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To receive apologies for absence.
An apology for absence was submitted from Councillor Thomas. It was noted that Councillor Marlow was substituting for Councillor Thomas. It was noted that Councillors Redfern and Williams would be joining the meeting slightly later.
To approve as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting held on 12 September 2023.
The Minutes of the meeting were submitted. Councillor Clements suggested that there should be an amendment to paragraph 6 of Minute 132 (Community Grants Policy and Priorities 2023/24). He suggested that the paragraph should be amended as follows:
Delete “on priorities and providing support to those who needed mental health support with gaining employment”.
Councillor Boylan explained that he had not attended the meeting on 12 September and had sent his apologies for that meeting and that Councillor Williamson had substituted for him. He asked that the list of those in attendance be amended to add “Councillor Williamson”.
In relation to Minute 130 (Pedestrian Safety) Councillor Nicholls referred to “children’s’” perception of speed and asked that this paragraph be amended to reflect this. This was supported.
Councillor Clements proposed and Councillor Nicholls seconded, a motion that the Minutes of the meeting held on 12 September 2023, as amended, be confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
After being put to the meeting and a vote taken, the motion was declared CARRIED.
RESOLVED – that the Minutes of the meeting held on 12 September 2023, as amended, be confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
There were no Chairman’s announcements.
Declarations of Interest
To receive any Members’ Declarations of Interest.
There were no declarations of interest.
Consideration of the draft proposed set of
principles governing how the council will inform, engage and
consult residents, businesses and stakeholders. The principles have
been set out in a simple, draft document titled ‘A Listening
The Executive Member for Resident Engagement submitted a report which provided Members of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee with the opportunity to consider and provide comments on the draft proposed set of principles governing how the council will inform, engage and consult residents, businesses and stakeholders.
In response to a query from Councillor McAndrew regarding the inclusion of the two agenda items, at the request of the Chairman, the Head of Legal and Democratic Services explained the processes involved before reports are added to an agenda.
Councillor McAndrew also referred to the future development of the Work Programme and proposed changes. The Chairman assured Members that he was in discussion with the Leader regularly in terms of the Forward Plan and its impact on the Work Programme of Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
The Executive Member for Resident Engagement welcomed the opportunity to discuss the document before Members. He explained that the report had been driven by the low electoral turnout at the District Elections in May 2023 and the need to ensure that the council engaged in a more diverse manner with residents and at the earliest opportunity especially on key issues such as housing, planning, licensing in order to hear more diverse views. He said that the paper before Members addressed a new approach to engagement and consultation.
The Executive Member acknowledged the council’s past record and practices but felt that there was a greater opportunity to work in a more open and transparent, engagement process. The report before Members drafted a simple and straightforward set of principles which the council would follow when seeking to inform, and consult with residents, businesses and stakeholders.
The Chairman made the point that the council worked in an open and transparent way and that the meeting was a public meeting. He added that the information was open to inspection but that residents will only be interested in what they are interested in.
Following extensive debate, Members felt that:
· the role of Ward Members and the role of Overview and Scrutiny should be emphasised more in the draft document;
· there was a need to ensure that people’s expectations were managed in an open and transparent way and of the limitations which may be placed on officers from the viewpoint of planning;
· the document should reflect an ability to say “no” from the viewpoint of resources and budget constraints. It was acknowledged that a forum was needed to hear what the community wanted whether this was a citizens’ forum or other tried and tested forums for public engagement to listen to views;
· the views of young people must be reflected in the document, including an explanation of how these might be collated;
· further information should be included on how the council’s policies would be amended to reflect the principles set out in the draft document.
· the role of councillors working in their wards was acknowledged and there was a need to improve internal communication in the consultation process in working with, Members, Officers and ... view the full minutes text for item 207.
The Executive Member for Planning and Growth submitted a report which provided Members of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee with the opportunity to consider and provide observations on the proposal to set up Community Forums for Strategic Sites across the district and the proposal to establish a Development Management Forum.
