Liz Harvey Ledbury

Liz Harvey Blog from cabinet 1st Dec 2016

Liz Harvey Blog from Cabinet 1st December 2016

Items on the agenda are: Youth Justice Plan, Annual Adoption Plan, the council’s 2017-18 Capital Investment Plan, Herefordshire’s Economic Development Strategy.

Youth Justice Plan – presented by Cabinet Member for Children – Cllr Lester. This is an annual plan which considers youth justice and offending in the county. Cooperation with partner organisations (police, health, etc.) is required to produce and deliver the plan. Approved.

Annual Adoption Plan – again, introduced by Cllr Lester. 29 children adopted successfully in Herefordshire last year – a record for the county. Officers congratulated on the increase in families coming forward to offer fostering and adoption services. Approved

Capital Plan – increased borrowing is proposed for 17-18 and beyond. Cllr Powers requests for more detail to be provided of the proposed expenditure on infrastructure projects ahead of this plan going to full council on 16th December. This is agreed.. Cabinet approves the plan

Economic Development Plan – Cllr Harlow, Cabinet member for Economic Development, introduces the plan which continues to focus heavily (almost totally) on the city with little planned investment for the market towns. Apparently, he had a bit of a roasting at a meeting with market town representatives last week. He appreciated the ‘feedback’, he says. The plan relies almost entirely on private sector investment being attracted and encouraged by the ‘vision’ presented.

Key project ideas include: Hereford Enterprise Zone, Hereford business quarter, NMITE Hereford University, Hereford Urban Village, Hereford Football Club, Hereford River Quarter, Berrington St regeneration, Hereford Parking. Also more general aspirations to improve the county’s leisure offering, tourism, showcasing food and drink, improvements to parking and facilities at Leominster railway station.

Powers raises concern at the unitary authority’s limited efforts to engage with the market towns. Cllr Harlow responds that work continues and more dialogue with market towns is planned for the New Year……

Plan approved. Meeting closed.

Charles Nicholls

Charles Nicholls has decided to leave  It’s Our County for personal reasons. He wishes to continue to serve the residents of Hereford’s Bobblestock Ward as an unattached parish councillor.

On behalf of It’s Our County I want to thank Charles for all his work over the past five years. When I think of IOC, right from its earliest creation, ‘Our Charlie’ has been a stalwart, a common denominator in our success and his dedication to the cause has brought us where we are today, the official opposition on the Unitary authority, a position entirely unique in the political map of the U.K.

I will miss his political nous, advice and friendship. We as a party will endeavour to remain true to the ideals and aims that Charlie and the early founders of IOC envisioned. We wish him the very best for the future.

John Harrington, Deputy Chairman

07773 529223

Liz Harvey Ledbury

Liz Harvey Cabinet Meeting Blog 3rd November 2016

Apologies from Cllr Lester (Children’s portfolio) and Cllr Rone (Traffic & Transport). Minutes of the previous meeting approved without comment.

First substantive item is Redesign and Commissioning of Homecare Services. This represents £9m p.a. of the council’s budget which is spent caring for people in their own home. 12 months of various forms of consultation with users and service providers has taken place which has informed the recommissioning plan. The council’s current frame work contract comes to an end in June 2017. This decision is to set in motion the commissioning of a new framework and to give authority for officers to extend the existing contract by up to 9 months to see the new contract implemented with a smooth transition for service users.

Officers present the background work on developing a procurement strategy and hourly rate which is sustainable for service providers and affordable for the council. The strategy depends on providers bidding to operate within geographical areas which balance the care delivered between rural (expensive and sparsely populated) and urban areas (more closely located). £15.80 is suggested as the provider rate offered by the council. Cllr Bramer thinks that the council should offer providers a marginal rate which would soak up staff time they haven’t ‘sold’ on commercial/private care delivery. Cllr James (Liberal) agrees with him and asks why the council is paying twice the living wage for this work. Oh dear, Officers have to explain that providers have other costs besides paying their caring staff, that the council has only allowed an average of 7.5 minutes travelling between clients, many of our providers pay above the minimum/living wage – and rightly so for these important caring services provided to our most vulnerable residents.

Cllr Powers (IOC) Seek assurance that parish councils and community volunteers are not assumed as an essential part of future service delivery. Officers say that anyone in need of professional care will have professional carers doing it.

Cllr Powers also asks whether 7.5 minutes is sufficient to enable carers to travel between clients. Officers admit that providers say they need 12-14 minutes on average, but that council payment systems allow for carers to leave a client after 53 minutes and the provider be paid for a full hour of care – so that carers can add another 7 minutes to their travel time by this means. Oh great … so that’s alright then. It looks like the contract will assume that clients lose care time to ‘pay’ for travel for the next service user.

