Agenda item


-           From Members of the Public

-           From Councillors


The following questions were asked by Members of the Public.


1.            Mr Alarakha Alimahomed


“Regarding the program of safer healthier street, the council chose Devonport Road closure, one way system on Gamel Road, and Greystone Avenue, why did they not call a consultation meeting with presently residents effected instead posting letters and leaflet in letterboxes without the official channels in taking account the diversity of various racial residents who do not have the understanding of English language? This decision causes major disruption to the majority access just to satisfy few residents.”


Deputy City Mayor, Councillor Clarke in response noted that there were 11 questions in relation to the Evington Safer Streets Healthy Neighbourhood scheme and he would cover some details in the first response relevant to all questions. He noted that the Evington and other schemes were not chosen by accident, but had a history of concerns about rat running, speeding, poor air quality and health deprivation. The schemes were the result of an evidence based bid for government funding. The schemes were also experimental and based on feedback, they could be kept, amended or rejected.


The Council had gone above its legal obligations to consult on the scheme and had been comprehensive in doing so. Examples of the consultation included face to face, not simply letters or leaflets. There had been opinion surveys, a Traffic Regulation Order letter, 3 on-street roadshows, a residents meeting at City Hall and a commitment to having a resident’s forum as the experiment proceeded.


The Deputy City Mayor also noted that he was pleased that the Transport Team was diverse and could engage with residents in a range of languages at on-street consultation road shows. He also noted that leaflets were pictoral in nature in order to communicate with a wide range of people.


Mr Alimohamed asked a supplementary question. He felt health was the most important factor. He asked to consider the implications for a 96 year old woman who had to travel on a longer journey to her destination and he felt this was a health issue.


The Deputy City Mayor responded that all eventualities were considered as part of the scheme, particularly whether the benefits, health or otherwise, outweighed the disbenefits and this would be taken into account as a result of the experiment.


2.         Mr Mohamed Osman


“Can the council assure residents of Goodwood that they will stop implementing the unwanted road closures until a full consultation is carried out?”


It was noted that Mr Osman was not present at the meeting, but a response was still provided to the question.


Deputy City Mayor, Councillor Clarke in response said that details of the scheme had been widely promoted as noted in the answer to the previous question.


The Deputy City Mayor also however noted that there had been positive responses to the consultation and outlined some of these responses; one said that it will cause inconvenience but will cut out rat runs and make the streets safer; another said that they and other residents supported the scheme; another said that were pleased with what was being done to stop rat running; a further one said that they hoped it went ahead and lives would be improved.


3.         Mr John Grimley


“If the Davenport Road closure is implemented, it would result in one exit and entrance point; Spencefield Lane, for all those living at the top of Davenport Road, Oakside Close, Oakside Crescent, Beechwood Close and Sunnyfield Close.


Has the Council assessed the increased time it would take emergency services to have to access the area, due to this one exit/entry route and how residents and emergency services would access their homes, if works or an incident at the Spencefield Lane junction blocked that entrance/exit?”


Deputy City Mayor, Councillor Clarke in response stated that emergency services were consulted and did not object. The impact on other services such as waste was also considered.


Mr. Grimley asked a supplementary question. He noted the planters sited on Davenport Road and Spencefield Lane impacted residents who could be locked in or out and not accessible by the emergency services. He queried what the timescales would be for obtaining such access and whether the Council had taken this into account?


The Deputy City Mayor commented that he didn’t have an answer on the specific detail but noted that there had been wide consultation on the scheme including speaking to emergency services who recognised the benefits outweighed the disbenefits. He also noted that this was an experiment at the current time and that strong research nationally backed up the claim that the benefits outweigh the disbenefits.


4.         Mr Paul Brown


“As many of you will already know, the Trades Council campaign to scrap the Workplace Parking Levy of which I am a part of, as been gaining more and more support over recent months. I am here to ask why a Labour City Council is proposing to tax workers £550 a year to park at work so they can give this money to private bus companies? It has now been four months since the second consultation on the proposed tax levy closed. During our campaign we have heard from a few Labour City Councillors that the decision as to whether the City Council goes ahead with taxing working class people to drive to work or whether they decide to scrap the regressive levy will take place after a forthcoming internal debate within the Labour Group. I therefore wanted to ask the date when this meeting is scheduled to take place, so that the public and the trade union movement can encourage our local Councillors to back the dominant view held by the city's trade union movement in calling for the City Council to scrap the proposed levy?”


