To question Councillor Kaiser, Executive Member for Planning and Highways, on the operation of services within his portfolio and upcoming issues.
A list of the Executive Member for Planning and Highways’ specific portfolio responsibilities is attached.
The Chairman stated that as part of its role of holding the Executive to account for the delivery of Council services the Committee had invited Councillor Kaiser to discuss current issues relating to his portfolio and to take questions. Heather Thwaites, Director of Environment was also in attendance.
The Committee was referred to the list of Councillor Kaiser’s responsibilities, as set out on Pages 15/16 of the Agenda and the relevant Council Plan performance indicators.
Councillor Kaiser highlighted the following issues:
· Roads – lack of funding had meant that no new roads had been built in the Borough for many years. S106 and Community Infrastructure Levy monies linked to the SDL sites were funding six new roads over the next four years, four relief roads and two major distributor roads.
· Traffic congestion, particularly at peak times during the day was an ongoing challenge. The Council was implementing initiatives such as park and ride, improved facilities for cycling and better co-ordination of buses. However, the number of cars on the road continued to grow and this would remain a significant challenge for the future.
· Road Repairs – The Council was responsible for around 1,600 roads across the Borough and current resources meant that only around 50/60 roads were repaired each year. Emergency works also took away resources from planned maintenance.
· New Development – A more strategic approach to planning with the Local Plan and agreed SDL sites had resulted in a significant improvement in the Council’s available resources for infrastructure. However, there were restrictions on the use of these monies for road repairs.
Members then raised the following points:
· What measures were being implemented to manage traffic congestion at the morning and evening rush hours? It was confirmed that there was more joined up working in the Highways team to plan ahead for roadworks to ensure that congestion was managed. The Council’s approach to statutory undertakers also meant that roadworks were planned to avoid other works in the area. On a longer term basis it was likely that home/flexible working would become more commonplace in order to address the impact of traffic congestion on the working day.
· What progress was being made on the Wokingham Town Centre Parking Strategy and the implementation of Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE)? It was confirmed that the Town Centre proposals included a 550 space multi-storey car park. Work was also ongoing to route more buses through the town centre in order to provide an alternative to the private car. In relation to CPE, the decision to go ahead had been taken in the Autumn of 2015. Work was now underway to address issues such as the revision of traffic orders and the application process to the Government. It was anticipated that CPE would be introduced in the spring/summer of 2017.
· What strategic work was taking place in relation to issues such as increasing capacity on the M4 and the potential extension of the A329M over the River Thames into Oxfordshire? It was confirmed that a strategic approach was being pursued as there was a risk that improvement works on one section of the road network might lead to bottlenecks and congestion on another section. There were also concerns over the Highways England traffic model for the area which had led the Council to commission its own modelling exercise. As part of the new approach to strategic planning the Council had a “duty to consult” with neighbouring authorities when new infrastructure was being considered.
· When infill development was carried out there were frequent complaints about damage to local roads which was not addressed by developers or their contractors. Members asked about the powers the Council had to tackle this problem. It was recognised that this was a significant issue for local communities. The Council tended to object to infill (back garden) development but frequently lost at appeal. It was difficult to take enforcement action against developers/contractors in these cases as it was difficult to prove that damage to a road was the direct result of their actions. The Council did liaise with developers and their contractors to emphasise the need for consideration of local communities when work was underway on site.
RESOLVED: That Councillor Kaiser be thanked for attending the meeting and answering Members’ questions.