Environment Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Environment Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Monday 5 August 2013
1:45 p.m.
Spencer Room, Town Hall, Middlesbrough

Attendance Details

Councillor R Kerr (Chair), Councillor G B Clark (Vice Chair); Councillor R Brady, Councillor J G Cole, Councillor D Davison, Councillor C Hobson, and Councillor P Sharrocks.
Councillor N J Walker - Executive Member for Environment: Neighbourhood and Communities.
S Binks, S Cartlidge, A Crawford and J Dixon.
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 1 July 2013 were submitted and approved as a correct record.


The Scrutiny Support Officer submitted a covering report to provide Members with an update following the Panel’s scrutiny investigation into Nature’s World carried out in 2010/11.


During its examination of the topic, the Panel held a detailed investigation, including a site visit and examination of a Consultant’s Report on the operation of the organisation. The Panel produced a report detailing its findings and conclusions.


The resulting recommendations of the Scrutiny Panel related to taking action to ensure the future viability of the business and to repay an outstanding loan that was due to the Council. The Panel’s report was approved by the Council’s Executive on 1 March 2011.


The Nature’s World Board of management was subsequently requested to update the Panel on the organisation’s operation, however, no updates were received due to ongoing operational difficulties. In January 2013 the business closed and went into administration with the loss of eight jobs.


S Cartlidge, Assistant Director of Economic Development Culture and Communities was in attendance at the meeting to update members on the current position in relation to Nature’s World.


The Assistant Director confirmed that the organisation, which was a registered charity, had gone into administration at the start of the year and that the administrators were dealing with any outstanding assets and paying off creditors. One of the main creditors were grant funders and the administrators had negotiated with the creditors not to pursue clawback of funds. It was also agreed that the lease for the site would be surrendered back to Middlesbrough Council.


It was confirmed that Middlesbrough Council was currently responsible for looking after the site, including payment of rates and security. The option of a Community Asset Transfer exercise was being considered, which would enable continuing community benefit from the use of the site. Unfortunately this process was not possible at the present time due to unresolved legal issues with the administrators in relation to the lease and full vacant possession of the site was still awaited. There were also several possible internal Council uses for the site that the Council would wish to explore. The uses would need to benefit the community and a number of people had expressed an interest in pursuing the Community Asset Transfer. The process would be an open exercise that would need to be advertised.


Discussion ensued and the following issues were raised:-

  • Reference was made to the eight jobs lost when the organisation went into administration and it was queried whether redundancy payments had been made to those employees. The Panel was advised that the staff had been employed by the charity, not the Council, and that some sort of assistance should have been in place for the organisation.
  • It was queried whether the Council might consider selling the site for residential use. It was believed that there was a restrictive covenant in place in respect of the site and this would need to be clarified.
  • Reference was made to the concern previously expressed by the Panel in relation to a substantial outstanding loan and it was queried whether this had been repaid to the Council. The Assistant Director responded that she would need to seek clarification.
  • In response to a query, the Panel was advised that it had not been pre-determined at this stage whether the Council would consider splitting the site. As previously stated, there were ongoing legal issues in relation to securing vacant possession of the site and it was hoped that these would be resolved as quickly as possible.

The Chair thanked the Officer for attending and for the information provided.


The Chair alerted the Assistant Director to future scrutiny topics that were included in the Panel’s Work Programme, that required input from the Assistant Director’s service area. The next topics that the Panel wished to examine were as follows:-

  • Cemeteries and Crematoriums (Bereavement Services).
  • Income generation.
  • Promoting household energy efficiency.

AGREED as follows:-


1. That the information provided in respect of Nature’s World be noted.
2. That the future scrutiny topics be noted.


S Binks, Principal Engineer, Environment Services, was in attendance at the meeting and had submitted a report to update Members in relation to the ‘Flood Risk Management’ Report considered by the Panel at its meeting on 12 November 2012.


The report provided a summary of actions taken locally to manage flood risk resulting from recommendations of the Pitt Report, stating that Scrutiny Committees, needed to review works carried out to manage flood risk.


Update information was provided in relation to the following:-


Flood and Water Management Act 2010 (FWMA)


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.


