Agenda item

Public Questions and Petitions and Other Communications

To receive any questions or petitions from the public, or communications submitted by the Lord Mayor or the Chief Executive and to pass such resolutions thereon as the Council Procedure Rules permit and as may be deemed expedient.





Public Questions




Public Question Concerning Sheffield Eagles




Andrew Tiers, Chief Executive of Sheffield Eagles Rugby League Club, thanked the Council for the recent civic reception to celebrate the Club’s success in winning the 1895 Cup final.




He remarked on the Club’s Director of Rugby, Mark Aston’s 35 years' service to sport in Sheffield and asked, in recognition of services to Rugby League and to Sheffield sport, that Mark Aston be recognised for those achievements through the granting of a Sheffield Legend.




Councillor Julie Dore, the Leader of the Council, congratulated Sheffield Eagles on their achievements and said that she was very pleased that the Club played at the Olympic Legacy Park. With regards to the nomination for a Sheffield Legend, Councillor Dore said that nominations were considered by an independent panel, chaired by the Lord Mayor.








Petition Requesting a Pedestrian Crossing at 900 Abbeydale Road




The Council received a petition containing 62 signatures, requesting a pedestrian crossing at 900 Abbeydale Road.




Representations on behalf of the petitioners were made by Mary Reddican who said that she was presenting the petition on behalf of the occupants of Windsor House retirement apartments.  The petition requested that measures be put in place to allow a safe route for pedestrians to cross a busy road so they could use the bus service and local shopping facilities.


She said there had been a number of near misses and the road was wide with three lanes and an entrance and exit to a Tesco petrol station.  It presented a risk to both pedestrians and drivers and the Council was asked to consider whether changes could be made to reduce the risk and improve road safety.




The Council referred the petition to Councillor Bob Johnson, Cabinet Member for Transport and Development. Councillor Johnson said that it was always concerning to hear of people, particularly older people, having problems crossing busy roads and he said that he would arrange to meet with the petitioner, and with officers to see what measures could be put in place. He also made reference to the process for prioritising large highways schemes.




Petition Requesting Road Safety Measures at the Junction of Fossdale Road and Carter Knowle Road




The Council received a petition containing 123 signatures, requesting road safety measures at the junction of Fossdale Road and Carter Knowle Road.




Representations on behalf of the petitioners were made by Annie O’Gara who referred to serious concerns for the safety of drivers and pedestrians at the junction of Fossdale Road with Carter Knowle Road and to a recent incident of a near miss involving a small child and a car, which was not an isolated event.




She said that visibility for drivers was affected whereby they emerged blind into Carter Knowle Road because of cars parked up to the junction. The petition also asked the Council to review the procedure for determining the outcome of concerns relating to measures to prevent dangerous parking and with regard to people having access to assessments and information concerning the status of particular requests among the many requests received by the Council.




Annie O’Gara said a survey had been carried out with the help of local councillors and people had been given access to an assessment, which she said did not recognise some issues such as the effect of the nearby schools on parking, pedestrian safety and the Highway Code.




She said there was the potential for an accident at the junction and the petition requested double yellow lines to be installed as a priority.




The Council referred the petition to Councillor Bob Johnson, Cabinet Member for Transport and Development. He said that he had recently visited the site and had met with the school. He assured the petitioners that issues of this nature were taken seriously and also said that the Council had to prioritise highways safety schemes.




He said that he would like to arrange to meet with the petitioners and the school regarding this matter.




Petition requesting Action Regarding Anti-Social Behaviour Around Ellesmere Green




The Council received a petition containing 132 signatures, requesting action regarding anti-social behaviour around Ellesmere Green.




Representations on behalf of the petitioners were made by Gamal Abdulla who stated that the petition was presented on behalf of people in Spital Hill and Ellesmere Green and in relation to continuing issues relating to crime and anti-social behaviour relating to drugs and alcohol and people urinating in public and its effect on the community and its safety and wellbeing, and on businesses.




