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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.



(NOTE: There is a time limit of one hour for the above item of business.  In accordance with the arrangements published on the Council’s website in relation to meetings of the Council held remotely, questions/petitions are required to be submitted in writing, to, by 9.00 a.m. on Monday 30th November.)





The Lord Mayor (Councillor Tony Downing) reported that three petitions and questions from seven members of the public had been received prior to the published deadline for submission of petitions and questions for this meeting.








Petition Requesting the Listing and Reopening of Tinsley Carnegie Library




The Council received an electronic petition containing 713 signatures requesting the listing and reopening of Tinsley Carnegie Library.




The Lord Mayor (Councillor Tony Downing) reported that the organiser of the petition, Mr Matt Smith, was not able to attend the meeting.  In addition to the petition, Mr Smith had also submitted three questions on the subject of Tinsley Carnegie Library, as follows:




1.       Is Tinsley Carnegie library currently listed by the Council for disposal? 




2.       What options have been explored by the Council and local community groups for community use of the building?




3.       What are the current issues with the Tinsley Carnegie library which have prevented the Council from using it for community purposes and / or as a base for the area's Associate Library? Please give specific details of each issue and the estimated cost to rectify it.




The Council referred the petition and questions to Councillor Mary Lea, the Cabinet Member for Culture, Parks and Leisure.




Councillor Lea stated that an application could be made by anyone to Historic England to have a building listed and a recommendation could be made by Historic England with a decision being made by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. The Council did not have a part in the decision making.




She explained that the library building (or Roundabout Centre as it was commonly known) was being considered for disposal. However, there were a number of complex legal issues relating to the building, including a covenant and those issues were being looked at further.




In relation to options that were being considered, the building required a considerable amount of investment in order to bring it back into use because it was in a poor condition and the Council did not have the budget to undertake that work. However, if a group believed that it was possible to find the necessary finance to enable the work, that was something that could be examined.




Councillor Lea said that she would respond to Mr Smith with the information in writing.




The Lord Mayor (Councillor Tony Downing) reported that questions had been received from James Newman Gray regarding Tinsley Carnegie Library, but as Mr Gray was not in attendance, a written response would be provided to him by Councillor Mary Lea, Cabinet Member for Culture, Parks and Leisure.




Petition requesting the Council to Implement a 20 mph Zone in Westfield and to Work with South Yorkshire Police to Tackle Speeding in the Area




The Council received an electronic petition containing 112 signatures requesting the Council to implement a 20 mph zone in Westfield and to work with South Yorkshire Police to tackle speeding in the area.




Representations on behalf of the petitioners were made by Kurtis Crossland.  He stated that the Council was requested to implement a 20 mph speed limit in Westfield and to work with the police to help to enforce it. He referred to local concerns about motorists speeding.




The Council referred the petition to Councillor Bob Johnson, the Cabinet Member for Transport and Development.Councillor Johnson thanked the petitioners for bringing this matter to Council.  He said that there was a schedule for delivery of 20mph zones in Sheffield and there were already 20 such schemes across the City.  He said that unfortunately, the Westfield scheme had been assessed by the police and the Council and it was currently at number 11, based on accident statistics. He referred to schemes being implemented in places where they would have most effect and said that under current regional funding, it would be unlikely that the scheme would receive funding either this year or next. However, it was on the list and hopefully it would continue to progress.




Petition Requesting the Installation of Double-Yellow Lines and Traffic-Calming Measures at Rundle Road/Kenbourne Road




The Council received a petition containing 56 signatures, requesting the installation of double-yellow lines and traffic-calming measures at Rundle Road/Kenbourne Road.




The lead petitioner was not in attendance at the meeting and the Council referred the petition to Councillor Bob Johnson, the Cabinet Member for Transport and Development, who said that a written response would be provided to the petition.




Public Questions




Public Question Concerning Crossing on Station Road




Kurtis Crossland referred to the petition presented to Council relating to a crossing on Station Road, Halfway and asked whether there was an update and if funding had been secured for the crossing.




Councillor Bob Johnson, the Cabinet Member for Transport and Development, responded to the questions. He said that funding had been identified for the scheme and it had begun to be drawn up. He said that he was not able at this time to give an exact timescale for the scheme, which related to work that was being done at the school. He said that he would, through local councillors, write to residents, and including Mr Crossland, about the scheme, which would also require consultation and the necessary notifications.




