Stroud District Councillors’ Report
Summary of SDC Wotton Ward Councillors’ Council meetings and local business.
Chief Executive retires.
SDC’s Chief Executive, David Hagg, has announced his retirement. He will leave in October and the Group Leaders have started the process to appoint a replacement. In anticipation of this, Cllr Tucker and the other 2 Coalition Leaders, who are responsible for finding a suitable new CEO, have already met with Local Government Association advisors, to agree the process and timescales. Advertising the post and lending support during the selection process, will be handled by specialist recruitment consultants. Rather than entering into complex job & cost-sharing arrangements, as the other 5 Gloucestershire Districts and Country Council have, we consider that keeping Stroud an autonomously administered district is beneficial in today’s economic climate and for the well-being of the area. We are a well-run Council which is highly respected by many and we are advised that the position of CEO should appeal to a number of existing CEO or High-flying Directors of Service, who would enjoy living in the south Cotswolds and, as Head of Paid Service, have the relative freedom to run their own ‘ship’ without external restrictions or interferance. However, we will be looking for a CEO that will seek opportunities to collaborate with other Councils, particularly South Gloucestershire, where cost savings and other synergies may be advantageous to us.
Audit & Standards Annual Report of the SDC Audit & Standards Committee for 2017/18 was approved (report)
Brimscombe Port redevelopment – Report was approved for £1.6m of capital funding to be allocated to delivering infrastructure at and redevelopment of Brimscombe Port to the east of Stroud. This funding will help in securing a development partner for new housing on the site. Brimscombe Port redevelopment is expected to deliver 178 new homes – and the project will also support the objectives of the Cotswold Canal Regeneration project, since the canal cut and basin work will be delivered to provide flood alleviation for the new homes on the site. Other benefits of the development will be over 1000m2 of space for employment, retail, business and workshops – which is expected to bring 50 jobs and 10 business starts, with opportunities for apprenticeships.
Redevelopment of the site will bring back water to the port with a canal basin as its centre piece, improving the setting of the historic port mill and other listed buildings with significant cultural and heritage benefits. It is also expected to trigger regeneration of other sites along the valley, delivering more houses and jobs to the District. If Environment Agency approval is given to the flood modelling for the scheme, construction work could be underway from Nov 2019 to Nov 2021.
Mental Health - there was cross party support for a motion for the District Council to more actively champion positive mental health in the community, by signing the Local Authorities Mental Health Challenge, appointing two elected members as mental health champions and assessing how the current
and future initiatives (across all council committees) will affect the mental health and wellbeing of residents.
Single use plastic - again there was cross party support for a motion (proposed by Cllr Braun) for SDC to become a ‘single use plastic free’ authority by ending the purchase and procurement of plastics through the Council’s supply chain and ending the sale and provision of such products at council offices and events. Work will also be undertaken to inform and encourage residents and businesses to minimise their use of single use plastic products. A Task and Finish Group will be set up to prepare an action plan to deliver this commitment.
Heritage Lottery funding announced
On 1 May, the Heritage Lottery Fund development funding of £842,000 was announced - for the restoration of the derelict canal between Stonehouse and Saul junction. This funding will ensure everything is in place (infrastructure surveys, environmental surveys, pre-planning applications and biodiversity surveys etc, etc), before applying for a further £9million of HLF money to allow the whole project to go ahead.
The stretch between Stroud and Stonehouse is almost restored and bringing the remaining four miles back in to use will link it to the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal and the rest of the country, attract huge tourism benefits, create 30 hectares of biodiverse habitat and canal towpath, conserve and digitise archive material charting the canal’s history, and attract more than £100million-worth of new private investment within five years of the end of the project. Cllr Tucker is due to join local MPs and Captains of Industry on a trip along the full length of the Canal in July.
The project aims to take the canal under the M5 motorway, reinstate the 'missing mile' of canal near Eastington and forge a new stretch of canal under the A38 at Whitminster and bring many other benefits to the area. The SDC-led restoration between Stonehouse and Bowbridge has transformed the canal corridor, attracting £115million of private investment. Studies suggest that boaters and visitors to a restored canal would spend more than £5million a year in Stroud district. The monetised health benefits of the canal are calculated to be worth more than £37million a year.
Car parking charges.
District Council officers are working on proposals on the introduction of car parking charges in Wotton, Dursley and Nailsworth. District Councillors are to attend an information evening on the issue on 8 May to update members on the process and consult on the draft proposals.
On 14 June the Strategy and Resources Committee (comprising Group Leaders and Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs) will be asked to make a decision on going out to consultation on draft proposals.
A final decision is expected on 4 October when the matter will again be on the agenda for the Strategy and Resources Committee.
Wotton ward councillors are calling for the proposals to take into account the needs of local businesses and mitigate the very real risks of discouraging local shoppers and thus making trading more difficult in what is already a challenging position, given the increase in online shopping, for local town centres. Cllr Tucker has been working with residents to look at alternative parking options for traders and one site looks promising.
Councillors at Strategy and Resources supported in principle (and subject to funding and planning consent) the proposals for RUSH Skatepark to relocate from Brimscombe Port (due to redevelopment of the site) to Stratford Park. This proposal would add to the leisure offer at the park and be more convenient for skaters and BMX riders to reach due to better public transport links to the centre of Stroud.