Even so – Cllr Price (Cabinet) says he doesn’t feel that enough cost has been squeezed out of this service area and encourages officers to try harder. Report approved by cabinet members.

Next – statement of Community Involvement – the council’s statement of how it will communicate and consult with the community on Core Strategy, Planning and Neighbourhood Planning matters. Comments from opposition group leaders indicate that the people are cynical and concerned that the council doesn’t appear to listen when comments are made.

Cllr Price says no-one is interested, that residents don’t care about being consulted and how it happens and suggests enough time has been wasted discussing the matter and cabinet colleagues should vote and move on. Cabinet approve report and move on …

Next – A variation to the asset disposal agreement with Herefordshire Housing … basically, how much money the council is entitled to claw back from the housing association when the association sells any of its houses and a proposal to waive this claw-back to enable housing providers to reinvest the funds released from house sales into building new housing for the most vulnerable need groups..

Cllr Bartlett (Green) thinks this is a good idea and asks what other asset sales could also qualify for a claw-back waiver.

No discussion or questions from cabinet members. Next – Revised Governance Framework for West Mercia Energy (the energy management company owned by Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford/Wrekin Councils). WME trades in and invests in energy futures to reduce the cost of energy to the three owning councils. It also provides some energy services to businesses in the authorities’ areas which use large amounts of energy. Report Approved

Next – end of September Corporate Budget and Performance Report. Forecasting £500k overspend for the year, but council is hoping to be on budget again by the end of the year. New Finance Director talks to the detail of the report, and points to some contingencies held ready for issues and costs which may be incurred in the winter months.

Cllr Matthews (Independent) asks about the shortfall in car park revenue. Gets a holding response from the Director – but we understand that the shortfall is due to losses in the city car parks.

Cllr Powers asks about finance detail in Adults and Children’s Directorates. Director speaks about cost pressures in children’s placements caused by placement breakdowns over the summer which cost the council an additional £25k per week until other arrangements were able to be made. Overspend queries and assurances sought in Adults Wellbeing were not answered. The Director forecasts at least 18 months before the Minerals and Waste policies will be in place. Director doesn’t believe that accidents on county roads have been exacerbated by poor white lining or road surface quality.

Cllr James (Liberal) commends high rate of council tax collection achieved by revenue and benefits team staff.

Cllr Johnson (leader) says that an announcement will shortly be made concerning the council’s planned use of the £2m rural services grant received back in February.

Meeting closed 16:10

Anthony Powers

2017-18 Budget Consultation Response

2017-18 Budget Consultation Response

Assumptions

We note that the working assumption is that the cap on general council tax uplift remains at 1.9% for 2017-18. We also note that a further 2% budget uplift is included in the budget to be ring-fenced to support the rising cost of Adult Social Care. However, it is not clear in the consultation documentation where this additional funding is represented in the figures. The supporting paperwork appears to be identical to the paperwork approved at last year’s budget – to include all the same savings profiles contained in the MTFS at that time.

Grants and Local Government Act (1972) facilities

We are not able to see where the ~£4m of grants, including the Rural Services Support Grant, awarded immediately after approval of the 2016-17 budget and currently held in reserves, are being proposed to be spent. It is disappointing that with 6 months’ notice the interim has not been used to make suggestions on how this grant funding might support service delivery into rural areas in time for such suggestions to be consulted upon here.

 

A significant proportion of last year’s consultation respondents were amenable to paying more through their Council Tax to secure or improve services important to them at a local level: albeit that they had reservations regarding how such services would be agreed and their levels assured. This enthusiasm seems well matched to the facility provided by Section 137 of the 1972 Local Government Act: it is disappointing to be unable to find any assessment in the consultation of the parish funding which could be available under the Section 137 provisions for the support of agreed services.

This facility is a funding source that we have brought to officers’ attention in previous years, and we would strongly encourage a serious consideration of this facility and the opportunity it presents to enable and encourage closer co-operative working amongst parishes. While central government continues to reduce the amount of national taxation redistributed through the core grants mechanisms, it is perverse to continue to ignore this source of local funding and the improved local government co-operation it could encourage.

Based on the August 2016 population figures for the county we have around 150,000 electors. At the 2016-17 S137 rate of £7.42 per elector, this gives a maximum of some £1.1m of parish funding which could be available for the support of non-statutory services delivered either cooperatively at parish level or cost effectively at county level, whichever is most appropriate. The opportunity has been missed to use 2016-17 to begin the conversation with parishes on the service mix and spread which may be appropriate for such funding support. We urge the administration to make a commitment now to begin this dialogue immediately, so as to explore the possibilities and acquire the consensus needed to make use of this source of funding in 2018-19.