The City Mayor in response stated that the Labour Party manifesto for the last local elections, which was agreed with the wider Labour Party, committed to consulting on a Workplace Parking Levy. This commitment on which Labour members were elected had been kept. The issues which Mr Brown raised along with other respondents, both for and against were being analysed by officers. There were approximately 4,000 responses which raised 20,000 separate points. It was intended to publish the outcome of the consultation in early Autumn and there would be consultation with unions and stakeholders at that point.


Mr Brown asked a supplementary question. He asked the City Mayor if he would meet with unions to discuss their concerns.


The City Mayor responded that he would meet with trade unions, as he had done already and had given a firm commitment to do so before any final decision was taken.


5.         Mr Sam Randfield


“When (i.e. on which date) will the Council formally report the outcome of the public consultation on the Workplace Parking Levy, and the associated decision on whether the scheme will proceed?”


The City Mayor in response said that officers were hoping to bring a report forward on the consultation in late Summer / early Autumn. He further noted that there were many stages to go through such as full Council and Secretary of State approval before a levy could be introduced, so there would be at least a further 12 months if was to be introduced. There would be plenty of time for full discussion of the consultation report.


Mr Randfield asked a supplementary question. Could the City Mayor explain what was taking so long?


The City Mayor in response stated that 4,000 responses which raised over 20,000 points would take officers, some of whom were union members, some to analyse the responses, particularly to do it properly and be seen to do it properly and not rush to judgement.


6.         Mr Nizamuddin Patel


“Since the Safer safety road measures were put in place in the Goodwood estate, it has led to an uncontrollable amount of traffic at the Gamel Road/Skampton Road intersection. This traffic happens usually around the school rush times i.e. 8am-8:45am and 2:45pm-3:30pm. Skampton Road from the Bungalows till Goodwood Crescent is extremely dangerous to drive on, even at 10mph, due to the curves of the roads and the parked cars. It is very hard to see oncoming cars let along school children crossing. The increase in traffic due to the new traffic measures only adds to this problem of child road safety.

Did the council take into account the traffic of Whitehall School and the school children when they developed their new traffic measures?”


It was noted that Mr Patel was not present at the meeting, but a response was still provided to the question.


Deputy City Mayor, Councillor Clarke in response said that schools were a key factor in developing the proposals for the scheme. The observations in the question were welcomed and the situation would be monitored. It was noted that as with any change, there was likely to be displacement, but it would take time to settle down. The purpose of the experimental phase was to make judgements about what elements of the scheme would work and adjust accordingly.


7.         Mr Stephen Cooper


“Please supply a complete list of the Council’s performance criteria for the Goodwood Safer Streets, Healthier Neighbourhood scheme, including background reports (such as EIA’s, TIA’s, Traffic Impact Reports, Flow data, Telematics data, Speed data, Accident data) and all supporting evidence that prompted the measures, their technical and social objectives, including the procedural and financial standards that the Council must fulfil to qualify for the Government funding?”


Deputy City Mayor, Councillor Clarke in response said that the Council would respond to any appropriate request for information. Key information would be included in the post experiment report.


Mr Cooper asked a supplementary question. What criteria would the Council use to determine that the project had failed?


The Deputy City Mayor responded that public opinion would be key. However, he felt that concerns were usually allayed and examples from other parts of the country showed that residents were happy for schemes to continue.


8.         Mr Asif Mitha


“Please provide the Council’s evidence of public support for the traffic restrictions in the Goodwood estate; including the numbers of individual complainants for each problem that the scheme is intended to address set out chronologically within either calendar or financial years?”


The City Mayor in response said that there had been a number of pressures put on the Council to make changes in the area, some from ward councillors particularly in 2017, and petitions in 2014 and 2015 demanding that issues be addressed. He was also aware that bus services on Gamel road had been impacted. There had generally been a consistent message over a number of years. The City Mayor also noted that historically, low traffic neighbourhood schemes had been introduced in other parts of the city, such as Clarendon Park and South Highfields where no one was now mentioning removing these measures now due to the rat running which had been prevented.