Public Question Concerning Vehicles on Open Space




Kurtis Crossland commented on concerns that vehicles used green spaces as off road tracks and asked whether the Council would consider putting up fencing to stop vehicles turning from Moss Way to the Shortbrook open space and in addition, fencing on the grass near Westfield Northway next to the football pitch.




Councillor Bob Johnson, the Cabinet Member for Transport and Development, said that in relation to the gap on Moss Way, there was a local infrastructure levy allocation and the issue relating to Moss Way might be something which Mr Crossland could pass to the three local Councillors for them to decide whether that was a priority for the local area. He explained that it was not likely to attract city-wide funding, given the prioritisation of areas of most need based on criteria.




Public Questions Concerning Georgian Shops on Devonshire Street




Nigel Slack asked questions concerning the row of Georgian shops on Devonshire Street. He said that in 2015, there had been public opposition of 22,000 people to the plans to redevelop the site including demolition of the Georgian row and like for like replacement with added residential space to the rear. He said that permission for the redevelopment was eventually granted. However, the developers then left the site empty for 5 years.




Mr Slack explained that a new permission was being sought to demolish the block of shops and replace them with a 4 storey office building. He said that application appeared to suggest that the case for demolition had been made and should therefore be a matter of course for the new plan. He asked the Council to confirm the following:




-        That the first application's permission to demolish was within very limited and specific lines and not a general permission to demolish.


-        That the planning history and the public and heritage groups responses in particular, will be part of the consideration.


-        That the Council will not consider as they did in 2015 that their hands are tied due to strict planning laws, and that if the Council tried to block the application they could end up facing huge legal bills.


-        After all if it is worth that risk to block the destruction of Green heritage, is it not also worth that risk for our built heritage.




Councillor Bob Johnson, the Cabinet Member for Transport and Development, responded that the previous application retained the façade onto the main frontages only. The planning history relating to the site would be a consideration in respect of any new and subsequent planning application and any responses received from interested third parties, including heritage groups and local communities, would be considered, as was the normal process. He said that, as was the case with all planning applications, the Council must consider matters which are relevant and policy frameworks which it must abide by as they governed the process.




Public Questions Concerning Space Standards for New Housing Developments




Nigel Slack said that it had been drawn to his attention that the city had not adopted any space standards for new housing developments, which reduced the ability to refuse “shoebox” developments. He commented that the position on conversions was far worse, because converting an office building into apartments was Permitted Development and did not go through the usual planning process. He further commented on the city, having pioneered decent Council housing nearly a hundred years ago, now permitting developments which do not meet national space standards for housing.




Mr. Slack asked the following questions:




-        How the local plan, when finally adopted, would impact on minimum space standards?


-        Will Council adopt a policy on minimum space standards in advance of the local plan and any changes to national policy?


-        Will Council instruct that officers be more willing to challenge minuscule apartments, sending the clear message that such apartments raise amenity issues for residents?




Councillor Bob Johnson, the Cabinet Member for Transport and Development, stated that under the government regulations, the Council was only able to apply the national minimum housing space standards if these were confirmed through a policy in an up to date local plan. The Council intended to adopt the government standards in the new local plan. In its response to the recent Government White Paper, the Council had also urged the Government to apply standards nationally and through Building Regulations.




Councillor Paul Wood, the Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Community Safety, said that all developments of social housing were well above the national standard and that included sites at Weaklands, Scowerdons, the Manor Cluster and the Older Person's Independent Living Units. He said that when he was able to and restrictions were not in place relating to the Coronavirus pandemic, he would be pleased to show the developments to Mr Slack to demonstrate the standards provided in social housing in Sheffield. He said that Sheffield had been praised by a national house building federation for having the best specification of social housing in any city outside of London.




Public Questions Concerning Mount Pleasant




Nigel Slack stated that it was two and a half years on from a decision about the disposal of Mount Pleasant. He said that local residents and activists were hoping to see a vibrant new neighbourhood amenity by now and instead there was a dilapidated empty building, undoubtedly suffering as a result. He asked about the current state of play on the sale of the site and the fate of the tenant in the stable block.