 

 

Additional Savings: context and proposals            

A savings programme has already been proposed which omits certain funding sources, mentioned above, and which also is behind in its delivery in some areas and overambitious or untargeted in others. IOC has maintained for a number of years that the budget for Herefordshire is, in reality, not balanced; and that savings targets in departments are sufficiently unclear in their detail to create the concern that they are used merely to give the appearance of a balanced budget.

Far from being motivational for staff, unrealistic or unattributed savings targets give the impression that a budget is never truly something on which delivery is expected. Neither is it encouraging for particular areas of the council’s business repeatedly to be required to make additional in-year savings to bail out those parts of the council’s business which have been assigned unachievable savings at the start of the year: a culture of perennial overspend, and/or perennial plundering in various parts of the council’s business, is corrosive and ultimately undermines the necessity for culture and behaviour change.

Elsewhere these in-year unbudgeted savings risk impacting on investment programmes essential to the enablement of new ways of working when these become delayed and cut to compensate in-year pressures. This also risks preventing or delaying the service re-engineering necessary to deliver savings. Projects like Digital Channels and the improvement of the council’s website are critical to the delivery of service and behaviour change. Additional savings and increased income could come from the council focussing on information handling and knowledge management for the county, its partners and the voluntary and third sector organisations seen as core to new service models across all departments and stakeholder webs.

Is the council compliant with its own income and charging guidelines, adopted in 2011/12? What priority is being given to creating the understanding of service delivery costs which would enable charging tariffs to be developed for parishes and individual residents to consider? It’s hardly surprising that people/parishes are reluctant to commission works which come with unspecified or open-ended liability: re-painting of road markings, traffic regulation orders, gulley sucking and drain clearance, residents’ parking zones, replacement local/road signage are a few examples of work which could be funded locally if the costs were properly understood.

Other proposals include:

  • Using the council tax collection system to enable individuals and/or larger groups of properties to buy additional services and spread their payments.
  • Offering a chargeable green/garden waste collection service in urban areas for re-cycling/composting (rather than going to landfill), particularly in the south of the county close to the green waste facility just over the Gloucestershire border.
  • Deploying ubiquitous technology and evolving social business networks to change the way in which services are made available (assuming sufficient all-county broadband coverage), for example:
  • Real time GPS on public transport linked to mobile phone apps, showing the exact location of buses (which could be linked to smart messaging signs at bus stops and the opportunity for income from advertising that reacts to and targets users in its Bluetooth bubbles) would negate the need for published bus route timetables. GPS would enable smaller operators to enter the market and to upload their travel route – or even for them to deliver ‘doorstep services’ in rural areas.
  • UBER offers a new model for urban minicabs/taxis: the technology could also   enable people, as part of the ‘Choose how you move’ programme, to register to provide flexible taxi services in rural areas where reduced bus services are expensive and inflexible. The UBER model would enable local people known in their own communities to be paid for transport services as if they were Community Transport drivers.

Further savings could be made from a more joined-up view of how we use the ‘assets’ the council already has at its disposal.

  • Library and Customer Service centres are the ideal points at which to base signposting and wellbeing hubs for Adults’ and Children’s Wellbeing, and for our healthcare partners. Significant investment is required in these directorates and partner organisations to deliver preventative programmes and behaviour change. Customer Service & Library staff members are good sources of knowledge and data, and are well networked in their local communities. They already have the skills and knowledge to match well with the CWB/ASC messaging and would also be able to deal with the wide range of issues and problems which might involve other advice areas and partner services.
  • Cultural centres (theatres/museums) can act similarly as hubs for such service provision and signposting, with advisors doubling up as front desk for these services.
  • Most Town Councils already run a reception desk/enquiry point, the cost of which could be shared with Customer Services and a wellbeing hub, offering the potential for space sharing, savings in operating costs and additional revenue from the repurposing of existing office space.

The implementation of advice and signposting services can be flexibly deployed to match the locality need and best options for the physical access points in each community. These Centres can be hubs for Neighbourhood Networks of Community Champions – providing support and contact services in their immediate localities – from good neighbourliness through to regular shopping, prescription or other care services.

All parishes have been challenged to provide these neighbour volunteers, but such support networks will need to include income-generating services in order to be stable and viable. The council should be looking to provide payment or support to enable some of the services to be provided. It is not realistic to expect that these support activities will be sustainable without some element of funding – although this can come in part from the beneficiary through personal budgets etc.

