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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.

Minutes:

4.1

Petitions

 

 

4.1.1

Petition Requesting the Council to Consider Moving to a System of All-Out Elections Every Four Years

 

 

 

The Council received an electronic petition containing 31 signatures, requesting the Council to consider moving to a system of all-out elections every four years.

 

 

 

Representations on behalf of the petitioners were made by Vicky Seddon who stated that the Council was requested to consider moving from elections by thirds to all out elections every 4 years. She stated that not only would this save money but it would better respect and reflect communities. Community cohesion was important and may be lost if ward size was the main criteria for determining ward boundaries. Thankfully, Sheffield had not experienced extreme community tensions which had led to riots in other places. She said that Community Assemblies had been an important way of hearing local people so they were better represented in the political system. All out elections would serve to change the number of councillors to reflect local communities.

 

 

 

Many places had adopted a system of elections every 4 years, including in Wales, Scotland and London Boroughs and there was evidence of a small improvement in voter turnout. This was a decision that was within the Council’s own power and would require a two thirds majority, requiring cross party working. An all-out election would take place in 2016 in any case following the outcome of the boundary review.

 

 

 

The Council referred the petition to the Leader of the Council, Councillor Julie Dore. Councillor Dore responded by thanking the petitioners and Sheffield for Democracy for their contribution to the Boundary Review. The Review considered the boundaries, number of councillors in each ward and the electoral timetable. The review was to conclude in the Autumn and had involved all political parties and the public. The ward boundaries in the City were determined by the Boundary Commission. Councillor Dore stated that she accepted some of the comments which had been made and said that she was proud of the strong community cohesion in the City.

 

 

 

Councillor Dore stated that the Local Area Partnerships, which replaced Community Assemblies aimed to bring together stakeholders in each local area to enable them to work together to deal with the issues particularly affecting those communities. Cabinet in the Community was also a method of engagement that had been introduced in the last few years. Nonetheless she wished to improve how the Council engaged with communities and said that the Council was open to new ideas. She reiterated her gratitude to Sheffield for Democracy for their engagement with the Council.

 

 

4.1.2

Petition Requesting Improvements to the Pedestrian Crossing Outside Ecclesall Junior School, Ringinglow Road

 

 

 

The Council received an electronic petition containing 1116 signatures requesting improvements to the pedestrian crossing outside Ecclesall Junior School, Ringinglow Road.

 

 

 

Representations on behalf of the petitioners were made by Louise Colegate. She stated that the post of School Crossing Patrol Warden at Ecclesall Junior School had been vacant since the previous post holder had left the post in September 2014. There were numerous incidents involving poor driving outside the School, with cars not stopping whilst children and parents attempted to cross the road and one vehicle had over taken another which had stopped to let people cross at a zebra crossing, which fortunately had not resulted in injuries to those using the crossing at that time. The petition had collected over 1000 signatures in seven weeks. A replacement School Crossing Patrol warden was needed and it was understood that an advertisement had been placed on 3 February. 

 

 

 

The Council referred the petition to Councillor Jayne Dunn, the Cabinet Member for Environment, Recycling and Streetscene. Councillor Dunn confirmed that the vacancy for a School Crossing patrol Warden had been advertised and said that she hoped a successful recruitment would be made to the post. A 20 mph zone for the area was in the programme, although it was dependent upon available funding. The requests for a crossing and speed indication device would be assessed.

 

 

4.1.3

Petition Requesting Double Yellow Lines at the Junction of Westwick Road and Westwick Crescent

 

 

 

The Council received a petition containing 176 signatures requesting double yellow lines at the junction of Westwick Road and Westwick Crescent.

 

 

 

Representations on behalf of the petitioners were made by Mick Thomas who stated that the petition concerned the junction of Westwick Road and Westwick Crescent being made unsafe by vehicles parking on corners close to the junction and obscuring the view of approaching traffic. Although there were already single yellow lines, these were ignored. There had been a number of damage only accidents but there had been no reports of accidents involving injury or fatality. However, there was a real concern that it was only a matter of time before a serious accident occurred. The petition requested the painting of double yellow lines on all four corners of the junction approximately 10 to 15 metres into the adjoining roads. It was hoped that this would improve the view for motorists. Local shopkeepers had expressed the view that this would not interfere with access to their businesses.

 

 

 

The Council referred the petition to Councillor Jayne Dunn, the Cabinet Member for Environment, Recycling and Streetscene. Councillor Dunn confirmed that double yellow lines would be installed at the junction, having spoken with Council Officers about this matter.