The Council referred the petition to Councillor Paul Wood, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Community Safety. Councilllor Wood referred to a public meeting held recently and which he had attended at the invitation of local councillors and in relation to the matters raised by the petition and he acknowledged that people should not have to live with the types of problems being experienced in that community.




Councillor Wood said that the problems needed multi agency solutions to deal with them because they related to a range of social issues and others concerned matters related to crime. He had met with relevant Council Directors and an intervention team was being established and meetings were scheduled with the Chief Constable and the District Commander to look at the policing in that area and dealing with problems such as issues related to drugs, knife crime and gun crime. He said that all necessary measures would need to be taken to address the problems and acknowledged that it was also important to consider how things would be maintained in the long term.




Public Questions




Public Question Concerning 31b Bus Service




Bernard Little stated that the loss of the 31b bus service had left many elderly people isolated in their homes, with people unable to collect their pensions from the Post Office or visit the doctor and disruption to children's after school homework support.


He asked whether the Council would therefore closely monitor the impact of the withdrawal of the 31b bus service and what measures were going to be put in place to support elderly and disabled people in Lower Walkley.




Councillor Bob Johnson, the Cabinet Member for Transport and Development, stated that issues relating to bus services would be addressed to the Mayor of the Sheffield City Region as it was not an issue over which the Council had control.




Public Question Concerning Events




Bernard Little asked whether the Council would look at its policy of staging large events in predominantly residential areas like Ponderosa in Upperthorpe. He asked what assurances would be given to local people in that the events on the park would not in future be subject to extensive damage to its green space.




Councillor Mary Lea, the Cabinet Member for Culture, Parks and Leisure, stated that local councillors had contacted her about the event in relation to the effect of the weather at that time. On the Friday, the site was inspected and was perfectly suitable and there was not a problem with allowing the event to go ahead. However, on Saturday, heavy rain caused damage to the greenery and the grass.




Councillor Lea said that there was anagreement with the promoter that they would repair any damage caused and officers were assessing with the promoter what the damage was and what would be done about it. There would be reparation work to address damage to the park and put the green space back to how it should be. Events throughout the city were very highly successful and they brought people together. They were reviewed and lessons were learned and she reassured people of that.




Public Question Concerning Committal Proceedings




Justin Buxton referred to Court proceedings in June 2018 and the application to Court and agreement as whether those proceedings should be brought. He asked questions concerning the agreement of the Leader of the Council to that process; whether a telephone call had taken place with Mr Justice Males on 5 June 2018 regarding this matter and whether the Leader would be willing to sign a sworn affidavit so confirming; and if the Leader had been aware of an investigation by the Forestry Commission at the time when she was briefed by the Assistant Director of Legal Services on 4 June 2018.




Calvin Payne referred to High Court injunctions and to the related legal costs and effect on people involved of an application for committal to prison. He said that he would give the Council opportunity to announce that it would not be seeking a renewal of the High Court injunction in the new year and to acknowledge that this had been a ruinous, expensive and embarrassing stain on the Council.




Councillor Julie Dore, the Leader of the Council, responded that the Council would take a decision regarding the renewal of injunctions in the new year. 




Councillor Dore stated that with regards to the questions from Mr Buxton, she had responded to the questions, including at the Cabinet Meeting on 18September.




Public Question Concerning Damage to Carpet




Valerie Wilson stated that in April, a radiator in her home had been moved and, in the process, marks had been left on her carpet because sheets had not been put down to cover the floor by the person doing the work. She had not heard about what would be done since the beginning of August.




Councillor Paul Wood, the Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Community Safety, thanked Valerie Wilson for bringing this to his attention and said that he would ensure that the carpet was replaced and that this was done quickly. He apologised for the inconvenience caused to her.  




Public Question Concerning Bus Services




Valerie Wilson raised concerns about the 95 bus service from the hospital to Firth Park.




Councillor Bob Johnson, the Cabinet Member for Transport and Development, said that he agreed that bus services were not satisfactory, not only in Firth Park but in places throughout the City. He said that he would be taking up the issues relating to buses with the Mayor of the City Region later in the month.