Treating the provision and marketing of excellent and attractive specialist respite care services should be an important part of the council’s investment in prevention and pipeline management. Making those services available for part/full payment for non-qualifying families enables the cost to be spread across the year or shared amongst family members, with collection through the council tax system.

Additional Parish Service Delivery

There needs to be fully co-ordinated effort to enable parish dialogue on this matter. Not all of the options offered in Section 4 of the questionnaire seem suitable for parish level delivery.

Activities suitable for wholesale parish devolution would appear to include:

  • Maintaining communal green spaces (parks, playgrounds, sports pitches)
  • Grass and hedge cutting
  • Litter and dog fouling enforcement
  • Good Neighbour schemes

Activities which would involve some level of parish action, but which would also require continued county council involvements would appear to include:

  • Road/footpath maintenance
  • Libraries, museums and leisure facilities
  • Customer contact & advice
  • Winter services (gritting, clearing roads/pathways)
  • Helping out in emergencies

Herefordshire Council should return the ownership of the city and market town car parks to these parishes to create income-generating assets to contribute to the cost of taking on the above services. This would be appropriate since there is a direct correlation between visitor numbers to these urban centres, use of services, and car park usage. If section 137 monies were not to be utilised to spread service delivery costs amongst locality parishes, then return of the car parks to the urban parishes they serve would ensure that the parish carrying their cost would have income derived from visitors, thus ensuring that the entire costs are not borne solely by the residents of the parish.

Activities for which we believe it would be difficult for most parishes to deliver effective action due to the complicated nature of the services involved:

  • Respite and Day Care
  • Bus Service
  • Providing activities for babies and pre-school children

Volunteering

The gaps that open up in Herefordshire’s social structure cannot be expected to be plugged solely with volunteers. The council’s own Joint Strategic Needs Assessment shows that ~34% of local residents already volunteer on a regular basis: with the percentage of the elderly, infirm, and children in the county, 34% must be close to saturation point for volunteering.

The council could, and should, be providing more support to voluntary and third sector organisations, and to have a policy to look to place contracts for care and support work with local charity-based businesses so that the funding remains focussed on service delivery and not on shareholder profits. Encouraging local employers to implement volunteering programmes and to support local charities and projects with the time their staff donate would also help to expand the voluntary sector into local business, and to extend and focus social responsibility initiatives within the county.

Attracting New Business

The focus should be on building on the county’s strengths, on recognising what’s special and different about Herefordshire and aligning all the council’s resources to maximise the benefits these differences bring. Herefordshire is an attractive location for people who want to balance quality of life with business.

The visitor economy needs focussed support. Budget hotels for business and pleasure should be provided throughout the county so that people can afford to visit and to stay. Business parks should be invested in to be brought forward in all the market towns. No large-scale housing development should be allowed to come forward without also providing local employment sites.

Other considerations and proposals

The Economic Master Plan for the county should balance emphasis across the city, the market towns and rural areas. Broadband should be implemented to provide excellent upload and download speed in all areas to enable small businesses to operate in village locations and for the growth of the homeworking economy. The creative industries – including IT, computer programming and gaming -should be encouraged to relocate to the county. However the emphasis should be on helping existing businesses to expand while remaining here in Herefordshire.

Our AONBs and the River Wye SAC should be treated with care and sympathy as regards both development and the growth of industrial forms of agriculture. The rivers should be properly strategized as assets and access to them and care of them should be a priority.

Investment in the maintenance of existing road infrastructure should be the priority with the emphasis being on footpath and cycleway development in the rural areas to safely and sustainably link hamlets to villages and villages to towns. Cycle-tracks and bridleways on former railway routes should be instated and the towpath of the Hereford and Gloucester Canal should be re-instated ahead of the canal sections to create the movement route for people to begin to use this asset and to increase visibility of and commitment to the strategic project.

A light rail/maglev/monorail link from Hereford Station to the Enterprise Zone should be committed to in advance of road projects, and alongside a light tram system in the city. Railtrack and Network Rail should be engaged with and encouraged to re-instate the halts and request stops at villages along the railway lines running through the county, thereby encouraging and enabling development along these transport links from the east, southwest and north.

High Schools in the market towns should be encouraged to provide access to out of hours training facilities in half terms and holidays to businesses and link to the NMITE university project in the city to provide satellite resources and training portals to augment university facilities and to strengthen links to the local business community.

