Environment Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Environment Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Thursday 26 April 2012
1:30 p.m.
Spencer Room, Town Hall, Middlesbrough

Attendance Details

Councillor G B Clark (Chair), Councillor D Davison, Councillor R Kerr, Councillor E Lancaster, Councillor P Purvis (as substitute for J McPartland), Councillor M Saunders
S Binks, A Crawford, S Harker, R Long and A Robinson
Apologies for absence:
Councillor C Hobson, Councillor J McPartland, Councillor P Sharrocks
Declarations of interest:

There were no Declarations of Interest made by Members at this point in the meeting.

Item Number Item/Resolution

The Minutes of the Environment Scrutiny Panel meeting held on 29 March 2012 were submitted and approved as a correct record.


The concern raised regarding the number of pigeons in the town centre and the suggestion regarding notices asking the public not to feed the pigeons was highlighted.


AGREED that the Scrutiny Support Officer would make enquiries on behalf of the Panel.



In accordance with Council Procedure Rule No. 10, the Committee agreed to vary the order of business to deal with the items in the following order: Agenda Item 5, Agenda Item 4, Agenda Item 6, and Agenda Item 7.


A report of the Scrutiny Support Officer was presented for the Panel to further consider the position concerning possible Council liability in respect of the use of minibuses by Middlesbrough schools and maintenance of heating boilers.


At the last Panel meeting, Members considered an update report from the Assistant Director of Environment in respect of the Panel's 2010 review of Fleet Services. Members made reference to concerns raised during an earlier investigation by the Panel in 2010. Those concerns related to schools using non-Fleet Management maintained minibuses.


During the course of the Panel's investigation, it was noted that the Fleet Services function carried out the statutory and regulatory functions for the Council in terms of the required Vehicle Operator Licence, without which the majority of front line services could not function. This also ensured compliance with the legislative requirements of the Vehicle Operating Services Agency (VOSA), which had the statutory power to prosecute drivers and immobilise the Council's fleet.


The Panel's 2010 Final Report recognised that there was a potential issue with school transport.  This was where schools purchased and utlised vehicles without them being included as part of the Council fleet, which could lead to them not following the statutory requirements. In the event of an accident or incident this could, potentially, place the Council at risk.


As a result, the Panel made the following recommendations, which were subsequently approved by the Executive:


- That an exercise is undertaken to identify all vehicles being used across the local authority. This should be with a view to ensuring that, as far as possible, Council departments make use of Streetscene's Fleet Management and vehicle repair and maintenance services. Departments should be reminded of potential liability issues and the possible cost benefits of utilising Fleet Services.


- That all Chairs of Governors of Middlesbrough Schools are contacted in writing regarding the potential liability issues of purchasing/using non-Fleet Services minibuses and advised of the benefits of utilising the service. Schools should also be advised that those that do use their own vehicles should maintain sufficient records to satisfy any potential police or VOSA requirements.


The Director of Legal and Democratic Services had consulted with the Director of Children Families and Learning regarding both issues. It was confirmed that it was the Council's responsibility to ensure that all vehicles were appropriately maintained and records were kept. The Council continued to insist that schools used only Corgi-registered operators for central heating system maintenance and that all school vehicles were registered with Fleet Services.


It was highlighted that prior to 1997, a full driving licence holder could drive a vehicle up to 16 seats. However, since that date, a PSV licence was now required to drive any vehicle with over eight seats. There had been several occasions when schools had asked to hire minibuses and had not realised that this was the case.


AGREED as follows that:

1. the updated information provided be noted.

2. the requirement for drivers of school vehicles to hold the correct licence would be drawn to the attention of all Middlesbrough schools.


A report was presented based upon recommendations 90 and 91 of the Pitt Report, which stated that scrutiny committees should review works carried out to manage flood risk, and should receive an annual summary of actions taken locally to manage flood risk.


A progress update on the implications of the enactments of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, and from the introduction of the Flood Risk Regulations 2009, transposed from the European Floods Directive was presented as follows:


The Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment (PFRA) was reported to the Panel last April, submitted to the Environment Agency and reported as required under the European Floods Directive.  According to the Environment Agency and DEFRA, there were only seven flood risk areas in England.  Middlesbrough was not one of the flood risk areas.  A copy of the PFRA was available on the Council's website as required in legislation.


A register of flood risk management assets had been established with a record of each structure, together with details of ownership and state of repair, which might affect a flood risk.  Hemlington Lake was named as an example.  A copy of the register was available on the Council's website.


Working in collaboration with partners and a specialist Consultant, a Surface Water Management Plan for Middlesbrough had been developed.  The Council had received a grant of £100,000 from DEFRA to assist with completing the plan, which had taken two years.  A copy of the plan was attached at Appendix B to the submitted report.  The plan had been developed following the national framework guidance to identify, assess, prioritise and determine solutions to deal with all sources of flood risk within the Local Lead Flood Authority (LLFA) area.  It would remain a 'live' document, subject to continual review as circumstances demanded.