 

 

4.1.4

Petition Requesting the Council’s Support for Chapeltown Juniors FC in Taking the Tenancy of Steel City Sports Ground

 

 

 

The Council received a petition containing 596 signatures requesting the Council’s support for Chapeltown Juniors FC in taking the tenancy of Steel City Sports Ground.

 

 

 

Representations on behalf of the petitioners were made by Mark Ashforth who stated that Chapeltown Juniors FC comprised 8 teams with approximately 120 players aged between 6 and 18 years. The football club had rented pitches from Sheffield Parks and Countryside for some 20 years the quality of which had slowly degraded. Top soil had been requested in order that the surface of the pitch could be maintained and it could be kept in a playable condition. However, the pitches in Ecclesfield Park were also used by other more senior teams and this caused further damage to the playing surface and meant that it was sometimes dangerous for young players.  

 

 

 

Chapeltown Juniors would like to relocate to the Steel City Sports Ground and take over the lease from the City Council for the Steel City Sports Ground and clubhouse on Shiregreen Lane. Support for the initiative had been forthcoming from local elected members, including Councillors Alan Law and Pauline Andrews. The Council Parks and Countryside Service and local Football Association were involved in the project and were also keen to continue other sports at the Sports Ground. It was also hoped that the club house could be reopened to give a base for activities including dance and bingo and that access to football could be widened so as to include females and disabled people. In order to make a bid for Lottery funding, the football club would need a tenancy and letter of comfort. The Steel City site was in disrepair at this time and it was intended to turn this situation around. The tenancy deeds included a clause related to retaining the site as a sports ground and further detailed discussion was required on this aspect of the site.

 

 

 

The Council referred the petition to Councillor Isobel Bowler, the Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Leisure. Councillor Bowler stated that it was absolutely not the intention that the Steel City Sports Ground would not be used as a sports ground and it was recognised as a valuable asset. She thanked all the people who put in time and effort in contributing to and supporting grassroots football in Sheffield. The Football Association had set up a national initiative to invest in grassroots football facilities. Sheffield was the first city in which the programme would be delivered and the first two new football hubs would be created with artificial pitches at Graves Leisure Centre and Thorncliffe Recreation Ground.

 

 

 

Councillor Bowler stated that whilst the pitches at the Steel City Ground were in relatively good condition, the buildings were poor. Councillors Peter Price, Alan Law and Pauline Andrews were all working in respect of a potential lease of the Steel City Ground and in securing future investment. Council officers would also continue to work with them in that regard.

 

 

4.1.5

Petition Requesting a Pelican Crossing at the Junction of Duke Street, Bernard Street and Talbot Street

 

 

 

The Council received a joint paper and electronic petition containing 158 signatures requesting a pelican crossing at the junction of Duke Street, Bernard Street and Talbot Street.

 

 

 

Representations on behalf of the petitioners were made by Graham Wroe, who stated that the junction of Duke Street, Bernard Street and Talbot Street was dangerous and older people were afraid to cross the road in the absence of a pedestrian crossing. According to information on the ‘crash map’ website, 16 incidents had been recorded at that location and one had involved serious injury. One lady had fallen on the junction and had received no help from other people. The left turn was not controlled and there was always moving traffic. Vehicles also mounted the pavement and drivers did not always signal.

 

 

 

The Council referred the petition to Councillor Jayne Dunn, the Cabinet Member for Environment, Recycling and Streetscene. Councillor Dunn referred to the fact that this issue had been raised with the Council in 2014 and the potential for a crossing had been assessed according to the relevant criteria. She would request that a further assessment was made of the request and noted that the Streets Ahead programme would be in that area in 2016.

 

 

4.1.6

Petition Objecting to any Proposals to Demolish Tinsley Youth Club

 

 

 

The Council received a petition containing 42 signatures objecting to any proposals to demolish Tinsley Youth Club.

 

 

 

Representations on behalf of the petitioners were made by Adil Mohammed, who stated that the Pavilion at Tinsley was the heart of the community. However, it had been suggested that the Pavilion may be demolished to make way for a car park at the new school. He said that 40 young people attended each youth session and suggested that the activities undertaken at the Pavilion were expanded. The facility was something which the community did not want to loose and he asked if the Council would rule out any proposal to demolish the Pavilion.