Mr Mitha asked a supplementary question. He asked that the numbers of complaints be provided? He commented that it was said that people supported the change but petitions against the scheme had measured 1200 in total and there was only evidence that 61 houses supported the scheme.


The City Mayor in response stated that the views of residents put forward via ward councillors in 2017 and 2014/15 were not un-representative. There would be an opportunity for residents to express their views at the end of the experiment. Examples from other areas had shown that the changes were appreciated due to the improvements in safety.


9.         Mr Shah Hussain Ali


“The Council has used the term consultation and engagement interchangeably-Could the Council explain how they consider the consultation/engagement related to the Goodwood SSHN scheme to be effective and accurate when they have overlooked entire roads and areas, failed to provide communication in alternative languages, had a very low response rate to online survey, are referring to consultation with residents from 7-8 years ago and are now failing to respond to feedback emails to the address they are promoting to residents?”


The Lord Mayor intervened to ask Mr Ali to ask to his submitted question and not deviate.


Deputy City Mayor, Councillor Clarke in response said that he had already given details about the various elements of consultation, such as 6000 items delivered to over 1000 houses, opinion surveys and officers speaking to residents in non-English languages. The Deputy City Mayor also described how he had visited shops, talked to residents, attended a community meeting where people had been urging him to take action. He also reflected upon the efforts of former Councillor Ratilal Govind who had campaigned to take these measures forward on behalf of residents. The Deputy City Mayor asked residents to work with the Council to make the community as safe and healthy as possible.


Mr Ali asked a supplementary question. He commented that he felt it was disrespectful to bring up the name of a deceased Councillor. He noted that within the last 7 years, 2000 houses within the area had been sold within a mile of Davenport Road and he felt it was wrong to refer to statistics from 7 years ago.


The Deputy City Mayor in response stated that he reached out to residents at this meeting, reached out in email and had attended meetings.


10.       Mr Mohamed Salim Laher


“As the main organisations impacted by both the one-way system and revised location of the planters on Davenport Road, how did the Council consult with the businesses on Gamel Road, the Mosque and Whitehall Primary School users, and how were the outcomes of this consultation and subsequent feedback used to inform the traffic measures?”


Deputy City Mayor, Councillor Clarke in response confirmed that officers did engage businesses, the Mosque and Whitehall Primary school. Ward Councillors had visited shops and talked people through the trial. He further noted that the consultation had not ended and there was a commitment to make improvements.


Mr Laher asked a supplementary question. He referred to multiple references to consultation with residents, but asked what the Deputy City Mayor defined as consultation? He felt that there had only been a letter written to Whitehall primary school and only a letter sent to the mosque. He didn’t feel that this represented consultation, as consultation was speaking to people.


The Deputy City Mayor responded that the Council had gone over and above what was legally required.


At this point Mr Laher questioned the validity of the responses he received. The Lord Mayor intervened to advise Mr Laher of the process regarding questions, which guaranteed a response, but not necessarily the one which was liked.


11.       Mr Grahame Whike


“In this period of high inflation, particularly of retail fuel prices, does the Council still believe that residents wilfully drive if they can use cheaper alternatives? Has the Council considered the impact on non-ambulant residents, deliveries, essential services and emergency services of having to travel, on average, 1½ miles further on each journey to and from the same location?”


Deputy City Mayor, Councillor Clarke in response stated that impacts have been considered and would be better understood after the trial period. The changes would improve facilities for walking, cycling and there should be less traffic.


Mr Whike asked a supplementary question. He said there were reasons why residents didn’t want Davenport Road blocked, and he felt the restrictions were put on at 5am in the morning. He asked if the Council agreed that current restrictions were not suitable and that alternative measures should be found which didn’t impose walking and cycling on residents?


The Deputy City Mayor in response stated that it was not the universal view of the community that the measures were wrong. He noted that it was an experimental Traffic Regulation Order which could be amended if necessary.