Public Question Concerning Chapel Walk




Carl Dunne explained that he had submitted a petition to Council in June concerning scaffolding on Chapel Walk and the wish to have no further extensions to the license for the scaffolding. He said that the scaffolding was still in place and he understood this would be the case for a further year.




Mr Dunne explained the detrimental effect of the scaffolding on businesses on Chapel Walk.  He said that he had expected that businesses would obtain a significant reduction in Business Rates, to mitigate the effects of the situation on trade. However, this had not been forthcoming, although he understood it was within the Council’s power to reduce Business Rates in certain circumstances.




He said that he believed he was being ignored and was concerned that the scaffolding would be in place for a third consecutive Christmas. There was anti-social behaviour and drug related problems and he had recently been assaulted twice. He said this situation was also affecting his personal health.




Councillor Mazher Iqbal, the Cabinet Member for Business and Investment, responded that the development on Chapel Walk was a private development and the Council had been approached with regard to the permission for scaffolding.  He said that the first developer did not have the funds to complete the work. He said that he had met with Mr Dunne a number of times with regards to this issue, as had Council officers.




He said that with regards Business Rates, the Valuation Office had confirmed that in the circumstances, a further fifteen percent reduction could be applied to affected businesses and it was agreed that Business Rates be put on hold. He explained that the Council did not set Business Rates. Discussion had also been held about compensation and he understood that an amount had been agreed with the developer. He said that a process needed to be followed for each business with regards Business Rates and this would then allow the Council to look at the support and any exemptions the Business Rates service could give.




Councillor Iqbal said that in relation to the scaffolding, the Council wished for there to be as little disruption as possible and did not want to have the scaffolding taken down for it to be erected again in order for the developer to complete the works. He said that he understood that the developer had met with businesses and there had also been a recent update. The Council had surveyed inside of the building to see what would need to happen to make the building safe if the scaffolding had to be removed. The developer was to come back to the Council with a proposal in the next week. He understood that a letter had been sent to inform people that work would commence on 21 October.




The developer was also to improve the lighting. The Police were aware of the situation as regards anti-social behaviour and had responded quickly to recent incidents. City Centre Ambassadors patrolled on a regular basis as well. However, if there was a serious issue, he said that people should call the police.




He summarised by saying that a proposal should be submitted to the Council next week and, if it met the relevant conditions, the work would continue in conjunction with the traders. If plans were not forthcoming, the Council would take the necessary actions to take the scaffolding down and make the building safe.




Public Question Concerning Planning Department Restructure




James Martin asked whether it could be confirmed that it was an unintended consequence that job roles facilitating good relations with the disabled community to progress an accessible built environment might be lost completely from the Council.




Andrew Crooks said that disabled people were concerned that positions of Access Officers in the local authority may be lost and asked whether the Cabinet Member agreed that well-built buildings and landscape at the design stage facilitated better use by all people, irrespective of age and disability; and that the expertise of knowledgeable officers was invaluable.




Caroline Irving drew attention to the importance that disabled people placed upon Access Officers who were seen as something vital to the continued independence of disabled people in the community. The Cabinet Member was asked to look very closely at the issue and the range of disabled people affected. She said that it was a matter which the Council could address in the reorganisation of the Planning Department and with a view to the future development of the city as a place fit for everybody.




Councillor Bob Johnson, the Cabinet Member for Transport and Development, stated that there was a collective dispute in relation to the Planning Service and the restructure and it would not be appropriate for him to comment publicly until such time as that dispute was resolved. He said that he would wish to meet with those asking questions regarding the matters raised once the dispute was resolved.




Public Question Concerning Governance Referendum




Woll Newall made reference to proposals for the operation of a committee system form of governance which was the constitutional change proposed in the governance petition and would be subject to a referendum.




He asked: whether the Council could confirm that a separate project had been created to complete the legally required proposals before March 2020; where was the publicly available plan for this project; and whether the Council could confirm that it had already contacted the Local Government Association and the Centre for Public Scrutiny to access resources and expertise so that the Council could meet the deadline; and whether it could be confirmed that the Council had started the detailed discussions required with all the political parties, It's Our City and other stakeholders.




