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To confirm as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting held on 12 January 2017 (previously circulated).
The Minutes of the meeting held on 12 January 2017 were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
DECLARATIONS OF INTERESTS BY MEMBERS
To note declarations of Members’ disclosable pecuniary interests, non-disclosable pecuniary interests and non-pecuniary interests in respect of items on the Agenda.
Councillor M.Cowan declared an interest in items on the Agenda as appropriate by virtue of being a Member of Hertfordshire County Council.
PUBLIC QUESTION TIME AND PETITIONS
Up to fifteen minutes will be made available for questions from members of the public on issues relating to the work of the Panel and to receive any petitions.
Notice of two questions had been received and the Chairman responded as follows:
Question 1 - From A.Perkins FRICS on Agenda Item 8 Local Plan Update
“At paragraph 4.90 of the Local Plan Update report it states:
Promoters of sites in Welham Green have combined to put forward proposals for a new single form primary school to address the infrastructure issues. They have also submitted evidence on the need for additional school places in Welham Green challenging the County Council's position that 1,000 dwellings equates to the need to provide a two form entry primary school and two additional levels at secondary school. A promoter in Brookmans Park has similarly submitted evidence on this matter".
With regard to primary school capacity in Brookmans Park, an expert report from Mr Stephen Clyne at Educational Facilities Management was submitted to Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council and to Hertfordshire County Council on 11 July 2016 which demonstrated that there is not a constraint on housing provision in Brookmans Park related to the capacity of the primary school.
Based on expert evidence from Stephen Clyne, a highly respected expert consultant who regularly provides educational advice to County Councils throughout the UK, it has been established that only 147 of the 310 pupils who attend Brookmans Park primary school live in that village. 163 of the children attending Brookmans Park primary school (52%) do not live in the village.
Hertfordshire County Council has made clear that it intends to expand the existing 1.5 form entry primary school or build a new primary school in Brookmans Park to accommodate 2 form entry. This would further increase the pupil capacity.
Paragraph 72 of the NPPF states:
"The Government attaches great importance to ensuring sufficient choice of school places is available to meet the needs of existing and new communities. Local planning authorities should take a proactive, positive and collaborative approach to meeting this requirement.
• Give great weight to the need to create, expand or alter schools and;
• Work with schools promoters to identify and resolve key planning issues.... "
Three possible sites for a new primary school in Brookmans Park have been identified since 2012 but, to the best of my knowledge, no further steps have been taken by WHBC to comply with paragraph 72.
Paragraph 162 of the NPPF requires a local planning authority to work with other authorities and providers to:
'Assess the quality and capacity of infrastructure for education".
Paragraph 182 of the NPPF requires a Local Plan to be:
· Positively Prepared
· Consistent with national policy.
Having regard to paragraphs 72 and 162 of the NPPF would the CHPP please state why the Borough Council has failed to respond, at all, to the expert report in respect of primary school capacity in Brookmans Park, which was submitted to the Borough Council in July 2016?
In accordance with paragraphs 72 and 162 of ... view the full minutes text for item 79.
Report of the Executive Director (Housing and Communities) which provides a summary of key performance of the Welwyn Hatfield Community Housing Trust.
Report of the Executive Director (Housing and Communities) providing a summary of the performance in the key areas of Welwyn Hatfield Community Housing Trust’s (the Trust) activity up to the end of the third quarter 2016/17, as set out in Appendix A attached to the report. It was noted that the Trust had reintegrated to the Council and therefore this was the last performance report produced by the Trust for services managed by the Trust.
A performance management report on the housing services in the future would be provided and the structure and presentation of that was currently being agreed.
During the discussion the following points were made:-
· The types of properties available. During this quarter 23 properties were sold through the Right to Buy Scheme as listed within the report. A total of 62 for the year to date period so far.
Rent Collection and Arrears Management
· The bad debt provision for quarter three performance in the past reported arrears at their highest percentage for each previous financial year and this was reflected again for the current year with performance at 2.29% for December 2016. It was anticipated that there would be a gradual reduction over the final months in quarter four.
· Tenants facing difficulties were being helped by the Housing Team.
· Rent collection was expected to achieve 100% at year end with the positive impact of the two rent free weeks.
Managing Under Occupation
· 58 moves had been achieved year to date.
· The Home Mover Officers had worked with tenants, assisting with practical issues and other such matters associated with a property move and this service had helped vulnerable tenants to downsize.
Homelessness and Temporary Accommodation
· There had been a decrease in the number of households approaching as homeless.
· The number of complex cases had taken considerable time to investigate before a decision could be made – therefore people stayed in temporary accommodation for a longer period.
· There were also many external factors which affected how long people stayed in Temporary Accommodation. For example, currently many people were losing their private rented accommodation because recent changes to housing benefit rules meant that conditions were less favourable for private landlords.
· Another factor was the availability of move-on accommodation both into social and private rented sectors. Members discussed the target figure of 55 and the achievement of the target.
· Members considered the external factors which might have an impact on the figures, also whether additional resources would help to move the target figure to 60?
· Consideration was given to accommodation for 18-25 year olds and new legislation.
Housing Needs Register
· If an applicant had not bid for a property for six months or more at the point of the review, they were notified that their application would be cancelled unless there were exceptional circumstances to explain the non-bidding.
Complaints and Compliments
· The Key Performance Indicator (KPI) summary for service activity was explained. The percentage of stage two complaints responded to within target was showing as 80% for the ... view the full minutes text for item 80.