Capital Investments

Priorities should include:

  • Bringing forward employment sites in the market towns, and enabling road infrastructure, e.g. at Leominster, Ledbury and Bromyard, to serve these sites.
  • Developing light rail and tram systems in the city, along with the extension and connection of the cycle and footpath networks throughout the county.
  • Enabling pay car parks at schools to generate revenue in holiday periods.
  • Extending the electric car charging point network and supporting new car pool/club schemes in towns and villages.
  • Investing in GPS bus services, and a ‘bus pass with benefits’ scheme to encourage use of buses by under- 65s and to generate revenue from business offers and advertising. Investment in, or franchising of, smart signage/advertising at community message boards, hubs and bus stops.
  • Providing free Wi-Fi zones in all the town centres – for council and parish notification or messaging and revenue from local business advertising.
  •                                                                                                                                                 October 2016
David Summers Dinedor

Let’s Listen Day, Herefordshire.

Let’s Listen Day, Herefordshire.

Mental health is an issue that will affect most of us at some-time during the course of our lives. It can be insignificant or all-consuming but no matter which end of the scale, talking about it can be painful.

For most of us complaining about life is fairly easy. Therefore it’s assumed the best thing for those with mental health issues is to talk about them. In many circumstances talking is helpful, however, given the stigma attached to mental illness this is not always true.

It’s Our County’s (IOC) David Summers, Councillor for Dinedor Hill ward, truly believes that the best approach to mental health must begin with listening. With that in mind, he was able to persuade  Herefordshire Council to adopt the 3rd Monday in January (Known internationally as blue Monday) as a mental health day called “Lets Listen Herefordshire”.

Although David’s primary motivation for this initiative is to highlight the importance of listening, he also hopes to convince schools to take on board the need to bring mental wellbeing for all students into the core curriculum.

He feels that by allowing those who fear the stigma of mental illness easier access to the resources and services available, that more people will take advantage of the help available. It is with that in mind he will be networking with companies and organizations to make mental wellbeing more available in the work place too.

Cllr Summers’ says, “The anxiety of “coming out” or if you will, “going public” about having a mental illness is intensified by the stigma that frequently comes with it. Feelings of inadequacy, shame and humiliation run rampant when someone is in crisis. Suggesting they talk about their problems may initially increase the feelings of embarrassment but truly the best medicine for mental illness is to first listen; give a shoulder to lean on and when appropriate, a simple hug”.

Cllr Marcelle Lloyd-Hayes proposed a Notice of Motion at the Full Council Meeting which the chamber voted through unanimously by members of all parties. Cllr summers is now in disucssuion with Cllr Patricia Morgan, Cabinet Member for the portfolio .

Paul Neades, IOC Chairman said,  “We can’t thank David enough for driving this forward. It’s a simple but genius idea, so let’s talk and more importantly, Let’s Listen. Herefordshire could be an example of how to deal with mental heatlth issues and the stigma attached to talking about them”.

 

N.B: For more details please contact us via our message box or contact Cllr Summers directly: David.Summers@herefordshire.gov.uk  07934702829  

Director of Resources/Section 151 officer resigns

Director of Resources/Section 151 officer resigns.

On May 23rd 2016 members of Herefordshire Council were informed by the Chief Executive that the director of resources, Peter Robinson, had been suspended pending independent enquiries that were deemed necessary. The chief executive emphasised the importance of maintaining confidentiality and discretion while the enquiries were ongoing. Failing to do this would be, he said, potentially damaging both to the individual concerned, and to the integrity of any subsequent investigation.

On Friday September 2nd 2016 the chief executive formally announced that Mr Robinson had resigned as Director of Resources (S151 Officer) and Hoople MD designate with immediate effect in order to resume his career in interim management.

We the undersigned wish to make it publicly known that we have never been fully briefed in confidence about this very serious matter. It is our understanding that the only people who have been involved in this investigation have been the chief executive, the leader of the council and the council’s monitoring officer – with support from outside investigators. It is our considered opinion that it should be the norm for the council’s employment panel to be involved in such a matter, or at the very least for the panel to be consulted before a final decision is taken.

Elected members are understandably concerned at this turn of events but we recognise we are constrained by law as to what we can say publicly in such circumstances.

We do however feel that now the officer has resigned, Opposition Group Leaders – as elected members’ representatives, should be allowed far more information. Otherwise the general impression will continue to be “it’s all going on behind closed doors again…… so much for transparency and accountability… nothing changes”

Cllr Jenny Bartlett

Cllr Terry James

Cllr Bob Matthews

Cllr Anthony Powers

Opposition Group Leaders on Herefordshire Council                                    5 September 2016

Anthony Powers

IOC Group Leader asks for the SLR decision to be called in.

Its Our County

IOC Group leader asks for the SLR decision to be called in.

Today Anthony Powers “Its Our County” group leader has written to the Secretary of State asking for the SLR decision by Herefordshire Council to be called in.

The grounds for Call-In are  that the decision “may conflict with national policies”.

