Member
Councillor Samir Kotecha

Conservative

Present, as expected

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Councillor Samuel Carr photo
Committee Member
Councillor Samuel Carr

Conservative

Present, as expected

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Councillor Simon Minas-Bound photo
Committee Member
Leader of the Conservative Group
Councillor Simon Minas-Bound

Conservative

Present, as expected

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Councillor Chloe Ashfield photo
Committee Member
Vice-Chair of the Economic Planning Housing Committee
Councillor Chloe Ashfield

Basingstoke & Deane Independent Group

Apologies

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Councillor Chris Tomblin photo
Committee Member
Cabinet Member for Climate and Ecological Emergency
Councillor Chris Tomblin

Basingstoke & Deane Independent Group

Present, as expected

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Councillor Colin Phillimore photo
Committee Member
Councillor Colin Phillimore

Basingstoke & Deane Independent Group

Present, as expected

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Councillor Laura James photo
Committee Member
Cabinet Member for Residents’ Services and Housing
Councillor Laura James

Basingstoke & Deane Independent Group

Present, as expected

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Councillor Paul Basham photo
Committee Member
Chair of the Audit and Accounts Committee
Councillor Paul Basham

Basingstoke & Deane Independent Group

Present, as expected

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Councillor Paul Harvey photo
Committee Member
Leader
Councillor Paul Harvey

Basingstoke & Deane Independent Group

Present, as expected

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Councillor Tony Durrant photo
Committee Member
Vice-Chair of Human Resources Committee
Councillor Tony Durrant

Basingstoke & Deane Independent Group

Present, as expected

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Source

This meeting detail is from Basingstoke & Dean Borough Council website