Councillor Julie Dore, the Leader of the Council, responded that the Council was fully aware of the requirement to meet legal obligations and would be doing so. Plans were being produced at this time and the Council had contacted the Local Government Association and the Centre for Public Scrutiny. It's Our City would be one of the stakeholders involved in the wider conversations and also the specific conversations around what a committee system might look like. She reassured people that the Council took this matter seriously and was getting on with what needed to be done and contacting the right people, and that It’s Our City would be involved.




Public Questions Concerning International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Definition of Antisemitism




Haytham Bayasi asked the Council to consider the impact of adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism on freedom of speech and the limit on people of debating issues in the City.




Alan Deadman referred to the Motion on the Council Summons concerning the IHRA definition of antisemitism and asked whether Members would consider the consequences, including that:-


-        it had been argued by legal counsel that the definition was not legally binding and which would make it very difficult to use and if it was applied to an allegation of antisemitism, the Council might be subject to a legal challenge.


-        according to US attorney Kenneth Stern, the original drafter of the definition, it was never intended to be used as a legal or regulatory device to curb academic or political free speech, yet that was how it had come to be used.


-        under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Council was under an obligation to take steps to ensure that everyone was permitted to participate in public debates even if their opinions and ideas were offensive or irritating to the public or a section of it.


-        Palestinian trade unions and other networks argued that this non-legally binding definition attempted to erase Palestinian history, demonise solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality and suppress freedom of expression.


Mr Deadman said that by adopting this definition, the City Council would be seen as creating a hierarchy of racism at the expense of other ethnic minorities in the city, leading to more division at a time when people should be working against divisiveness.




Richard Pitt stated that the Council had an obligation to oppose all racism and with regard to the IHRA definition. He also made reference to issues relating to application of the IHRA definition and its clauses in Tower Hamlets with regard to the Ride for Palestine Charity and expressed concern that adoption of the definition prohibited legitimate criticisms of Israel and that it prohibited organisations like the Big Ride for Palestine from raising funds.




Annie O’Gara asked whether the Leader of the Council agreed that that the adoption of the IHRA definition was unwise unless it was satisfied and could evidence that it had considered fully the range of informed legal opinion and authorities on the matter of antisemitism.




She made reference to the views of the American Attorney Kenneth Stern, who wrote the IHRA definition, that it had never been intended to be a legal or regulatory device to curb academic or political free speech and to an open letter in the Independent newspaper this year by Jewish groups who had voiced disquiet.




Annie O’Gara asked whether the Leader of the Council agreed that when she published evidence that the full spectrum of legal and informed opinion had been considered, she must also add a Council policy statement on how Sheffield would uphold its obligation in line with Article 10 of the Convention on Human Rights, which protected free speech.




Julie Pearn made reference to the Borough of Tower Hamlets refusal of Big Ride for Palestine permission to hold its 2019 finale in a park because council officers had raised the fear that, according to the IHRA guidelines, the event could be branded anti-Semitic because of a post on the charity’s website. She said that the decision was being challenged in the courts on the grounds that it contravened rights of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly according to the European Convention on Human Rights. She also stated that Sheffield City Council had won national and international acclaim for championing the rights of Palestinians to sovereign statehood.




She asked if the Leader of the Council would promise that Sheffield City Council would ensure that, in its policies on anti-Semitism and racism, due care would be taken to ensure that it also met its obligations with respect to free speech under the European Convention on Human Rights and neither councillors nor Council officers will self-censor the Council’s own decisions or prevent others from meeting to speak out against human rights abuse or violations of international law.




Kaltun Elmi congratulated the Council in relation to the Motion to recognise Palestine at the September 2019 meeting of Council. She asked whether the Leader of the Council agreed that it was unfortunate that at the time the issues relating to Palestinian people were considered, there were accusations of antisemitism.




Councillor Julie Dore, the Leader of the Council, responded to the questions. She explained that the motion concerning antisemitism was being considered at the Council meeting. She said it had been the subject matter of an amendment to the motion at September Council on the recognition of a state of Palestine.  There was a wish not to conflate the issue of the recognition of Palestine with the IHRA and the definition of antisemitism in itself.  Therefore, these were separated and the matter was brought to the October meeting.