Click Here for the full letter call in letter to the Secretary of State

Click Here for our Original letter from Nov 15

Liz Harvey Ledbury

Liz Harvey Blog from the Southern Link Road planning decision.

Liz Harvey Ledbury

Liz Harvey Blog from the Southern Link Road planning decision.

6th June 2016

Cllr Powers, IOC – asks whether council needs to declare an interest in the application because it benefits from granting due to its farm land holdings adjacent to the preferred road route. He is told that officers and councillors must make their own decisions as regards declaration of interests. He queries what constitutes ‘the council’ if not the aggregation of councillors and staff. He is told there is no definition of the council as an entity in its own right and interests are a matter for each individual. As a consequence Cllr a Powers is the only committee member to declare an interest as a member of the council.

Cllr Norman, Green – makes a point of order requesting deferral of the application due to the recent reports of rare plants along the route, and the consequent need for sufficient information for committee members to make sound decision. Chairman, Cllr Cutter – dismisses the point as not meeting the legal definition of a point of order

The committee is now receiving a presentation on the application from officers

Officer report still going …. Covering landscape impact, loss of ancient woodland, effect on grade listed building/ s, effect on local residents.

The officer report highlights the detrimental effects of the road and the requirements of the national planning policy framework to demonstrate benefits outweigh the negative effects. The report acknowledges significant damage done to the settings of a listed building. However, on balance officers recommend the road for approval.

Public speakers come forward and chairman has allowed 45 minutes for representations.

First representations come from the parish councils affected.

Both parish councils ask for the implementation of sustainable transport solutions rather than committing to a new road. .

Next group of representations comes from local residents. First speaker lives in the grade 2* lusted building. Challenges the route chosen. Suggests other routes preferable (NOTE: route has been skewed by flawed assessment to provide route passing council owned land). Next speaker points out road application is entirely contrary to planning policy and guidance. Third speaker identifies omissions in officer reports ie requirements to reduce climate change. The reports omit all climate change issues and flags that scheme will increase rather than decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

Speaker warns approval will risk Judicial Review. Next speaker flags effect of reduced active travel on health and social conditions. Final speaker identifies many flaws and weaknesses in the council’s own application. Requests that the application is refused or referred back for more work.

Orchids, protected plants and conservation species have been identified. Parsons Brinkerhoff didn’t even spot that bluebells were present in Grafton Wood let alone anything more rare. The ecological assessment is wholly inadequate and doesn’t provide councillors and this committee with the information needed to make a sound and informed decision.

Representation from a farmer losing a significant proportion of their grade 1 farmland. Householder who gas road passing through their garden speaks about add-in afterthought of the Cleehonger Link and requests that it is removed from the proposal. If the application is approved the resident requests that the route of the link be changed to avoid their property – something judged feasible but not implemented.

Parsons Brinckerhoff speak to their own documents and on behalf of the council – in favour of the road. They maintain all the information is in place to support approval of the road.

Another supporter, someone whose business has benefitted from the majority of the construction contracts at Rotherwas, speaks to the plan.

Bill Jackson from the Enterprise Zone speaks about need for infrastructure.

After a comfort break … it’s over to councillors … starting off with adjacent ward members. Cllr Chappell speaks in favour of the SLR. He suggests that the majority of people want a bypass around Hereford (that’s not what this planning application is about) and speaks about the effect of traffic in his ward – Hunderton & Hinton.

Cllr Summers, ward member for Rotherwas, suggests that an Eastern crossing would have a greater impact on jobs and employment that the proposed SLR; and that the £27m of EU money earmarked for the project would be better spent on a different mix of sustainable transport measures than is present Ward member for the SLR, Jon Johnson (Conservative) speaks. He does not support the route, the level of its impact on the environment, the lack of benefit delivered in terms of reduced traffic in the city, poor consultation and communication throughout, late production of reports detailing the downside of the road and its impact on graded heritage sites, on wildlife , on communities and on ancient woodland. While saying all this he walks a very careful line w.r.t. his group’s policies … on the one hand – this, on the other hand – that. Finishes without coming down clearly on the side of ‘refuse’ – but has probably not made enemies within the leadership – a wise man, given recent public examples. they proposed.

Speaking of which … we now come on to the newly appointed cabinet member for Economy & Corporate Services – Cllr Harlow. he’s in favour of the road. It sounds like he’s reading a speak written for him, including stating (wrongly) that the £27m funding can only be spent on the SLR – to resounding rumblings in the room which has the chairman bumping his gavel.