The Executive Member for Planning and Growth explained that the establishment of regular Community Forums for large strategic sites for developers, residents, community groups, elected Members and Officers would allow all groups to engage and raise issues of concern over the lifetime of a development and this would enhance the quality of community life and communication. Additionally, the development of a Development Management Forum for planning applications (for 50 or more homes) arranged prior to a planning decision would enable residents to share their concerns in an in an open and transparent way.
The Executive Member for Planning and Growth explained how the forums and their respective remits would operate.
Members debated the proposal at length commenting as follows:
terms of the Community Forums for strategic sites, the opportunity
to steer and influence a development was a positive step
· in relation to Development Management forums, concerns were raised from the viewpoint of resources;
· that there was already a Statement of Community involvement and that a Community Forum was a seen as a duplication of effort. The Head of Planning and Building Control provided explained that the SCI was being phased out as a result of the Government’s planning reforms and replacing it with an engagement strategy for use in the preparation of the District Plan;
· that there would be considerable resources from the viewpoint of planning Officers and administrative staff needed to set up Community Forums and of the impact this would have on the planning service including from an enforcement issue;
· of concerns not just on East Herts Officers but other Councils such as Hertfordshire County Council Officers.
Examples of good practise were provided in relation to Bishop’s Stortford South where a forum had been established, versus Bishop’s Stortford North where one had not. In terms of the latter example, the Executive Member for Planning and Growth referred to the amount of Officer and Councillor time that had been spent on Bishop’s Stortford North complaints, Freedom of Information Requests etc and the negative impact this had on Officers and Members’ time.
The Head of Planning and Building Control explained that the council had a Stewardship Planning Officer and there was capacity to use that Officer and work with case officers and the enforcement team in supporting the forums.
that the establishment of Development Management Forums might deter
some developers from putting forward speculative
· sought assurances that all stakeholders would be included in the forum process as some neighbourhood planning groups had been aggrieved in the past.
Members acknowledged that the Community Forum sought to manage the lifespan of a project. A concern was expressed with regard to the Development Management Forum and how ... view the full minutes text for item 208.
The Scrutiny Officer submitted the work programme report and sought Members’ comments on items for inclusion on the agenda for the meeting on 16 January 2024. She drew Members’ attention to the Appendix to the report and provided an update on the programme.
The Scrutiny Officer explained that summary bulletins had been circulated in advance of the meeting on various topics requested by Members at a previous meeting.
The Chairman noted concerns expressed in relation to the Air Quality Action Plan and suggested that depending on content of the report, a further review could be undertaken at a future date.
It was noted that information was awaited from Social Housing providers (in relation to questions raised by Members) and that depending on content, Members might wish to explore this further at the January meeting.
Members agreed that the agenda for the meeting on 16 January 2024 should comprise:
· Air Quality Action Plan
· Thriving Together – A new Health and Wellbeing Plan for East Herts 2023 – 2027
· Social Housing providers report (complaints, repairs etc) – to be confirmed)
Members noted that Councillor Glover-Ward would not be available to attend the January meeting (if necessary) to respond to questions in relation to the UK Share Prosperity Money (Levelling up how UKSPF is being used). It was agreed that this item should be moved to the March meeting in 2024.
The Scrutiny Officer explained that she had been advised there had been some minor changes to the Data Protection and Governance Policies which were normally reported to Overview and Scrutiny. Members agreed that in view of the fact that the changes were minor and grammatical in content that this could be circulated as a Summary Bulletin. This was supported.
The Chairman assured Members that he met regularly with the Leader to ensure the co-ordination of the Council’s Forward Plan and the Work Programme of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
Councillor Clements proposed and Councillor Nicholls seconded, a motion that, subject to the above changes, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee work programme in Appendix 1 for 2023-24 as amended, be agreed. After being put to the meeting and a vote taken, the motion was declared CARRIED.
RESOLVED – that, subject to the above changes the work programme in Appendix 1 for 2023-24 as amended, be agreed.
To consider such other business as, in the opinion of the Chairman of the meeting, is of sufficient urgency to warrant consideration and is not likely to involve the disclosure of exempt information.
There was no urgent business.