Stroud Subscription Rooms
At April’s Strategy & Resources committee meeting, Councillors (inc Cllr Tucker) agreed that officers should approach Stroud Town Council to discuss their proposal to run the Sub Rooms. Although short of an actual bid for the lease, it was the only offer received to take over the running of the venue. SDC are now prepared to offer the freehold and the use of the forecourt to help with STC’s forward planning and are working with them to come to an amical arrangement for handing over the building as a community multi-arts venue. Contracts are currently being prepared, which will need agreement with S&R committee members. Following repairs to the roof (at SDC’s expense), it is expected that STC will run the Sub Rooms from April 2019. SDC will also provide a £135k subsidy in 2019-2020 to help with the transition.
Voting for 16s and over.
Cllr Butcher is putting a Motion to Full Council to debate the proposition of allowing 16-year olds to vote. If the Motion is carried, a letter will be sent by the Council Leader to the Government expressing our wish for the topic to be discussed in a wider forum. Cllr Butcher works in Further Education and agrees with his younger students, who argue they are being disenfranchised.
North Nibley Parish - Planning Application
Along with Chair of North Nibley Parish Council, Cllr Braun attended the April meeting of the Development Control Committee in support of a North Nibley Parish planning application for a temporary agricultural worker’s dwelling on land adjacent to Southwold, Bournstream. Councillors on the Committee voted in support of the application (against the planning officer recommendation) - recognizing the essential need for an onsite dwelling to look after more than 1300 lambs and ewes and a developing farm business. The farmer’s case was strengthened by the community support, which was demonstrated by many local letters and comments from North Nibley and Wotton residents and landowners. Cllrs Tucker & Butcher also supported the Finlay family application.
The Parish Council are keen to see some Affordable Housing in the village. Cllr Tucker has been supporting the Parish Council at discussions and meetings with SDC officers and the Gloucestershire Rural Community Council. Further meetings are being held to try and progress this ideal.
Bearlands Play Area and Road safety posters.
Work is now underway on Bearlands to complete the retaining wall and start the installation of new play equipment. Work is being carefully overseen by the project management team and District Council officers, with regular updates to Cllr Braun and the local Play Area Association.
If work continues to schedule, a ‘grand opening’ is planned for Sunday 3 June (11-2) which will involve entertainment and food as well as games and stories for children.
Ten road safety designs have been selected from the British School poster competition, which will be turned into road safety signs in the coming weeks. The ten pupils whose designs were chosen were delighted to be presented with their prizes (tickets for local attractions) by PCSO Mark Lifton at the school assembly.
OK Path lighting, Wotton
Following a request from the Wotton Youth Forum at Wotton Youth Partnership and from KLBS students, Cllr Braun has been investigating options for the installation of street lighting along the OK path.
Further information has now been received from the County Council in relation to the expected cost of the project. Since there are no service electricity cables along the route, the new lighting would require a trench to be dug to lay a new cable. Western Power Distribution have quoted £52,908 (inclusive of VAT) to undertake the work. In addition, the cost for the ten lighting columns would need to be added – which is likely to be approximately £5,000 (estimating £400 - £600 per column).
GCC have so far said they would be prepared to commit £5k towards the work to install the lighting. The remaining costs (of approximately £53k) would need to be met by the local community.
Greenway – to connect Wotton, Charfield and Kingswood
Cllr Braun is part of the Greenway Working Group – in support of the project to construct a safe, traffic-free route for pedestrians and cyclists to connect the local communities of Wotton, Charfield and Kingswood. The Group has now raised sufficient funds for a Phase 1 feasibility study -which will start in late June and be led by Sustrans. This has been possible thanks to generous donations from Gloucestershire County Council, Stroud District Council, Kingswood Parish Council and local charities, associations and businesses. Both Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire transport teams have been involved in discussions and are in principle supportive of the project. The objective of the Phase 1 study will be to research and define an outline route for the Greenway, and to assess whether a feasible route is capable of delivery. If a route is identified, Sustrans will provide an estimate of the cost of construction. It is anticipated that their report will be completed by August.
Community Services and Licencing (Cllr Butcher) - No Meetings
Meetings attended by Cllr Braun during April:
Car Parking Councillor Working Group (3 April)
Councillor information evening – RUSH Skatepark proposals and Universal Credit (12 April)
Wotton Youth Partnership meeting (17 April)
Cooperative Alliance Councillors meeting (19 April)
Wotton Town Council Annual Parish Assembly (23 April)
Development Control Committee (24 April)
British School Road Safety Sign – prizes awarded (26 April)
Full Council Meeting (26 April)
Meeting with Transport Officers from GCC and South Glos on Greenway (30 April)
Meetings attended by Cllr Butcher during April:
Car Parking Councillor Working Group (3 April)
Members Training – Licensing
Wotton Town Council
Coalition Alliance meeting (19 April)
Full Council Meeting (26 April)
Meetings attended by Cllr Tucker during April:
Group Leader’s meeting (3 April)
CEO meeting (4 April)
SDC Environment Committee (5 April)
North Nibley Parish Council meeting (9 April)
SDC Environmental Strategy (11 April)
SDC Strategy & Resources pre-meeting (11 April)
SDC Strategy & Resources (12 April)
SDC Investment & Development Committee (16 April)
SDC Planning Review Panel (17 April)
SDC Task & Finish Group -Refuse (18 April)
SDC Members information evening (19 April)
Coalition Alliance meeting (19 April)
Meeting with David Drew MP (20 April)
SDC Task & Finish Group -Tourism (24 April)
Meeting with officers re (lack of) housing repairs (26 April)
SDC Financial Budget workshop (27 April)
Group Leader’s meeting (30 April)
CEO meeting (30 April)