12.       Mr Ismail Patel


“Several residents on the estate distinguish between "rat-run" motorists and those on school runs. There are definite traffic peaks along Westmeath Avenue, Withcote Avenue and Davenport Road on term-time weekdays between about 08:15 and 08:45 and in the reverse direction from about 15:15 to 15:45. Outside those brief surges, those roads are usually quiet. These observations tend to negate the claim that Davenport Road is used as a "rat-run" between Spencefield Lane and Goodwood Road in either direction. We think the installation of the speed cushions along Davenport Road in 2018 and the blanket 20mph speed limit on the estate have already stopped satnav systems recommending it as a time-saving route. "On 24th June 2022, the City Council deployed pneumatic traffic counters on Davenport Road outside 98/105 and Westmeath Avenue where its width reduces, with what appear to be vehicle speed recorders. There was a similar installation on the same section of Davenport Road during the last week of July and early August 2021. That was during the schools' summer holidays: now is term-time. What were the results of those traffic surveys and what was the original reason for choosing to close the Greystone Avenue/Uppingham Road junction?”


Deputy City Mayor, Councillor Clarke in response firstly stated that there was an error in the question as Greystone Road was not closed. He then stated that this package of measures had arisen following complaints by residents. Some residents may distinguish between rat-running and the school run, but many don’t. Data would be collated and analysed and there would be a report after the trial.


Mr Patel asked a supplementary question regarding additional travel for residents of Westmeath Avenue who had to travel to Highfields out of the area, there was lots of waiting time on Wicklow Drive which he felt was a dangerous situation. He queried what was being done for the safety of the junction at Greystone Avenue / Uppingham Road.


The Deputy City Mayor responded by stating that the removal of the roundabout had helped safety. He appreciated that there would be some inconvenience but felt that there needed to be a balanced judgement between the improvements and the disbenefits, but noted that residents had been asking for these changes, up until the current time.


13.       Mr Anthony Groom


“Re Experimental Traffic Order 2022 (TME 2979) Modification (No. 1) Order 2022, can you please advise if in the planning to block Davenport Road, restrict access to Greystone Avenue and make Gamel Road one way for traffic from Davenport Road to Skampton Road that the impact on the increased distances that will need to be travelled by the emergency services, refuse collectors, care workers, delivery drivers, postal workers and residents who need to travel in the area has been considered fully.”


Deputy City Mayor, Councillor Clarke in response stated that all emergency services were consulted on the scheme and there were no objections. He also stated that one of the aims of the scheme was to remove unnecessary traffic. He noted that when such schemes were brought forward there tended to be objections at the time, but after time, people didn’t want to remove the changes. He noted examples such as there being no requests for Jubilee Square to be returned to a car park and no requests for the return of the Belgrave Flyover. He felt that decisions were being taken now for the good of the economy and meeting the challenge of the climate emergency.


Mr Groom asked a supplementary question about impacts being considered, particularly on Uppingham Road and others.


The Deputy City Mayor responded that all impacts would be considered.


The following questions were asked by Councillors

1.         Councillor Waddington


“In March 2022 I asked if the Woodgate Foodbank could use one of the Fosse Neighbourhood Centre’s two annexes which have both stood vacant for several years, as a base for the foodbank activities, which are now serving hundreds of City residents, but I have not yet received an answer. Could you please tell me how and when this matter will be resolved?”


The City Mayor in response stated that he was very impressed by the work being done at the foodbank but noted that the current premises were not appropriate and had issues like broken windows and poor heating. He noted that discussions would take place with the foodbank organisers and ward councillors about other venues and the way forward, and it may be possible to use one of the annexes at the Fosse Neighbourhood Centre, but minor works would be needed.


Councillor Waddington asked a supplementary question. She thanked the City Mayor for his appreciation of the work done by the food bank. She was unsure of the answer given in relation to alternative accommodation, but noted that the foodbank wanted to move to the Fosse Neighbourhood Centre annex and felt it would be helpful to know if this could happen and when?


The City Mayor in response stated that it was understandable that the foodbank was unhappy where they were as it was not suitable. It may be possible to make improvements to that building, but they may want to move. He stressed that it was imperative that they move before winter if doing so and he would seek to make this happen in a prompt manner.