Cllr Price, Cabinet Member for?? … Hang on I’ve got to go and look … Oh yes, It’s Infrastructure. Unsurprisingly, he speaks in favour of the road. So much in favour is he that his speech appears to argue that the whole future of the county – jobs, traffic, education, the prospective university, health and wellbeing from infancy to old age is balanced like a massive inverted pyramid on the pin-head of this road decision. Goodness.

Standing orders are suspended as the meeting approaches 3hrs in duration. Now it’s the turn of committee members, It’s worth noting that 3 Conservative members of the committee have been substituted by big hitters from the Tory administration: Cllr Gandy, Cllr Phillips & Cllr Shaw. Cllr Shaw kicks things off and says he’s in favour and quickly proposes the application is approved, his proposal is seconded – so the administration has a formal proposal on the table before the debate has even started. Fantastic to speak and to ask questions.

Cllr Edwards ‘Independent’ speaks in favour of the road because of its impact on his Belmont ward – he also tries to get the committee to support a TRO in his ward on the back of the application.

Cllr Kenyon , IOC, speaks next and makes good humoured and sensible points about investing in improving the existing ‘rat runs’, better road access to the relatively new bridge at Bridge Sollars, supporting an eastern crossing to connect the Enterprise Zone with the motorways to the East of the county. Asks how many jobs had been created at the Zone – 200 he hazards … Cllr Philips says it’s double that – hooray, for all the millions so far spent says the Mayor of Hereford. Cllr Kenyon is also an advocate for ice-creams at Lock’s Garage too, by all accounts! Nom-nommmm

Cllr Powers, IOC, rattles off all the key reasons why this application fails to meet the policy requirements, thanks the officer for her comprehensive and balanced report under difficult circumstances. Marvels that officers have been bent out of shape reporting on this proposal which contravenes so many foundational and fundamental planning policies and principles. Asks how many of the committee members, particularly all the late Conservative substitutes, have actually read the officer report, supporting documents and many 100’s of submissions – 95% of which are objections. States he would recommend refusal had Cllr Shaw not got in with a prime proposal already.

Cllr Norman, Green, says she would second a proposal to refuse. Goes on to say how concerned she is that the proposal does not address the Dept of Transport’s requirements to implement and show other sustainable measures don’t make the difference.

Cllr Seldon is concerned that failures in consultation and the production of reports and evidence make the decision vulnerable to call in by the secretary of state.

Cllr Holton gives an emotional speech about the road being about the future of the county. She suggests that many of the committee don’t have a great stake holding in that future. She is disappointed the road doesn’t go under the railway line and has sympathy for the residents whose homes will be blighted by the development.

Cllr Phillips speaks – in favour. Similar to Cllr Price – the whole county’s future is dependent upon this road going ahead. Really??!

Cllr Swinglehurst is in favour of the road, but then goes on to talk about all the many ways in which it goes against loads of policies at local and national level. She has sympathy for those paying the price for this with blighted homes, but she says in her view the benefits outweigh the costs.

Cllr Powers asks why no mention is made of the council owned land which will be opened up for lucrative housing development by this road application. He’s told it’s not material to the application, and then asks for this to be minuted. The chairman confirms that the response will be.

Debate returns to ward member and adjacent ward members. Cllr Johnson says there is another Going to the vote now. Call for a named vote (this doesn’t normally happen in committee). 3 committee members call for a full named vote, and chairman agrees this is in line with guidance from the Monitoring Officer…. 12 For, 4 Against (Powers, Mansell, Kenyon, Norman), 1 Abstention (Seldon) option, it’s not a done deal. Except it probably is ……..

We now wait to see whether the Secretary of State will call this decision in – or whether it goes to judicial review.

 

Anthony Powers

FLAWED DECISION ON SOUTHERN LINK ROAD

FLAWED DECISION ON SOUTHERN LINK ROAD WILL NOT SOLVE CITY TRAFFIC PROBLEMS

At Planning Committee on Monday 6 June Herefordshire Council gave itself permission to build the controversial Hereford Southern Link Road, with the votes of all Tory committee members, supported by the two Independents and the sole Liberal Democrat.

The decision – which cabinet member Philip Price conceded in his speech to the meeting would be “tough for you” – goes against the requirements of the Department for Transport, conflicts with 18 core principles and policies of the National Planning Policy Framework, at least 8 policies in Herefordshire’s Core Strategy and the new Local Transport Plan which was adopted at Full Council less than 3 weeks ago. It also flies in the face of over 1,750 objections and serious concerns from numerous national bodies, local organisations, local Tory MP Jesse Norman, five parish councils, Herefordshire Council’s Conservation Officer and members of the public. There were only 9 representations of support.

So It’s Our County was hardly alone in not supporting this scheme!

