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Agenda item

Public Questions and Petitions

To receive any questions or petitions from members of the public.



The Committee received the following questions from members of the public who had submitted the questions prior to the meeting, and who attended the meeting to raise them:-




(a)        Chris Cutforth




What are the key success factors in ensuring that the local area committee system, and specifically the South West LAC, enhances local democracy and adds value to people’s lives?




In response, the Chair stated that Local Area Committees (LACs) were part of the flagship Empowering Communities Programme the Council had set up, following on from feedback from the Big City Conversations – residents said they didn’t feel involved in local decision making.  Seven LACs had been established across the city, giving greater access to Members in local settings. The Council encouraged active participation at public meetings – of which there will be a minimum of four during the Municipal Year. The LAC Survey received over 7,000 responses, 20% of which were from the south west – this gave residents the opportunity to express views and say what was important to them.  The results of the survey had contributed to shaping the seven Community Plans across the city, with priorities identified by the public. Success will be performance against these priorities, which will be regularly monitored and reported back at future public meetings.




A full, written response would be sent to Mr Cutforth.




(b)    Alana Clarke




1.     Was there a Council policy about the change in grass cutting practice in 2021. If so, what was that policy?




2.     Has the Council policy been changed since the first cutting in 2022?




3.     If the policy has changed, what is it?




In response, Councillor Barbara Masters stated that she had already spoken to Ms Clarke, and had been told Ms Clarke had since been provided with a response, the response from Parks and Countryside below, which she read out at the meeting.




For questions 1 and 3 - Parks and Countryside have been actively working on biodiversity improvements around the city including relaxed mowing, additional wildflower meadows, increased tree planting, naturalisation, additional sustainable drainage schemes, wildlife ponds, chemical reduction, recycling, waste minimisation and a host of small projects.




Following the initial lock down in 2020 that saw huge increases in park usage and staffing challenges as a result of Covid, Parks and Countryside took the initiative to look at options to change previous long-standing grass land management using local site knowledge to relax grass areas in appropriate places with the aim of increasing biodiversity, creating new grassland meadows, leading to a slightly more relaxed feel for many sites whilst trying to balance the need for general amenity grass for casual use and play, with approximately 47 hectares of amenity grass relaxed in 2020, with a further 35 hectares relaxed in 2021, with work ongoing with the aim of increasing changes further although this becomes harder as the majority of larger sites have now been modified. These changes were not financially led as methods required to cut and collect generally were more labour intensive. The changes were driven by the Council’s desire to improve biodiversity and respond to climate change with changing demands of the majority of park users for a combination on naturalistic and general amenity landscape management.




The changes in grass land management had been exceptionally well received, including many other core cities around the UK. We have received a few complaints, and we have tried to respond and change appropriately, including Bingham Park.




For question 2 - Following regular stakeholder meetings with Bingham Park Community Group (BPCG) and at the request of local Councillors, the Council agreed to reduce the amount of naturalised areas on the old pitch and putt area and to the rear of properties on Bingham Park Road, increasing amenity grass areas for general play.  Councillors and BPCG agreed that moving forward additional consultation on grass land management should be part of any further plans and changes.




(c)    Paul May




1.     Would it be possible to publish the full written responses to questions raised by members of the public at previous meetings of the Committee?




In response, the Chair stated that arrangements would be made for such responses to be included as part of the agendas for future meetings.




2.     Will there still be a role for Ward Forums and their Councillors? A new model could be to hold a ward meeting shortly before the next LAC meeting.




In response, the Chair stated that Ecclesall Forum was an important stakeholder to the LAC, and that there was already a good working relationship between the Ecclesall Ward Councillors and Ecclesall Forum.  The four Wards within the LAC boundary had different compositions, and the LAC doesn’t want a one size fits all approach. The LAC is more than just the four public meetings per year.




3.     I am interested to see that a source of information and data that will be used to influence decisions is Councillors casework. Will this source represent a significant number of residents or are there only a small number of comments that will not be very representative of the whole of the SW area? eg for idling engines (as an aside I commend the work that Silverdale School has been doing on idling engines and bad parking - it may be worth exploring).