Local Flood Risk Management Strategy (LFRMS)


As the Local Lead Flood Authority (LLFA), Middlesbrough Council had developed a Local Flood Risk Management (LFRMS), which addressed risks from surface water, groundwater and ordinary watercourses, for which it was responsible. The document was currently subject to consultation with the consultation period ending on 30 August 2013. An Action Plan to accompany the Strategy was currently being developed. Copies of the LFRMS were available to Members.

SuDS Approval Body (SAB)


It was anticipated that the SuDS Approval Body (SAB) would be introduced in April 2014. The SAB would be responsible for providing approval of surface water drainage before connection to the public sewerage system. Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) consent must be provided prior to commencement of construction, where there were drainage implications. The SAB would also inspect, adopt and maintain SuDS for new developments exceeding one property. This would have financial implications regarding the maintenance of the SuDS.


Water Framework Directive (WFD)


The Council continued to work with the Environment Agency to improve water quality of Middlesbrough’s lakes and ponds. Some of this work would also assist in providing flood prevention measures. Particular mention was made to Prissick where de-culverting of 300m of tributary of Ormesby Beck across Prissick Base was to be carried out along with the works to the proposed sports village. Also, Saltersgill and Clairville SuDS areas had been identified in the Surface Water Management Plan. Saltersgill was undergoing a further modelling study to refine the scheme and the Council was working with the future developer of Clairville Stadium to progress the Clairville SuDS.


Management of Flood Risk - Regional Prioritisation Approach


The Council had started working with Northumbrian Water and other North East Lead Local Flood Authorities to develop, agree and implement a partnership approach to strategic drainage area planning across the north east.


The work would assist in understanding drainage system interactions, hydraulic risk and future needs. The results would be based on five factors and used to identify locations for more detailed studies. Those factors were as follows:-

  • NWL Capacity Map - Wastewater Network, Dry Weather Flow Capacity Map. The capacity map considered the likelihood of hydraulic failure of the sewer network and the consequences to provide a risk value.
  • Growth data (Strategic Housing Land Allocation Assessments up to 2017) - SHLAA identified potential new developments. Analysis would provide an understanding of future demands on public sewerage systems resulting from the new development.
  • Interactions with flood zones 3 - Understanding any outfalls from surface water zones.
  • Properties in Surface Water Flood Zone - Environment Agency Surface Water flood risk map of whole country. Analysis would provide an understanding of where surface water flooding may occur and identify more susceptible zones.
  • Environment Agency ecological river quality - Providing an understanding of ecological conditions.

Appendix 2 to the submitted report was a presentation by Northumbrian Water in relation to the Regional Prioritisation Approach (Middlesbrough District), which aimed to balance reactive short-term needs with longer-term strategic planning for the provision of sustainable drainage systems through a partnership approach whilst complementing existing practices.


Northumbrian Water were meeting with all Council’s to discuss how to agree a prioritisation approach. The results of the assessment would be a ranked list based on five factors that would be used to identify and prioritise locations for a more detailed study.


It was highlighted that this was just the start of the process and a meeting would be held towards the end of the year, involving all of the North East Councils and Northumbrian Water, in order to discuss the priority rankings in more detail.

During the course of discussion, the following issues were raised:-

  • In response to a query, the Panel was advised that the Council had responded appropriately to all alerts from the Environment Agency and worked closely with the Emergency Planning Unit in relation to flooding and flood risk issues.
  • The Panel made reference to the current economic climate where the Council was required to make savings. It was stated that the general consensus was that work in relation to flood risk should be protected as much as reasonably possible.
  • The Panel was advised that the Council was continuing to investigate highway drainage systems and identify their locations. A five-yearly inspection regime was being prepared, with a three-yearly regime for woodland areas, and would form part of the Action Plan.
  • In response to a query, it was confirmed that the service area was involved with pre-application planning meetings in terms of drainage at new developments and this generally started one year prior to work commencing on site. All drainage was adopted by Northumbrian Water and appropriate checks were made in relation to the drainage systems. The Council was responsible for checking all roads, lighting and gulley spacings. It was highlighted that when the SuDS Approval Body was introduced, the Council would be responsible for checking surface water sewer capacity, etc.
  • In relation to a query regarding covered hard standings and gardens, it was confirmed that any driveway/garden (at the front of a property) exceeding 5 sq m, required planning permission. The Council would recommend that permeable paving be used or installation of drainage leading to a soakaway.