Report of the Executive Director (Public Protection, Planning and Governance) which provides the Panel with an overview of the key issues raised during the consultation, prior to next meeting when a full list of the key issues and a schedule of proposed modifications will be presented to the Panel.
Members received the report of the Executive Director (Public Protection, Planning and Governance), which provided an update on the Local Plan and an overview of the key issues raised during the consultation, prior to the next meeting when a full list of the key issues and a schedule of proposed modifications would be presented to the Panel for Members to decide whether to recommend to submit the documents to the Secretary of State.
The report noted that over 3,000 comments had been made on the five consultation documents. In addition during the consultation period one petition was received with 493 signatures with an objection to the allocation of a site for residential development in the Green Belt in Woolmer Green and proposing that Entech House be allocated for residential rather than employment development.
The following key points were raised and discussed:
· Means of consultation – a variety of methods were used to raise awareness of the consultation including a prominent placement of information on the Council’s website.
· Six events took place and approximately 700 people took the opportunity to view and discuss the proposals.
· A more comprehensive list of main issues was being drawn up together with Officer recommendations as to whether any modifications needed to be made as a result of the issues raised.
· The legal and soundness tests were being applied to this stage of consultation.
· Noted that some residents considered that they had not had sufficient opportunity to be involved in the process of plan making and felt that their representations were not listened to, although the Plan had changed direction due to a number of responses received.
· Duty to Co-operate (DTC) – some respondents had referred to the failure to comply with the Duty to Co-operate, however only one of these (St Albans City and District Council) was a DTC body. St Albans had expressed its willingness to have further DTC discussion prior to submission and it was hoped that its concern would be addressed prior to submission.
· 60% of responses to the draft Plan felt that the plan was unsound and had requested changes.
· In terms of growth, St Albans City and District Council considered that the job figures target was too high and there were others that had indicated that more land for employment was required.
· Broxbourne Borough Council confirmed that it was unlikely to be able to meet any of Welwyn Hatfield’s housing development shortfall.
· The use of Green Belt land continued to be controversial. It was suggested that the Council needed to demonstrate why it was using Green Belt land.
· Some respondents considered there was too much growth proposed around the villages and others that the villages should be accommodating more. Similarly some felt the towns were accommodating too much growth and others that they should have less. Some believed that there should have been more consideration given to the creation of a new settlement.
· Secondary school capacity was a constraint on overall numbers in the Plan.
· The need for good quality ... view the full minutes text for item 81.
HOUSING WHITE PAPER
Members received the report of the Executive Director (Public Protection, Planning and Governance) providing a summary of the Government’s Housing White Paper which would be published for consultation up to 2 May 2017.
The report noted that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government stated in his introduction that the UK did not have enough homes and this in turn had created a market that failed to work for far too many people. The paper highlighted some key facts that explained why the housing market was broken. It claimed the problem was threefold: not enough local authorities were planning for the homes they needed, house building was too slow and the construction industry was too reliant on a small number of big players.
Members discussed the headline planning proposals and the following key points were covered:
(1) That the report be noted.
(2) That Officers prepare proposed responses to the consultation questions on the Housing White Paper for the meeting of this Panel on 19 April 2017.
(Note: The Chairman accepted this as an item of urgent business on account of the need for the Council to prepare a response to the Government Housing White Paper).
BOUNDARY HOUSE, WELWYN GARDEN CITY
Members received a verbal report on Boundary House, a privately owned property with 45 studio units with separate bathroom and living area with a kitchen.
The Private Sector Housing Team became involved initially in February 2013 when they were advised that the housing block was being refurbished and the owner would be letting it as temporary accommodation for homeless families. The Team intervened in the original plans to ensure that the planned work would meet the legal standards; for example, a heating system.
It was noted that the London Boroughs retained a rehousing duty to the residents in the block. Whilst some approaches were made to Welwyn Hatfield’s housing needs service from residents when the block was initially occupied, there had been very little contact since that time from residents seeking housing advice. It was further noted that there had been no rehousing of families from this block into the Borough and the Council would always maintain the position that the London Boroughs had a duty to support and provide housing/housing advice. The Private Sector Team had an ongoing responsibility to ensure that the landlord was meeting the required standards, in terms of the quality of the property. However, eight complaints had been received about property standards relating to seven properties since 2013. The Team had previously written to the appropriate London Boroughs regarding the level of occupancy and action had been taken to reallocate families, where they were overcrowded. The last occupancy data was received in August 2016. Members were informed that on checking these records against the addresses noted from the News Night Programme, the occupants were different to the families who were in the block in August so it appeared that they moved in after August last year.
Work was underway with the Local Government Association (Eastern Region) to improve information exchange and working practices between Hertfordshire and Essex Local Authorities and London Boroughs in terms of placing homeless families.
Consideration was given to rents, the discharge of homelessness duties and out of Borough placements of homeless households that had continued and this in turn had placed additional pressure on the Council’s housing service/resources.
It was noted that a meeting had been arranged with senior Officers from the London Borough of Waltham Forest (who currently let 33 properties in the block) to address the level of occupancy of some of the families in the block and to seek assurances from them that this would be resolved. A meeting had been arranged with the management company (Theori Property Management) to remind them of their ongoing responsibilities and to ensure that there would be clear processes in place for residents to raise concerns and to have sufficient information/advice about where to obtain support, also to reiterate the importance of receiving the full occupancy details on a quarterly basis.
It was noted that the London Borough of Newham no longer used the units. There would be a visit made by the Team Officers to the two addresses highlighted in ... view the full minutes text for item 83.