2.         Councillor Waddington


The Fosse Neighbourhood Centre has the potential to meet a range of community needs and be an asset to the neighbourhood. However almost the only part of the spacious building that being used by residents is the library. Does the Mayor agree that the Council should draw up a plan as soon as possible, to revitalise the building with the aim that it fulfils its potential to be an asset to the community in an area of the City which has few other Council amenities?


The City Mayor in response said he agreed and that he had asked the Estates and Building Services section of the Council to undertake and Asset Development Review to see what the constraints / opportunities were for the building. He noted it was a classic ‘board’ school style with a big hall in the middle and it would be a shame to partition this up. He noted that there had been some community uses in the building and other uses could be considered. He felt that the Linwood workshops in the Saffron area of the city could provide a model to follow. He undertook to discuss the review with ward councillors.


Councillor Waddington asked a supplementary question. She was pleased that a report was being commissioned on the building and looked forward to discussions. She did however express concern that the report would take time and feared that the building was being run down. She noted that a request from Remit to undertake music lessons in the building was turned down. She asked that the City Mayor give assurance that the building would stay open?


The City Mayor in response gave assurance that the building would stay open. He asked officers about the situation regarding Remit and it was their view that they were well established elsewhere, but was happy for it to be explored for them to use an annex if needed.


3.         Councillor Bajaj


“Weekends in summers are traditionally a time when local parks are very well used for outdoor sports, picnic, walks etc. Sadly, the amount of litter left over afterwards is absolutely horrendous. Food waste, broken glass, plastic everywhere. Making the parks a hazard for other park users.


Can city wardens be allocated to certain parks during summer come on is there any plans of putting extra provision to tackle this problem.”


Deputy City Mayor, Councillor Singh Clair in response stated that widespread littering was not a problem suffered year all round, but when parks were well used. He had discussed this matter with Cllr Clarke as it also related to his portfolio. He noted that this time of year, along with freedoms arising from the end of Covid restriction and the return of large events / gatherings meant greater use of the parks and open spaces. Parks Services had significant resources and volunteers to ensure that parks and open spaces were safe to use. Time was also spent on education and work with park users to encourage them to take responsibility for their use of parks. He noted that despite these efforts there were still problems and evidence was collected and prosecutions undertaken where possible. He also noted that the best solution was for people to use bins or their litter home.


Councillor Bajaj asked a supplementary question. He felt that people weren’t using bins or taking litter home. He noted that he went out with some volunteers who had collected 14 bags of rubbish. He also noted that dog walkers had problems with dogs picking up chicken bones. He suggested some guidelines for park users, more wardens during the summer and notices be put up.


The Deputy City Mayor commented that the parks and open spaces had good advisory signage, there was cleansing team in operation and Biffa took rubbish away. He noted that he had joined a park neighbourhood group and encouraged others to do that. He further noted that there were over 3000 acres of park which amounted to 22% of the city area. There were 7 full time dedicated cleaners and a Park Rangers team. He urged Councillor Bajaj and other councillors to report any ‘hotspot’ problem areas to officers and copy him in.


4.         Councillor Rae Bhatia


“Residents of Beaumont Leys ward have been experiencing some severe challenges due to parking issues in and around Beaumont Park Football Club, especially on the busy match days. The site is quite popular and is managed by DMU. Their management team have been engaged and are doing their best within the confines of the area they manage, but it is largely the inappropriate overflow parking on to footpaths blocking access to wheelchair and pushchair users, as well as parking on both sides of Bennion Road and on the grass verges thus making it extremely narrow and dangerous for other road users and local residents living in the vicinity. Highways are fully aware. Therefore, can the Deputy Mayor please advise what action is being considered in this regard, and can he also give an assurance that appropriate traffic management options will be assessed and implemented as necessary to resolve the issue? Thank you.”


Deputy City Mayor, Councillor Clarke in response said that he appreciated the issues that were raised and noted that it had been raised with Highways. They visited the location on 4th June but there were no cars which required a penalty notice at the time. He felt that there were unlikely to be any issues until the new academic year and it could be considered in more detail at that point, in consultation with Councillor Rae Bhatia.


5.         Councillor Porter


“Over the last four years how many businesses have gone under that had previously received grants or loans from the council?”


The City Mayor in response said that the Council had administered millions of pounds of support grants during this time, which followed relevant government and other funding sources rules. Details weren’t retained about which businesses failed, but some clearly did fail and some succeeded.