 

 

The Council referred the petition to Councillor Jackie Drayton, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families. Councillor Drayton thanked the Petitioners for submitting their petition and stated that she knew that young people appreciated the work which took place in the Pavilion. The Pavilion would remain in place and the plans for Tinsley Green and the new school were completely separate. She recognised that people have ideas for the future use of the Pavilion and it was felt that the building was underused at present and stated that its use might be expanded for the benefit of all members of the local community.

 

 

4.1.7

Petition Objecting to the Proposed Removal of Grit Bins in the Chancet Wood Area

 

 

 

The Council received a petition containing 80 signatures objecting to the proposed removal of grit bins in the Chancet Wood area.

 

 

 

Representations on behalf of the petitioners were made by Wendy Zealand who stated that the proposed removal of grit bins on the Chancet Wood estate would particularly affect the predominantly older population in the area, who may not be able to get out of their homes and may also affect access by carers and health services. Families had difficulty in supporting elderly relatives. The Council was asked to consider keeping the grit bins where they were and not to condemn older people to being housebound in the future. People were willing to help keep the estate accessible in the winter periods and community groups including the Tenants and Residents Association would encourage community spirit.

 

 

 

The Council referred the petition to Councillor Jayne Dunn, Cabinet Member for Environment, Recycling and Streetscene.

 

 

4.1.8

Petition Requesting the Reinstatement of the Grit Bin for Residents of Grassington Way and Leyburn Grove

 

 

 

The Council received a petition containing 36 signatures requesting the reinstatement of the grit bin for residents of Grassington Way and Leyburn Way.

 

 

 

Representations on behalf of the petitioners were made by Mrs Stow who stated that Grassington Road and Leyburn Way had a majority of older people aged over 60 years. The roads were located on the brow of a hill and only a 4x4 vehicle would be able to access the road in wintry conditions. There was no windbreak and the windchill made it more difficult for people. In order to access bus routes and shops people had to exit the local roads, which often became icy in colder weather and residents had relied on grit from the bin which had previously been in place. There was concern that access by emergency services, and other services such as district nurses and carers would be compromised when some older residents needed daily care or medication for life threatening illnesses. The Council was asked to consider the additional costs to the NHS in cases where people had accidents in winter conditions caused by a lack of surface gritting.

 

 

 

The Council referred the petition to Councillor Jayne Dunn, the Cabinet Member for Environment, Recycling and Streetscene.

 

 

4.1.9

Public Questions Concerning Winter Maintenance

 

 

 

Janet Halse stated that she believed the quality of winter management had deteriorated and she referred to the effect of recent snow on her own family. She asked why the commissioning and monitoring of winter management of highways had left the City in a dangerous state with the Council contact number at Streets Ahead no longer taking public requests to grit very dangerous side roads; shopping areas and main access footpaths never treated; grit bins not being filled as a matter of routine and reliance upon the public identifying a need for more grit; and non-gritting of side roads, meaning that a problematic map of gritting routes had been created.  She suggested that a cross city network be created between valleys to help ease gridlock on routes in the valley bottoms.

 

 

 

She urged the Council to review the situation and if necessary create a cross party group including other partners and stakeholders to find a solution and if necessary seek supplementary funding.

 

 

 

Keith Crawshaw stated that he wished to reiterate and support the petition concerning the reinstatement of a grit bin on Grassington Way.

 

 

 

Councillor Jayne Dunn, the Cabinet Member for Environment, Recycling and Streetscene, responded to the two petitions and questions on the subject of winter maintenance. Firstly, she stated that the grit bin on Grassington Way had not met the criteria which had been adopted for the provision of grit bins. The application of the criteria had meant that approximately 120 grit bins had been removed. Councillor Dunn said that a review would be taking place of the provision of grit bins once the winter period had ended and this might result in some bins being relocated. Grit required as dry a surface as possible in order for it to be effective. It took between 8 and 9 hours to grit the network in Sheffield. Grit was most effective where the depth of snow was between 2 to 4 centimetres. It did not work effectively where the depth of snow was much greater. On Boxing Day, the weather had turned quickly from rain to snow and there was not time to grit the whole of the City’s network before heavier accumulations of snow occurred. Grit also needed to be worked into the surface and on Boxing Day there were also lighter levels of traffic, so the grit did not become worked in as quickly as it might have been.

 

 

4.2

Public Questions

 

 

4.2.1

Public Questions Concerning Land Adjacent to 265 Abbey Lane

 

 

 

Liz Jaques stated that the site of land adjacent to 265 Abbey Lane had been identified as being suitable for development for residential use and proposals and recommendations for the disposal of this site were outlined in a report concerning surplus land. She asked why the decision had been identified as being “Non Key” and  made without proper consultation with the local  community,  local residents, Beauchief Abbey Congregation Committee and Beauchief Environment Group.

