To receive any public questions.
Mrs M Goldspink asked what proportion of household waste was re-cycled in 2018 in East Herts District? How does this compare with the figure for the whole of Hertfordshire and how does it compare with the national figure?
In reply the Executive for Environment and the Public Realm thanked Mrs Goldspink for her question and explained that on 15 November 2018 the Council had recycled 53.3% of its household waste and that East Herts was a higher performing Council in the County (currently 5th) and that this was due partly to an increased amount of co-mingled recycling collected which was as a result of a comprehensive campaign last year.
He stated that last year, there was a slower growing season with the hot summer which had reduced the amount of garden waste collected but this put the Council in a strong position for 2019/20 and that it was important to remember that East Herts had the largest rural areas within the County of Hertfordshire which presented different challenges to the Council than to its neighbours. He stated that the Council could be proud of its achievements. In summary he stated that the Council’s figure of 53.3% compared favourably with the national figure of 43.2% and that East Herts should be proud of its record.
Mr Wilson asked “What plans are there to test levels of air pollution at the Hockerill crossroads and to extend the testing area to roads adjoining the existing Air Quality Management Area (AQMA). In addition, are there any plans to enforce anti-idling legislation in Bishop's Stortford to limit the levels of pollution, particularly around schools near to the present AQMA?”.
In reply, the Executive Member for Environment and the Public Realm thanked Mr Wilson for his question. He stated that the Council had been routinely testing air quality at this location for a number of years as the Council had declared the junction an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) and that further information was available on the Council’s website. He explained that monitoring showed that air pollution was steadily declining year on year on each of the four roads leading up to the traffic lights i.e. Hockerill Street, Dunmow Road, Stansted Road and London Road and that levels of nitrogen dioxide in Stanstead Road was now below the 40 micrograms per cubic metre air quality objective for England. Levels in Hockerill Street were now only just above this level but unfortunately in both London Road and Dunmow Road, although falling, remained above the national threshold level.
The Executive Member stated that the Council was committed to working with key partners including the County Council, as the highways authority and local residents to promote measures to improve air quality at Hockerill junction and throughout East Herts. He explained that the Council had launched an App which enabled people to monitor air pollution in real-time which, he hoped, would reinforce behaviours that mitigate pollution e.g. walking or cycling instead of driving.
The Executive Member referred to the on-going work to help people switch from petrol and diesel to electric vehicle use including investment in new chargers and investment in an electric car club. The Executive Member explained the issues of tackling idling and the need to promote good driver behaviour and of ongoing work with the County Council and Essex County Council to work in partnership, including reviewing the use of legislation to give fixed penalty notices to drivers who leave their engines on while parked.
The Executive Member referred to the activity around Hockerill lights in the context of the railway station with 3.1M people using the junction per annum, and the significant number of schools in the area.
Mr Beckett commented that “Several Councils across the country have levied monies from central government to enable the provision of affordable and social housing. But, it's apparent that here in East Herts the current housing schemes will fall woefully short of providing sufficient affordable and social housing. Has the council given any thought of building their own provision of such housing on land provided by the developers and if not will they look into the possibility of doing so to meet the needs of the town and district?”
In reply, the Executive Member for Housing explained that since transferring the Council’s housing stock to two housing associations in 2002, it had been housing associations who have levied monies from central government for new development and where required, the Council continued to fund new affordable housing development to maximise quality and numbers.
The Executive Member explained that Housing associations operating locally had an excellent track recording of levying resources to add to their own monies and those made available from the Council and that she did not agree that the current housing schemes would “fall woefully short”. She added that by 2018/19, 232 new affordable homes would have been built and another 272 for completion in 2019/20. As a result, the Council was able to keep its housing register at around 2,000 households where other Councils were seeing significant increases or had to contain demand by barring access to housing to all but the most in need.
The Executive Member stated that over the five years to 2017, East Herts recorded the second highest increase across Hertfordshire in the number of affordable homes; Three Rivers reported more growth but five of Hertfordshire’s ten districts reported reductions in the number of affordable homes in their areas.
She explained that the Council had decided to take on a greater role in development more affordable homes and the Council now has a wholly-owned housing company called “Millstream” and its business plan, it planned to provide nine new affordable homes in the next two years.
In conclusion the Executive Member referred to the Council’s recently adopted District Plan which provided for new garden town developments and high quality extensions to market towns. She stated that these developments would see a further step change in new affordable housing provision in East Herts both for rent and affordable home ownership, including shared ownership. She referred to a Housing Fair aimed at promoting shared ownership on Saturday at which 100 people attended and of plans to hold another in the year in Bishop’s Stortford.