The Chair thanked the Officer for attending and for the information provided.


AGREED as follows:-


1. That the update information provided in relation to Flood Risk Management be noted.
2. That a further update be received by the Panel in 12 months time and thereafter on an annual basis.


Members were asked to consider the Panel’s Draft Final Report on its findings resulting from its scrutiny into the Boro Becks Project. It was confirmed that, following the Panel’s approval, the Final Report would be submitted to the Overview and Scrutiny Board for consideration.


The report highlighted that the Panel had considered the Boro Becks Project - a three-year project launched by Middlesbrough Council, the Environment Agency and Tees Valley Wildlife Trust, following receipt of Big Lottery funding in 2010. The aim of the project was to engage local people in making a positive contribution to the management of four of Middlesbrough’s becks and to promote their enjoyment as valuable green spaces and wildlife hotspots.


As project funding was due to end towards the end of 2013, the Panel examined the work undertaken to date and whether there was any possibility of continuing the work once funding had ceased. The Panel’s investigation was undertaken as a short topic over the course of one meeting held on 1 July 2013.


The Draft Final Report provided details of the Panel’s findings in relation to:-

  • Background to the Boro Becks Project.
  • Service operation and work undertaken.
  • The current/future funding position.

The Scrutiny Support Officer circulated a list of possible conclusions and recommendations, drawn up prior to the meeting in conjunction with the Chair and Vice Chair, for consideration and comment.


Panel Members supported the proposed conclusions and recommendations. It was highlighted that recommendation 2) be amended to include that any future work in relation to Becks should be undertaken through a volunteer programme with existing members of staff.


AGREED as follows:-


1. That the amended report be circulated to all Panel Members, with an opportunity to submit final comments.

2. That the Scrutiny Support Officer, in conjunction with the Chair, be given authority to finalise the Final Report and that the report be submitted to the next available meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Board.

3. That the conclusions, as circulated at the meeting, be incorporated into the report.

4. That the following recommendations be incorporated into the report:-

1. That all external grant funding sources be explored with a view to continuing the Boro Becks Project, albeit on a smaller scale if necessary. Should funding be forthcoming, an assessment would need to be made as to how the project could be supported by the Council - for example, by ensuring that any associated future maintenance requirements were sustainable or continuing to provide assistance in kind.

2.  That the process of recruiting Volunteer Becks Rangers and establishing Friends Groups be continued and taken forward as a sustainable approach to continuing the work of the Boro Becks Project. Consideration should also be given to how best the use of volunteers and friends groups can be supported and promoted within existing resource levels - such as by promoting the sharing of information, expertise and resources between all friends groups and ensuring that any necessary training was provided. In order to ensure a sustainable way forward, any additional funding that was secured should not be directed towards revenue costs/staffing but should be used to promote the increased use of volunteers.

3. That relevant schools be contacted and:-

a) Informed of the educational value of becks in their area, including education programmes undertaken by the Boro Becks Project to date.

b) Invited to assist, on an educational basis, with the maintenance of areas around becks.

c) Invited to make a financial contribution to future educational programmes in relation to Middlesbrough’s becks.


The Chair requested that the Panel note the contents of the submitted report which provided an update on business conducted at the Overview and Scrutiny Board meeting held on 2 July 2013, namely:-

  • Attendance of the Executive Member for Regeneration and Economic Development.
  • Executive Forward Work Programme.
  • Executive Feedback on Scrutiny Reports.
  • Revenue Outturn 2012/13.
  • BME Communities Access to Social Care Services - Final Report of the Social Care and Adult Services Scrutiny Panel.
  • Children with Complex Needs - Final Report of the Health Scrutiny Panel.
  • Scrutiny Work Programme.

AGREED that the information contained within the report be noted.


The next meeting of the Environment Scrutiny Panel was scheduled for Tuesday, 27 August 2013 at 1.45pm.


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