 

 

 

Objections had previously been raised in relation to the development of this land in 2008 and the issues put forward at that time were still considered to be relevant. There would be potential loss of open space in a conservation area that is one of Sheffield’s oldest Heritage sites and it was argued that the land should remain undeveloped to preserve the view of the Abbey. The Beauchief Environment Group carried out a lot of work, maintenance and conservation work in the area and organised working mornings and petitions were currently being signed opposing development or planning permission.

 

 

 

Pamela Hodgson stated that this area of land should be preserved for the future and it was not sensible to propose alternative use such as for housing. The land adjacent to 265 Abbey Lane provided an open view to one of the City’s few heritage sites. The Conservation area abutted the Golf Course and when looking at the site it was clear that it was not suitable to build upon. She asked whether permanent protection could be given to the site.

 

 

 

Councillor Ben Curran, the Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, responded that a “non key” decision was the class of decision which had been used in this case due to the relatively low land values involved and because the decision was one which would not be considered to have a significant impact on an area of two or more wards. However, it was not a judgement on the heritage value of the site. Councillor Curran stated that local Councillor Roy Munn had raised the issue with him as Cabinet Member, so he was aware of the history and importance of the site. He had now made it clear to Council Officers that he was not content with the decision process in this case both in terms of outcome and consultation. He had instructed Officers not to proceed with the disposal of the site.

 

 

4.2.2

Public Question Concerning the Site of the Primary School in Tinsley

 

 

 

Muzafar Rahman expressed concerns at developments in Tinsley, including the siting of industry and the decision to permit the development of an IKEA store, all of which would give rise to increased pollution. There were also other transport developments which would affect the area such as the Bus Rapid Transit link road and High Speed Rail. He referred to the recent decision to create a school in the community park and stated that he felt that the community’s voice was not being heard. The park was the only green and tranquil place in the Tinsley area and helped residents with bronchial or other respiratory conditions. He said that other sites were available for the location of the school and asked why the Council was persistent in wishing to build the school within the park.

 

 

 

Councillor Jackie Drayton, the Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families, responded to the question from Mr Rahman. She thanked him for his question and said that she knew that he cared passionately about his community. There had been a long held wish for a new school in Tinsley, combining the existing infant and junior schools and moving the schools away from the M1 Motorway. All the sites in the area had been investigated in order that a proposal could be developed. The Council had been pursuing an alternative site but had been told in writing by the owners that the site was not available. Building had to commence as soon as possible, otherwise the extra £1.4 million that was available through extra school places funding would be lost. Therefore a proposal had to be made. Tinsley School was one of the most improved in the country and it provided a wonderful education for its pupils and worked with parents, carers and the community. The proposal was not for a ‘superschool’ as had been referred to, but to expand the existing Tinsley Green building in the Park and to retain as much of the Park as possible. The school’s outdoor areas would be multi-usage for both the school and the community’s use and there would be continued community use of the building and community access to the school’s amenities. When demolished, the site of the existing Junior School would be retained as green space. Although some people were not supportive of the proposals, it was considered to be the right thing to do for children now and in the future. As the proposals went forward, work with the local community would continue. Councillor Drayton stated that she hoped that Mr Rahman would continue to work for the people in his community.

 

 

4.2.3

Public Question Concerning TARA (Tenants and Residents Association)

 

 

 

Martin Brighton asked the following questions concerning a Tenants and Residents Association (TARA).

 

 

 

Mr Brighton asked for it to be noted that his questions were based upon Council public records and Council documents provided through use of the Freedom of Information Act.

 

 

 

He stated that when asked whether the treatment of a TARA was appropriate, the answer in this Chamber was that ‘due process’ had been followed. He said that disclosed Council documents show the opposite to be the case. Mr Brighton asked can this Chamber ever believe anything said by that person ever again.

 

 

 

Councillor Harry Harpham, the Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Homes and Neighbourhoods, stated that Mr Brighton was mistaken in the claim made in the above question. He stated that TARAs were always treated in the appropriate manner. Councillor Harpham said that non-one had ever not been treated properly.