The Council had equalities policies, which included how the Council would address issues of racism. These policies would be revisited to make sure that, if the IHRA definition was adopted, it fitted in with that suite of equalities policies.




Councillor Dore made reference to the specific examples of another local authority or universities in the questions on this subject. Whilst she could not speak on behalf of those organisations, the outcomes in those examples may be due to how the definition of antisemitism was applied. She said it was right for people to raise serious and valid concerns about the particular IHRA definition and how it could be applied and which could potentially lead to limiting, suppressing or constraining freedom of speech.




The motion at this meeting of Council was for the Council to adopt the IHRA definition in its entirety, including the 11 examples. She said that many organisations and countries, including the UK, used the definition.  The Council would carefully consider the use of the definition as a guide in decision making and give guidance as to its application.




The Council could not lawfully act in a manner which was inconsistent with the rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. This would mean that it could not interfere with freedom of expression, unless this is justified under Article 10 of the convention. The Council also needed to be sure that the way the definition was applied did not undermine the European Convention on Human Rights and it would not act unlawfully.




It was recognised that the examples accompanying the definition should be understood in the light of the definition and understood that the conduct listed was only anti-semitic if it manifested hatred towards Jews. The Council also recognised that, as an authority, if it did adopt the definition, then it must be interpreted in a way which was consistent with its statutory obligations, particularly the right to freedom of expression.




The Council had a positive obligation to protect freedom of speech. Article 10 required public authorities to take steps to ensure that everyone was permitted to participate in public debate, even if their opinions and ideas were offensive or irritating to the public or a section of it.




Councillor Dore said that properly understood, in its own terms, the IHRA definition did not mean that activities such as describing Israel as a state enacting policies of apartheid, as practising secular colonisation or calling for policies or boycott, divestment or sanctions against Israel could properly be characterised as anti-Semitic.




Councillor Dore said that a public authority which sought to apply that definition to prohibit or sanction such activities would be acting unlawfully and the Council did not intend to do that. The European Convention was most important and she gave reassurances that guidance which would be given to officers in particular and the application of the definition would be treated very seriously. Further, if the Council needed to consult with any particular organisations she would also give that commitment.




Public Question Concerning Accommodation for Refugees and Asylum Seekers




John Grayson asked if responses could be provided to questions asked by the South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group (SYMAAG) at the meeting of Council in September 2019 and concerning the number of families with children the Council had placed in the Earl Marshall and for how long, between 1 May and 1 September 2019. A second question was also asked at that meeting in relation to the outcome of a review of security at the Earl Marshall.




He referred to a visit he made on 26 September to the Earl Marshall bed and breakfast and outlined that there was no security or staff on reception there. He said that he saw three families with 11 children and two pregnant mothers. Mr Grayson asked why the Council had put vulnerable women and children in a bed-and-breakfast with no security until it was locked at 10.30pm and whether all the Earl Marshall staff dealing with children had DBS checks.




Mr Grayson asked why the Council had made the most vulnerable refugee children, and pregnant mothers with leave to remain, live in the Earl Marshall bed and breakfast, with two families having been there for a month and why the Council had made a family of four children, a pregnant mother and a father share one room for a month.




He also asked when these families would be offered alternative temporary accommodation by the Council which was safe and suitable. He said that SYMAAG had been approached by NHS staff that work with people in the Earl Marshall regarding conditions for people there and asked on behalf of those families to get decent temporary accommodation for them and to put them in a safe situation.




Councillor Paul Wood, the Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Community Safety, responded that he had recently been informed about two families in the Earl Marshall and he understood those two cases had been addressed and both would be rehoused by Friday of this week and he would check that had happened.




He said that the Council was using the Earl Marshall at present because other temporary accommodation was full across the city. There were proposals to look at some buildings that could be converted quickly into much better facilities which would be secure. However, that would take a matter of months to complete.