Councillor Bob Johnson, the Cabinet Member for Transport and Development, stated that all the legal documents had been completed in relation to Mount Pleasant, including the lease for the current tenant of the stable block and, once the existing tenant agreed to sign the lease, it would be possible to complete and the redevelopment and building work could begin.




Councillor Terry Fox, the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, Resources and Governance, confirmed that the Council was waiting for the lease to be signed.




Public Questions Concerning Records Regarding Street Trees




The Lord Mayor (Councillor Tony Downing) reported that questions had been received from Marcus Combie regarding records relating to street trees, but that Mr Combie was not in attendance at this meeting.  Councillor Mark Jones, Cabinet Member for Environment, Streetscene and Climate Change, stated that a written response would be provided to Mr Combie and he would also invite Mr Combie to meet with him.




Public Questions Concerning a Circular Economy




Rebecca Atkinson said that in December 2019, the Council resolved to move towards a circular economy as opposed to a linear economy where goods were used and then disposed of. She asked the following questions:




1.       The Council resolved to define a metric for progress made in the transition to a circular economy. Has this been achieved and if not, what steps have been taken to achieve it?




2.       In a proposed amendment to the original motion, it was suggested that the Council should ‘develop proposals to introduce a pilot scheme for the collection of food waste from households’. This proposal was voted down. Given strong evidence that food waste collections have the positive impact of reducing household food waste, would the Council reconsider a pilot food waste collection in the city? What are the main barriers to trialling such a service?




3.       The Council resolved to support local businesses to transition to closed loop systems. How has the Council fulfilled this pledge to local businesses over the past year and in what ways was it planning to do so in future?




4.       In 2018/19 Sheffield had a household recycling rate of 31.0%. Does the Council have any formal target for increasing the rate of (a) household and (b) plastics recycling?




Councillor Mark Jones, Cabinet Member for Environment, Streetscene and Climate Change, responded to the questions. He said that work was ongoing to explore how Sheffield could respond to the issue of the circular economy and the low carbon economy and that work was near completion and that would help to formulate plans to enable a net-zero economy. Measures would be brought in with regard to support for the circular economy.




Councillor Jones explained that food waste in the black bins was currently processed through the energy recovery facility, generating low carbon energy for the city. Cost was the main barrier to a trial of food waste collection, elements of which might include vehicles, staff, containers and liners and educational support and materials. There would also need to be consultation on any such scheme. The Council had written to Rebecca Powell, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, to see when the Government would be bringing forward a strategy and White Paper and in relation to funding to support this work. He said it was important that more was done with regard to food waste so that people could dispose of food appropriately and there was an educational element with regard to disposal of food waste and minimising waste.




He said there had been a massive reduction in the amount of waste from businesses, which had changed the nature of waste streams and the Council would need to see what it might do to support businesses in the context of the Coronavirus pandemic and it would work with business and emerging businesses.




Councillor Jones explained that as regards household recycling rates, Sheffield did not necessarily count garden waste in recycling, which gave the city an artificially low number. However, more did need to be done with regard to plastic recycling and other elements of the waste stream. He also stressed that less waste and less waste materials that needed recycling should be produced. He said that it was likely that the Government’s target for recycling would not be met.




He referred to the South Yorkshire Waste Stream Strategy, in relation to which the Council had pledged to increase recycling by 10Kg per household by 2021. With regard to plastic, the Government’s Resources and Waste Strategy of December 2018 included measures concerning the reduction of plastic waste and increased recycling, including a tax on plastic packaging, a deposit return scheme and a minimum requirement for councils to collect all plastic. The new proposals from Government were awaited and work would then be progressed as rapidly as possible. He said that this was critical work and it was regrettable that the Government had been slow in bringing these options forward along with the necessary funding. He said that he would look forward to further correspondence on these issues with Rebecca Atkinson.




Public Questions Concerning the Streets Ahead Contract




Justin Buxton had submitted questions for this meeting of Council.  The Lord Mayor explained that question 4 relating to the Streets Ahead Contract would be permitted. However, questions 1 and 3 would not be permitted because Mr Buxton had not provided the actual questions. Question 2 was not permittable under the Council Procedure Rules as it concerned a named Member of the Council.




Due to technical difficulties resulting in the loss of Mr Buxton’s connection to the remote meeting, the Lord Mayor requested that the relevant Cabinet Member respond to Mr Buxton in writing as regards question number 4.






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