Councillor Anthony Powers, group leader and a member of Planning Committee said:

“IOC is in favour of new infrastructure for necessary development which is sustainable, able to achieve what it claims, and is good value for money. This scheme fails on all three counts. The SLR trashes the countryside and provides no congestion relief whatsoever to the city – all at a cost to the taxpayer of over £27 million.

“There are sustainable solutions to the traffic problems in South Wye which can be delivered now, are easily affordable and comply with national and local policies. The council’s own data shows this costly and unnecessary new road will not solve any of the traffic problems in the city: it will simply shift some traffic from the Belmont Road to the Ross Road.”

“I can’t believe council officers would ever normally recommend approval for a planning application in conflict with so many national and local policies. This application is not only about a road, but about using public money to access council-owned land for housing development. Clearly this was a ‘political’ application, the council has clear interests in the outcome, and the matter should have been decided – as IOC and others have urged – at a properly independent Public Inquiry” he added.

ENDS

Contact: Cllr Anthony Powers     07710 943313

Belmont Road

Sort traffic congestion NOW

“Sort traffic congestion NOW – Stop holding our city to ransom!”

For years, the council has been happy for Hereford’s traffic troubles to get worse. WHY? Because they need strong public support for any project they say might fix the problem.

Against Government policy, the council has been blocking cheap, sustainable traffic improvement schemes. WHY? Because these measures might fix the problem without the need for a new road.

On Monday 6 June Herefordshire Council wants to give itself planning permission to build ‘The Southern Link Road’ – a new road connecting the Ross Road (A49) to the Abergavenny Road (A465) at a cost of over £27 million. WHY? Because the council has a £60m hole in its finances which it plans to fill by turning two of its farms into housing developments. This road makes these developments possible.

UNFORTUNATELY Current levels of river and air pollution make these developments impossible.

We want MORE affordable homes, LESS traffic, BETTER value jobs. AND we want them FAST!

We say – let’s deal with city traffic congestion quickly and sustainably, link the employment zone to the motorways in the east, reduce pollution below EU limits and begin building affordable new houses and growing employment opportunities, in all the right places.

For less than the cost of the Southern Link Road we would:

• Support the call of the Business Leaders, the City Council, Mayor Jim Kenyon, and local MP Jesse Norman for an Eastern River crossing to Rotherwas

• Invest in integrated public transport for the county, with ‘Hopper’ buses in the city

• Trial a switch-off of traffic lights at major city roundabouts

• Link the Great Western Way and Rotherwas to the city with a light tram system

• Create a dedicated network of cycle paths for safe and healthy travel within the city

• Integrate and extend school transport packages and encourage children to walk or cycle to school

All of these actions would tackle congestion sustainably and cheaply, and in many cases much more quickly, than road building. We need solutions now!

Jesse Norman MP has said: “The evidence is that the Eastern Link Road is the most cost-effective single piece of road infrastructure potentially available…Government money is not exclusively reserved for the Southern Link Road.”

Hereford Times Editorial has said: “It does not take a PhD in urban planning to know that a new road connecting the A49 to the A465 will not reduce congestion in Hereford as much as a new bridge over the River Wye near Rotherwas. The Council’s Southern Link Road really could end up becoming a true road to nowhere.”

 

THE FACTS: 83-85% of the traffic travelling over the New Bridge is going into the city not through it. ~50% of our young people aged 17-21 years old do not drive: a further 20% have no access to a car ~30% of those 70 years and older have no access to a car.  Only 3.5% of traffic through Hereford is HGV; a freight rail head at Moreton-on-Lugg would take 17,800 HGV vehicle movements off the roads of Hereford every year. ~60% of traffic originating in the Belmont area travelling northbound along the Belmont Road had a final destination within the city. The Hereford urban area carries 30-40,000 vehicle trips each morning and afternoon: half of these trips are less than a 10 minute cycle ride to the city centre.

Download our Hereford Times Advert Here.

Planning application site: https://www.herefordshire.gov.uk/planning-and-building-control/development-control/planning-applications/details?id=151314&search=151314  

Link to Jesse Norman letter: https://www.herefordshire.gov.uk/documents?id=a88943fe-b3c5-11e5-b485-0050569f00ad

Herefordshire Wildlife Trust: https://www.herefordshire.gov.uk/documents?id=38b8b548-9368-11e5-8a56-0050569f00ad

Hereford City Council: https://www.herefordshire.gov.uk/documents?id=072ad48d-7405-11e5-94b9-0050569f00ad and https://www.herefordshire.gov.uk/documents?id=b8e5ab60-09f7-11e5-b176-0050569f00ad

Natural England https://www.herefordshire.gov.uk/documents?id=42cd9487-2f9d-11e5-be57-0050569f00ad