Venue: Virtual Meeting. View directions
Contact: Callum Wernham Democratic & Electoral Services Specialist
To receive any apologies for absence.
An apology for absence was submitted from Emma Hobbs.
Declaration of Interest
To receive any declarations of interest.
A declaration of interest was submitted from Shirley Boyt in relation to agenda item 77, on the grounds that she was a Member of the Working Group that worked on this strategy. Shirley stated that she would take no part in the discussions or voting for this item.
Public Question Time
To answer any public questions relating to items on this agenda
A period of 30 minutes will be allowed for members of the public to ask questions submitted under notice.
The Council welcomes questions from members of the public about the work of this committee.
Subject to meeting certain timescales, questions can relate to general issues concerned with the work of the Committee or an item which is on the Agenda for this meeting. For full details of the procedure for submitting questions please contact the Democratic Services Section on the numbers given below or go to www.wokingham.gov.uk/publicquestions
There were no public questions.
To answer any member questions relating to items on this agenda.
In accordance with the agreed procedure the Chairman invited Members to submit questions to the appropriate Members.
Gary Cowan asked the Chairman of the Community and Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee the following question:
The agenda states that and I quote "During the financial year 2020/21, the Flooding and Drainage team made further progress in fulfilling Wokingham Borough Council’s (WBC) statutory obligations as Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) under the Flood and Water Management Act (FWMA) 2010. The primary responsibility as an LLFA is to manage the coordination of surface water and groundwater flood risk in order to protect residents from flooding"
My question is does surface and Ground water risk include reservoirs and Dams or Not or is that a different water that residents do not need protecting from?
The Lead Local Flood Authority is responsible for coordinating the response to surface water and groundwater flood risk. The Environment Agency is responsible for overseeing the management of reservoir flooding and for the management and implementation of reservoir safety regulations in England. They are also responsible for coordinating the management of fluvial (river) flooding. In regards to reservoirs and specifically dams etcetera as well, that actually comes under a separate act of parliament – the Reservoirs Act 1075, in which reservoirs, with you being in Arborfield the principle reservoir that you are probably asking about would be the ones in Bearwood Lakes, which are covered under that act. Essentially, it is the responsibility of the land owner to conduct a 10 year structural risk assessment under the Reservoirs Act, and then coordinate with the Local Authority as to any planning that needs to be done in order to mitigate any risk. I think that Bearwood is coming up in 2024 or 2025, and the reason why I know this is whilst I was on Earley Town Council we did research into the Maiden Erlegh Reservoir Lake, and that report was done a few years back.
You have studied the subject very well, well done. The problem I’ve got with it is, and I agree with pretty much everything that you say, is that although the Environment Agency might have dam responsibilities, we have a responsibility to our residents. The Council has granted planning permission to build 18 houses directly under the flood burst zone, and so there has to be a link between the Council having responsibility in planning terms and the local flood risk as the local flood authority. The question is although the Council never informed the Environment Agency of this planning application, there is a very grey area where planning applications turn up, so how does our planning and flood risk fit in with this broad principle? I don’t expect an answer now as it is fairly comprehensive.
Indeed Gary, I may need to look to Francesca to take a stab at this. I agree with Gary that this is a grey area, and what makes it ‘greyer’ is that the ownership of the lakes has transferred as I believe that Reading Football Club now owns it.
The planning application, the Environment Agency were consulted on and we would expect them to comment on fluvial ... view the full minutes text for item 75.1
To consider an update on Flood Risk Management within the Borough
The Committee considered a report, set out in agenda pages 5 to 10, which gave an update on flood risk management within the Borough.
The report outlined 11 key areas whereby actions had been undertaken in the past twelve months. These actions included the completion of Surface Water Management Plan for Earley, emergency response to flooding and subsequent S19 incident reports, delivery of capital drainage schemes, and smart drainage trials.
Parry Batth (Executive Member for Environment and Leisure) and Francesca Hobson (Service Manager – Community, Heritage, Green & Blue Infrastructure) attended the meeting to answer Member queries.
During the ensuing discussions, Members and the invited expert guest raised the following points and queries:
· The asset register was critical both for proposed developments and retrospective, as a lot of detail could be hidden in areas such as slight dips in the ground.
· The NFM feature in Maiden Erlegh was brilliant and fundamental piece of work. There had been internal flooding further down that section of ditch towards the river. Was the modelling for the aforementioned feature inclusive of the reach down towards the river? Officer response – Officers were concerned that the culvert at Egremont Drive was acting as a bottleneck, meaning that although it was causing flooding at that location it could lead to other problems downstream should it be removed. Whilst the consultant was carrying out these works, Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) ensured that they included all of that information in the modelling to ensure that the removal of the culvert would not have any adverse impact downstream. The contractor monitors this site on a weekly basis, compared to a monthly check for other locations within the Borough. In addition, the contractor would proactively check the site in the event of heavy rain.
· What support was in place for residents whose homes flooded? Officer response – WBC was working to set up dedicated support groups, in addition to working with flood action volunteers. WBC was aiming to be as proactive as possible in setting up flood resilience groups, with the Swallowfield flood resilience group being an excellent example. These measures were key, as flooding had a longer psychological impact on affected persons.