 

 

4.2.4

Public Question Concerning Racism Awareness Courses

 

 

 

Martin Brighton stated that when asked in this Chamber whether Racism Awareness Courses had been arranged, to much public fanfare to the attending press and TV cameras, the answer was that they had been arranged. A subsequent reason given for not having them was that holidays had prevented their arrangement. Disclosed information shows that there were never any plans to hold Racism Awareness Courses, and none of the providers had even been contacted. He asked why does this Council Chamber persistently allow such behaviour.

 

 

 

Councillor Harry Harpham, the Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Homes and Neighbourhoods, stated that Racism Awareness formed part of the Council’s equalities, diversity and inclusion training which was an online training programme and was mandatory for all staff. There were also special courses and e-learning available when particular service areas wished to do it.

 

 

4.2.5

Public Questions Concerning Answers to Questions and Behaviour

 

 

 

Martin Brighton stated that month after month in this Chamber, citizens – not only this citizen – have persistently complained that they have not had answers to their questions, and that unanswered questions are merely being parried. Answers are then promised, as recorded in the public record. He said that those answers, despite the repeated promises, have still not been provided.

 

 

 

He asked whether, on this basis any citizen could ever believe anything said in this Chamber, which is brought into disrepute by such behaviour.

 

 

 

Mr Brighton stated that when raising the subject of behaviour, reference is made to the Council’s Constitution and the duty of the Monitoring Officer. He stated that given the above, and bearing in mind that all the requisite evidence is within Council documents, why is ‘due process’ not applied?

 

 

 

Councillor Julie Dore, the Leader of the Council, stated that she did try to understand the questions which Mr Brighton submitted. She said she was clear that he had answers to all of his questions. Where he believed he had not had answers it was in cases where the question was not clear. She said that if Mr Brighton asked a direct question, she would be able to give a direct answer.

 

 

 

Councillor Dore stated that, in relation to behaviour, the Council did make reference to the Council’s Constitution and to the role and duties of the Monitoring Officer. Due process was applied and followed. If Mr Brighton believed that not to be the case, Councillor Dore said that he needed to point that out to the Council.

 

 

4.2.6

Public Question Concerning Combined Authority

 

 

 

Nigel Slack referred to report in the press that the Derbyshire Councils have reached an agreement with the Government concerning the creation of a combined authority. He asked where this left the Sheffield City Region; will North Derbyshire Councils be ‘jumping ship’ or will they attempt to operate with ‘a foot in each camp’; and continue to benefit from the recent City Deal that the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority had agreed?

 

 

 

Councillor Julie Dore, the Leader of the Council, stated that there had not yet been a clear decision taken about Derbyshire. There were ongoing discussions concerning the position of non-South Yorkshire local authorities in the City Region Combined Authority area. It was likely she said that Mr Slack would be able to find out about this issue relatively quickly as he was likely to attend meetings at which such issues were discussed.

 

 

4.2.7

Public Question Concerning Planning Permissions to National Chains

 

 

 

Nigel Slack referred to the application for planning permission for the former St John’s Chapel on Sharrow Lane for signage under the Tesco Express name. He said that this would be the seventeenth such store opened in Sheffield in the last 5 years. He commented that chains of this kind took most of their income out of the local economy, as opposed to 85 percent of income retained in the local economy by independent stores and asked if the Council would press the urgent need for a more locally based economic plan alongside attempts to attract outside investment. He asked would it also press, through the Combined Authority, for planning powers to be urgently devolved to the Region to give local people and councils more say in the way development proceeds.

 

 

 

Councillor Leigh Bramall, the Cabinet Member for Business, Skills and Development, responded that national planning policy stipulated these matters. An evidence base would be required to show a saturation of a particular use. There was he stated a case for devolving some planning powers to a local level. He said that, in Sheffield, a large proportion of businesses were independent. The Council was seeking to promote independent businesses through such initiatives as the RISE Graduate Programme and emphasis on small and medium size enterprises to help them grow. Other initiatives included an export pilot for small and medium size enterprises; the Chapel Walk scheme; the Moor Market; and the immanent launch of a retail policy to promote the use of empty shops. Councillor Bramall stated that a mixture of independent and large scale businesses were required. In Darnall for example, there had been a campaign to retain the Morrison’s supermarket as it contributed to the footfall of other retailers. The Council would use its policies to achieve the best outcomes for the City, as far as possible.

 

 

 

Councillor Julie Dore added that through the Combined Authority, greater devolution of powers would be sought in relation to planning. Councillor Dore also referred to the importance of retail chains based locally. For example, there had been a petition to retain the Tesco store on Manor Top as it provided local employment.