The number of properties available was very limited and essentially, there were not enough houses. There were also not enough facilities for temporary accommodation.




The Council would be commissioning some units for temporary accommodation, which was new build and these would not be ready for 18 months to two years, so the only relatively quick solution at the moment was to look at places that could be converted and this was being done.




Councillor Wood said that he would be pleased to have further conversations with Mr Grayson as to the details and would welcome ideas in relation to this issue. He acknowledged that this situation was not acceptable but said that, unfortunately, it was the position at present.




Public Questions Concerning Climate Emergency and Ecology




Geoffrey Cox asked for confirmation that the City Council's target was to become zero carbon by 2030; how it planned to measure the reduction in carbon emissions each year; and how this would be reported to the public?




Nathan asked the following:- 
What progress had been made since the Council announced the Climate Emergency in February, to reduce carbon emissions?




What financial resources had been allocated to reduce the carbon budget by the 14% required by the Tyndall Report this financial year; and, given the likely target reduction shortfall this year, what additional financial resources would be made available to catch up next financial year.




When will the first Citizen's Assembly take place to advise the Council on how to reduce emissions?




Why had the Council produced no publicly visible information on the climate emergency, or communicated the danger to life facing people around the world and in Sheffield and what plans did it have to do so?




Graham Wroe asked the following questions:-
Why did the workers spraying streets with dangerous Glyphosate not wear protective gear?




He asked what preparations the Council and Amey had made to be able to pay out damages to workers who developed cancer as a result of their use of Glyphosate.




He said that last year, Sheffield Council/Amey used 1750 litres of Glyphosate. He referred to its effects as regards mortality and decline of species and the harmful effect on plants. He said that despite this, it was sprayed around trees in Sheffield and asked when the Council/Amey was going to stop using Glyphosate?




Rachel said that the Council had advised in an article in Now Then magazine that it had been trialling alternatives to Glyphosate. She asked whether trials had been successful and why residents were not warned when Glyphosate was used.




She asked why roadsides and verges in the city were not being left alone wherever possible to allow wildflowers to grow. She referred to a decline in the numbers of winged insects and pollinators and made reference to Amsterdam, where she said an effort to leave verges untouched resulted in a 43% increase in bees and asked why Sheffield was not taking this action to preserve life.




Councillor Mark Jones, the Cabinet Member for Environment, Streetscene and Climate Change, responded to the questions and acknowledged the amount of detailed information within the questions. 




He said that the Council was determined to become carbon neutral by 2030 and was working hard to deliver that.




Glyphosate was a complex subject and he would not be able to give a detailed response at this meeting. However, the Council had trialled not using spray herbicides of this nature in the parks and, unfortunately, it not been successful in the controlling of weed species. However, that did not mean to say that it shouldn't be continued or explored further because what was defined as being a weed species or desirable and undesirable plants was something to be looked at. He said that he hoped to look at that issue further.




He said that with regards to the verges and roadside environment, there had been places where verges were allowed to grow. The Council was also mindful of safety, such as where there was impact on sight lines for road-users. However, the Council would try and allow verges to grow wherever possible. There were multiple benefits in that it provided a diverse environment for wildlife and it provided corridors for wildlife and also trapped pollutants from vehicles.




People using Glyphosate should always adhere to COSHH Regulations and, if they were not, he asked that such information was captured and the Council informed, as it was most important that workers were protected.




Councillor Jones said that with regards to the longevity of herbicides in the natural environmental system, there were conflicting opinions as to what that longevity was and he said that he would provide detail in a written answer.




As regards to what steps were being taken to reduce the carbon footprint of the Council, it had already sourced power from purely renewable sources and was looking to see how all bin lorries could be made electric and there were many other steps that the Council was taking. The Council was actively looking to see what more it could do; how rapidly the city might reduce the carbon footprint and how people could be better informed and educated.




He said this was an issue that the Council was taking seriously and it would work with groups and other partner organisations. He said that he would write to the questioners with a more detailed response. He also looked forward to having regular meetings with people on these matters.