The National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy (FCERM) document provided the necessary guidance for Middlesbrough Council, acting as the Local Lead Flood Authority (LLFA) to prepare the local Flood Risk Management Strategy (FRM Strategy).  The strategy would align with the national guidance and be monitored locally through scrutiny arrangements and also regionally through the proposed Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (RFCC).  The Strategy, which addressed the risks from surface water runoff, groundwater and ordinary watercourses, was now under development, and was required to be completed along with related plans by December 2015.  Consultation would take place with residents via Community Councils and Parish Councils and it was hoped the draft Strategy would be in place by next April 2013.


The Catchment Flood Management Plan (CFMP) had been produced by the Environment Agency.  The EA had recently re-issued amended documents that assessed flood risks in each local authority area.  The only real concern was main rivers and within Middlesbrough there were several becks including Ormesby, Middlebeck and Marton West, classified as main rivers.  Revised priorities for actions had been identified and work was continuing with consultants to examine cost effective solutions to identified risks.  Funding was being sought to enable solutions to be effected.


The duties and powers derived from Flood and Water Management Act 2010 (FWMA) were being enacted in various stages.   Details of the enactments that had impacted on the Council were contained in the submitted report.  The Council was preparing for further legislation being introduced in 2012 in connection with 'Consenting' duties and associated enforcement activities. 


There would also be a duty to establish a 'SuDs Approving Body' to consider and determine that new developments would meet the required national standards for Sustainable Drainage Systems.  The Council would be provided with powers to 'Designate Structures' where they were considered essential to flood defence and in private ownership.  If a developer built forty houses where the surface water drainage came into a SuDs area or watercourse, the Council would have to maintain all the surface water on that site right up to the house.  There were therefore financial implications for future maintenance.


Working in collaboration with strategic flood risk partners, the Council was actively reviewing local resilience by updating key policy documents including Flood Plans and Flood Warning Services. 


One of the more significant outcomes in the past year was the publishing of a report by the Environment Agency following studies and modelling carried out along the Ormesby and Marton West Beck corridors.  The software used for re-modelling was now more sophisiticated and this had resulted in some reduction of the flood plains produced from previous studies, and highlighted key locations to focus future flood warning studies on.  Details were attached in Appendix C to the submitted report.


Properties in Stanhope Gardens and Kentmere Road had benefited through joint initiatives that had seen vulnerable properties receive individual flood protection measures, new flood defence mechanisms and a partial realignment of the Ormesby Beck.


Detailed surveys had been carried out of most of the Council's drainage and watercourse infrastructure.  An asset register and plans locating all the major assets had been developed, to hold records of the condition and future requirements for maintenance and investment.  This information also enabled future maintenance to be planned as short, medium and long-term interventions.


Where flood protection works were identified, maintenance was required, or other opportunities arose, proposals would be linked into other projects and developments.  This arrangement, where possible, enhanced the funding opportunities by diversifying the outcomes and benefits, and opening up funding opportunities from local, national and regional sources.  This approach was currently being used through work on the Beck Valley Project and by working with the Environment Agency through the opportunities provided under the Water Framework Directive.


A beck maintenance scheme was in place and the Council was contracted by the Environment Agency to carry out maintenance work.  The Environment Agency had appropriate inspection regimes in place up and down the rivers.   One of the main problems was flooding from sewers, which were the responsibility of water companies.  Flooding from water courses was the responsibility of either the Council or the Environment Agency.  Where people had concreted over their gardens surface water was not able to soak away and therefore went down into the sewers causing flooding downstream.  Conditions in relation to drainage systems were now added to planning applications.


It was highlighted that efforts were being made to develop some wetlands in order to deal with excess surface water, however this was dependent on resources being available.  Several bids for funding had been put forward.


Following a meeting of the Environment Scrutiny Panel on 11 April 2011 it was agreed that concerns raised by Mr and Mrs Hodgson regarding flood risk management be investigated and responded to in due course.  A copy of a letter sent to Mr and Mrs Hodgson detailing the action taken was attached at Appendix A to the submitted report for Members' information.


AGREED as follows that:

1.    the information contained within the report be noted.

2.    updates be presented to the Panel on a six monthly basis.

3.    the Panel was satisfied with the information provided and action taken to date in relation to flood prevention.


The next meeting of the Environment Scrutiny Panel was scheduled for Tuesday, 15 May 2012 at 1.30 pm.


The Chair asked Panel Members to give consideration to possible items for the Environment Scrutiny Panel's Work Programme for 2012-2013.

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