Venue: Civic Offices, Shute End, Wokingham RG40 1BN
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To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies for absence were submitted from Bill Soane (substituted by Alison Swaddle) and Shahid Younis.
To confirm the Minutes of the meeting held on 19 October 2015.
The Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 19 October 2015 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
Declaration of Interest
To receive any declarations of interest.
Councillor Ken Miall declared a personal interest in Item 14, Council Policy on Houses of Multiple Occupation, by virtue of the fact that his family were involved with the Shinfield Players and the Theatre had been mentioned in relation to parking problems in Shinfield. Councillor Miall remained in the meeting during discussions and voted on the matter.
Public Question Time
To answer any public questions
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.
Member Question Time
To answer any member questions.
There were no Member questions.
To receive and consider an update from the Executive Member for Highways and Planning on Council Policy on Houses of Multiple Occupation.
Councillor Miall declared a personal interest in this item.
Claire Lawrence, Head of Development Management and Regulatory Services, introduced two reports that had been circulated. The first dealt with the legislative background to Houses in Multiple Occupations (HMOs). She outlined the different definitions of HMOs under licencing and planning legislation and the different types of ‘nuisance’.
The second document outlined Wokingham Borough Council’s policy in dealing with problems related to HMOs. In the first instance they try to reach amicable solutions and involve neighbourhood officers in reaching solutions.
She described what would be involved in using Article 4 Directions to increase the Council’s control. This would be contrary to general Government policy which is to favour deregulation and it could be quashed by the Secretary of State. She described feedback she has had from other councils regarding use of Article 4 Directions which indicated that they were more likely to succeed if they were small in scale and it is essential that they are evidence-based. However, the time and resources required are significant and a one-year notice period is required.
In the meantime, she reminded Members that Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE) has been sought by the Borough and when that is available it will increase the Council’s powers to tackle parking problems which appear to be the main current problem with HMOs.
John Kaiser said that he believed that the numbers of HMOs are likely to increase as rents rise and it becomes more profitable. Parking problems arise because the old regulations on parking provision in areas like Shinfield were inadequate. He believed that some of the green space in Council ownership could be provided for parking but that the Council did not have money to pay for the parking provision.
Members sought clarification on the licencing and planning definitions of HMOs. Clare Lawrence agreed that the definitions left a lot of grey area and there was a great deal of case law involved. She believed that genuine families were easily identifiable but that it can be extremely difficult to know who is living in shared houses and HMOs where, for example, partners may stay occasionally or may be resident.
Michael Firmager pointed out that it is likely to be 18 months before CPE comes in and he asked what can be done in the meantime.
John Kaiser replied that there can be three ways to deal with parking enforcement: by the police, by the management companies and by residents. He said that there was a permit scheme operating for social housing in the Shinfield area.
Chris Bowring asked if it was mainly a problem relating to rented accommodation. Clare Lawrence responded that planning regulations deal with the use of a property and not whether they are owner-occupied or rented.
Alison Swaddle asked if the installation of bollards might help to prevent illegal parking. John Kaiser responded that bollards had their own problems.
Parry Batth, Mayor, thanked the Officer for the report. He said that he had sympathy with the ... view the full minutes text for item 14.
Road Repairs - impact of expected initiatives around customer service and public and ward Member road repair notifications.
To discuss the issue including impact of expected initiatives around customer service and public and ward Member road repair notifications so the Committee can seek assurance that current arrangements are effective.
Matt Davey, Head of Highways and Transport, described the Council’s approach to reactive and planned road maintenance. He said that all roads are inspected at least once a year - many more often. Inspectors make judgements and place orders for works - around 7,000 orders per year.
The contract with the road maintenance service provider defines various periods for work to be carried out with a premium paid for speedier response. Their work is inspected afterwards - on a random basis for smaller repairs.
Members related different experiences of the response when they send emails about road problems. Some were happy with the response, others were not. Pauline Jorgensen asked if the inspection schedules could be circulated to councillors so that they could assist the inspectors in identification of problems. The Chairman asked if Members could be notified of the inspector for their area.
John Kaiser told the meeting that Members will be given an email address the day following this meeting to use for reporting problems.
Members questioned the quality of some of the repairs. Matt Davey said that there had been a problem with the quality of some works done by the contractor. As a result there will be a reorganisation of the team with design and supervision work separated. He is optimistic that there will be an improvement.
He told the meeting that an independent survey indicated that the public perception was that the situation had improved. The number and value of claims against the Council had also declined.
Pauline Jorgensen asked if the information was available as to how many repairs were requested and how many were actually done. Matt Davey said that he could get those figures.
Ken Miall asked if paths are included in inspections. Matt Davey confirmed that paths are covered as well as any problems with hedges, electrical lines etc. He said that sometimes utility companies need to be contacted regarding problems.
Members asked for clarification on the involvement of utility companies in road repairs. John Kaiser replied that it is controlled by a licencing system which also gives the Council the opportunity to coordinate different works on the same piece of road. He said that he obtained agreement that S106 funds can be used for road repairs. He would also like to see some funds from the New Homes Bonus used for this purpose.
Some Members asked if it would be better to clearly define what constitutes a ‘pot hole’ that needs to be repaired to ensure consistency.
Matt Davey told the meeting that all A, B and C roads are examined by a machine. For new estates the Council specifies the road surface and checks that the developer builds them to the required standard but older roads could be substandard.
Members also questioned why the predicted length of road works always seems to be too optimistic.
Matt Davey told Members that there are four inspectors and he will email them details of the inspector for their area.
RESOLVED: It was ... view the full minutes text for item 15.
To consider the Committee’s work programme for the remainder of the municipal year.
The draft Work Programme was discussed.
It was agreed to add the report from the Commuter Parking Task and Finish Group to the agenda for January.
The Secretary informed the Members that legal opinion is still awaited on the question of the Part 2 Report on the Review of the Town Centre Regeneration Scheme.
With regard to the Review of Outside Bodies Appointments Members clarified that they wanted a list of such bodies and how much funding is allocated to them by the Council.
Pauline Jorgensen suggested that the Committee review Procurement in May after the new regulations have been implemented. She agreed to draw up draft terms of reference for such a review.