Public Question Concerning the Green Belt




Mark James said that the Leader of the Council had recently said that the green belt would only be developed as a last resort and he sought clarification as to the circumstances and criteria on which the green belt would be developed as a last resort.




Councillor Julie Dore, the Leader of the Council, said that the simple answer was that the Council would only build on the green belt where it needed to remain lawful and meet its legal obligations.




Councillor Bob Johnson, the Cabinet Member for Transport and Development, added that this also related to the work in the emerging Local Plan, in relation to which the Council was looking at a centre-out approach and a more sustainable city. All brownfield sites and any non-designated green belt sites would be looked at first. He said that ‘last resort’ meant just that – namely when everything else had been exhausted. It was hoped that the Plan would be brought in several months’ time for further debate.




Public Questions Concerning Street Trees




Russell Johnson referred to a recent newspaper article indicating that the Leader of the Council had become aware of the high level of environmental concern amongst citizens. He commented that this was commended but belated. He asked whether the Council did not realise that there was already environmental concern three years ago when the Council sought to take action, including seeking to imprison and financially penalise people who understood and valued the range of environmental services provided by mature street trees.




Councillor Julie Dore, the Leader of the Council, said that her concerns for the environment and air pollution were not belated, as suggested in the question, and she made reference to her son’s respiratory problems causing him to need intensive hospital care when he was younger. She said that she had in the past also been involved in the development of green homes in Rotherham and subsequently in Norfolk Park.




Public Question Concerning Non Disclosure Agreements




Russell Johnson asked for it to be put on record that the Council had not, did not and would not use public monies to pay departing officers for non-disclosure agreements, otherwise known as gagging orders, even where those officers were likely to be subject to malfeasance or misconduct allegations.




Councillor Julie Dore, the Leader of the Council, responded that non-disclosure agreements were made where there was a particular requirement in order to do so, which may be for commercial sensitivity or for legal reasons and she said that she was sure that the Council would endeavour not to use non-disclosure agreements.




Public Question Concerning Forestry Commission Investigation




Russell Johnson stated that the Forestry Commission investigation into the legality of the felling of approximately 5000 street trees was highly critical of the actions of the Council and Amey, which he said undermined the case made to the High Court for obtaining an injunction. He asked whether such misjudgements had given the Leader of the Council cause to reflect on her position.




Councillor Julie Dore, the Leader of the Council, responded that the original investigation was into the legality of the tree felling and the outcome of the Forestry Commission investigation report found that the felling was not illegal. She said that the Council would be taking on board the constructive criticism within that report and would be providing a full response to it.




Public Question Concerning Greenest City




Dave Dillner referred to a claim in the press that Sheffield was the greenest city in Europe. He commented that it was not the greenest city in Europe and said that, if evidence could be provided to support that claim, he would apologise accordingly.




Councilor Julie Dore asked for Members in the Chamber to indicate whether Sheffield was the greenest city in Europe.




Public Question Concerning Climate Change and Planning




Nigel Slack commented on recent experience of extreme weather affecting the city, the impact of climate change and planning for the continuing changes to weather patterns in the future. He said that he had previously commented on whether there was planning guidance in place that would mitigate these issues. He made a comment concerning the ability of drainage to cope with heavy rainfall, such as in Millennium Square.




He said that planning applications were accepted for high density and very tall buildings in the centre of the city that were susceptible to high winds and there seemed to be little consideration of how the grouping of buildings would affect the wind flow patterns on the macro scale. He also commented on acceptance of planning applications that he said were under ambitious as regards to reducing carbon footprint and green energy performance.




Mr Slack asked if the Council could say whether the conditions required of new developments would be reviewed in the context of deteriorating climate change and the mitigations necessary for the long term future of the city.




Councilor Bob Johnson, the Cabinet Member for Transport and Development, responded that the Council was most aware of the impacts of climate change and was taking account of that in reaching decisions on individual planning applications. This was particularly the case in respect to drainage and flooding.




As regards the impact of tall buildings and wind flows, there were currently at least two applications subject to microclimate assessments. He said that the emerging Local Plan would provide a new policy basis for tackling climate change to be incorporated in all strands of that Plan.