· In planning terms, some developments did not get built in the order they were envisaged. How was this managed to avoid a situation where an asset was not exactly where it should be? Officer response – The team had expanded over the years from two officers to six officers. This gave additional capacity to monitor these sort of situations. Lots of residents reported such instances, and officers were sent out to investigate.
· Could the programme of when each area would receive a surface water management plan be detailed, in addition to how each area was prioritised? Officer response – In terms of priorities, historical reports of flooding were used alongside the surface water flood risk maps and reports from residents. Currently, 1 surface water management plan was being developer per year, and this was based on a ... view the full minutes text for item 76.
To consider the proposed Arts and Culture Strategy
Shirley Boyt declared an interest in this item, and therefore did not participate in the discussions.
The Committee received a report, set out in agenda pages 11 to 24, which set out the proposed Arts & Culture strategy for the Borough.
The report outlined the consultation that had been undertaken regarding the proposed strategy, and the changes that had been made as a result. Some of the changes included contextualising the strategy within the frame of the Covid-19 (C-19) pandemic, reference to the declared climate emergency including a commitment to ensure that the aspiration to be carbon neutral is fully factored in to implementation plans and related activities, and the inclusion of one of a desired outcome being that of new and enhanced cultural venues.
Charlotte Haitham Taylor (Executive Member for Regeneration), Grant Thornton (Senior Specialist Economic Prosperity & Place), and Robin Cops (Vice Chair of the Arts & Culture Alliance) attended the meeting to answer Member queries.
During the ensuing discussions, Members raised the following points and queries:
· Would the northern Parishes be included in the Arts and Cultural Alliance (ACA)? Executive Member response – The ACA would welcome the contribution of the northern Parishes, as well as all other areas of the Borough. All Town and Parish Councils had been contacted as part of the development of the proposed policy, and it was hoped that more communities within the Borough would join the ACA as time progressed.
· Were we reaching out to people of an older generation? Executive Member response – The consultation had seen a far greater response rate from people of an older generation rather than those from a younger generation. As such, part of the action plan involved reaching out to younger people was seen to be a key action moving forward. The action plan had picked up issues including social isolation of older people, and therefore aimed to reach out to such individuals.
· It was noted that the ACA really valued the local knowledge from within specific communities, and welcomed engagement from across the Borough.
· It was noted that the proposed strategy was a framework, which aimed to identify gaps in the current support and provision of arts and cultural events, institutions and communities across the Borough.
· Which were the five Town and Parish Councils that had responded to the consultation? Officer response – A conclusive list would be provided outside of the meeting.
· Winnersh Parish Council would like to be involved in the ACA, was this planned? Executive Member response – All Towns and Parishes were welcomed and encouraged to get involved, and this included Winnersh.
· What considerations and adaptations had been made to the proposed strategy as a result of the C-19 pandemic? Executive Member response – Both the strategy and the action plan had been adapted throughout the course of the pandemic. Both the strategy and the action plan will be reviewed every 6 months during the pandemic and recovery stage, and then every year afterwards.
· How was the proposed strategy being prioritised ... view the full minutes text for item 77.
To consider an update on the elections due to be held in May 2021
The Committee received a report, set out in agenda pages 25 to 28, which gave an update on the elections due to be held in May 2021.
The report outlined that the number one priority was to ensure that a safe and secure election would be carried out across the Borough. In addition to this, there was a commitment to make the count and vote as timely as possible for electors and Members, whilst taking the above into consideration. It would therefore be a balance, with a longer counting process ensuring the safety of all involved, whilst still being as transparent and thorough as ever. Many polling stations would have additional measures in place to ensure that they were safe for electors and staff, whilst some venues would have to change to a more Covid-19 (C-19) secure venue.
Andre Moulton (Assistant Director – Governance) and Anne Hunter (Lead Specialist, Democratic & Electoral Services) attended the meeting to answer Member queries.
During the ensuing discussions, Members raised the following points and queries:
· When would the candidates and agents briefing take place? Officer response – This was planned for 9th March 2021 at 6pm.
· Was it planned to write to write to all electors who did not currently have a postal vote to inform them of the option to do so? Officer response – Yes, this was in the election project plan to set out the choices available to the electorate.
· What percentage of the Borough was currently registered to vote by post? Officer response – Approximately twenty percent of the Borough was registered to vote by post. This was subject to change as we approached the election.
· Would the letter to electors, explaining the options of a postal vote and containing a form to apply for one, be sent to people on the current register of electors or the March register? Officer response – The letter would be sent to people on the register at the time when the letter was finalised.
· What campaigning would be allowed regarding this election? Officer response – Any interested groups or persons would be advised to keep close attention to the Electoral Commission’s website for any and all advice.
· It was noted that the count would be conducted in stages, to ensure that the numbers within the counting area were at safe and C-19 compliant levels.
· Members supported the strategy of informing residents of their options to vote by post, as this would be more comfortable and safer for a lot of people this year.
· Were the elections team able to access more support to administer these elections safely? Officer response – There was already additional resource within the core team to help manage the workload. As a corporate event, the team had support right across the Council.
· Were nomination forms be required to be wet signed this year? Officer response – Yes, and the candidates and agents briefing would provide additional information regarding this.
· It was noted that the count for the Police and ... view the full minutes text for item 78.
To consider the work programme for the remainder of 2020/21 municipal year
The Committee considered their remaining meeting of the current municipal year, set out on agenda page 29.
RESOLVED That the work programme be noted.