In response, the Chair stated that the LAC Community Plan had been developed mainly using the results of the LAC Survey. Whilst 20% of the responses were received from people living in the south west area of the city, the LAC was concerned that the results of the survey were not representative of the area, therefore input from Councillors, both through their involvement with local community groups and their individual casework.  It was not expected, however, that a Councillor would consider a piece of their casework as representative of the views expressed in a Council Ward, as they were expected to represent the whole of their respective Wards.




The Committee received the following questions from members of the pubic, who raised them at the meeting:-




(a)    Stuart Wilson




Despite promises made by the Council, some five years ago, as part of the proposals to review its leisure facilities, there were still no plans for the provision of an indoor flat green bowling facility in the city. We were told that such a facility would be provided as part of the developments at either Concorde or Springs, and a survey of all flat green bowling clubs in the city indicated that Springs would be the ideal location. What is the current position regarding the provision of such a facility at Springs Leisure Centre, the development of which was due to commence in 2023?




In response, the Chair stated that under the new Committee system, it was likely that at least one Councillor on the LAC would be a member of the Communities, Parks and Leisure Policy Committee, responsible for this issue.




Further to comments by Councillor Shaffaq Mohammed, who referred to the indoor flat green bowling facility at Stocksbridge Leisure Centre, Mr Wilson pointed out that this was some distance from the city centre, and that there was a need for such a facility near the city centre. He stressed that flat green bowling was important for people’s physical and mental health, particularly for older people, as well as helping with social isolation.




Councillor Sue Alston stated that a report on the review of leisure facilities was due to be considered by the Communities, Parks and Leisure Policy Committee shortly, and that she would raise this issue at the meeting. She would also inform Mr Wilson of the date of such meeting, so that he could attend and raise the issue himself.




The Chair added that, in the meantime, the issue would be referred to the Chair of the Communities, Parks and Leisure Policy Committee.




(b)    Tim Lewis




I wish to raise the following questions regarding the Low Traffic Neighbourhood Scheme in Crookes:-




1.     What was the baseline data that was gathered, and subsequently used to form the implementation of the Scheme?




2.     Why had Crookes been identified as a Low Traffic Neighbourhood, and who made that decision?




3.     Why has the implementation of a number of concepts of the Scheme been so shambolic, such as the one-way section on Spring Vale Road?




4.     What are the measures for the failures or successes of the Scheme?




5.     How long were the residents of Crookes going to have to put up with the Scheme?




In response, the Chair stated that the decisions on where the Low Neighbourhood Traffic Scheme would be located had been made by the former, relevant Cabinet Member. It was expected that a report on the monitoring of the Scheme would be submitted to the relevant Policy Committee after September 2022. He added that when it had become apparent that it was a big issue for Crookes residents, the LAC had arranged additional consultation on the Scheme, which included drop-in sessions for residents, and which had resulted in some very useful feedback.




Councillor Tim Huggan stated that the Crookes Ward Councillors had not seen the baseline data used prior to the implementation of the Scheme, and had only received a briefing from officers. He believed that the reason why Crookes area had been chosen as one of the two locations for the trial scheme was due to the high number of people who had requested it. The Ward Councillors had asked for a follow-up meeting with the Joint Chairs of the relevant Policy Committee to discuss the feedback from residents, and he encouraged residents to continue to put forward their views.




Councillor Ruth Milsom stated that she concurred with the view that the Crookes local Ward Councillors had received minimal information whilst the Scheme was being developed, and that there should have been more opportunity for public engagement during the design process. She also encouraged residents to put forward their views as part of the ongoing consultation process, and stressed that every effort would be made to encourage those residents who don’t usual attend public meetings, or take part in consultation events, to put forward their views, to ensure that the feedback was adequately weighted.




Councillor Minesh Parekh stated that he concurred with the views expressed by his fellow Ward Councillors, and that he hoped that changes, based on the feedback received, would be made to the Scheme in real time. Councillor Parekh stated that he hoped that there would be both qualitative and quantatitive assessments of all elements of the Scheme, particularly the environmental impacts, such as changes in modes of travel and vehicle emissions.