Councillor Porter asked a supplementary question. He noted that the Council had previously said that some businesses needed support grants to be viable, but they went bust anyway despite receiving the grant. He felt that it was interesting that Council did not have this data and suggested that the Council had a duty to find out what was going wrong and consider where it was best to provide taxpayers money, to those businesses which would succeed.


The City Mayor in response stated that grants were administered on behalf of central government in accordance with their rules. The grants have propped up some businesses which succeeded and others failed. He felt that this would be a similar picture across the country.


6.         Councillor Porter.


“How many council owned dwellings are unoccupied?”


Assistant City Mayor, Councillor Cutkelvin in response stated that the Council currently owned around 19,000 properties of which 410 were empty which represented 2% of stock.


Councillor Porter asked a supplementary question. He noted that during the pandemic there were problems getting houses refurbished and there were 500 hundred empty homes which resulted in an average of £2,400 in lost rent per home at a total of £1.2m. He felt that this was a significant loss of income and queried what was being done to reduce the number of unoccupied properties?


The Assistant City Mayor in response stated that regular briefings on this matter were taken to scrutiny. It was felt that loss of rent wasn’t the primary concern, but the need to get people living in the homes. It was felt that everything possible was being done to bring homes back into use as soon as possible, but there were some issues around recruitment and the pandemic stopped a number of services.


7.         Councillor Porter


“In the local plan adopted in 2006, 3500 dwellings were to be built in Ashton Green- to date how many houses have been built in Ashton Green?”


The City Mayor in response stated that the promise made in 2006 was under the Conservative and Liberal Democrat administration, but felt that there were no realistic plans to be able to deliver that promise. He stated that there were only realistic plans developed after he was elected. It was noted that there were 407 homes now occupied or under construction with a further 380 due to be delivered, with more to be delivered over the years ahead.


Councillor Porter asked a supplementary question. He felt that it was realistic to deliver the original number of dwellings otherwise it wouldn’t have been included in the Local Plan. He felt that the current number of houses delivered was too low as these plans had been in place for 20 years and he felt this was poor. He asked what was being done to deliver the original figure?


The City Mayor in response stated that the Council was delivering homes which were good quality and desperately needed and this was in contrast to what was delivered under the Liberal Democrat and Conservative administration.


8.         Councillor Porter


“Since 2017 how many houses has the council purchased in the open market and what's the total cost been?”


Assistant City Mayor, Councillor Cutkelvin in response said that 609 homes had been purchased with a further 33 having had offers accepted. This was at a cost of £78m, an average of £121,000 per home which was half the cost of 2-3 bedroom homes if the Council built them.


Councillor Porter asked a supplementary question. He doubted the assertion that purchasing homes was half the cost of building them. He queried whether there was any evidence that the Council purchasing homes on the open market at inflated prices.


The Assistant City Mayor in response, felt that the purchase of 609 properties had made no difference to house prices in the city.


9.         Councillor Porter


“What number of those properties had at some time previously been council properties?


Assistant City Mayor, Councillor Cutkelvin in response stated that out of the 609 purchased by the Council, 357 had previously been owned by the Council.


Councillor Porter asked a supplementary question. He felt that this was a large number of properties purchased within the local property market. He said that he had evidence that the price the Council paid for properties was 20% above the market rate. He requested that if the Council continued to buy properties, they should pay the correct market value and not get ripped off.


The Assistant City Mayor in response stated that prices were checked and independent valuations were sought. She stated that the prices paid were reasonable open market prices.


10.       Councillor Porter


“How much taxpayers cash did the council lend to Haymarket Consortium Ltd and how much of that money is still in the hands of Haymarket Consortium Ltd?”


The City Mayor in response said that he was surprised by this question as these details were reported to the Overview Select Committee last year when Councillor Porter was in attendance. The loan made was £600,000 and the company concerned had now gone into liquidation.


Councillor Porter asked a supplementary question. He felt that the City Mayor should have a keen eye on the Council’s finances and queried whether the consortium had actually gone into liquidation.


The City Mayor in response stated that the consortium had ceased trading and had not published accounts, which they were legally bound to do. It wasn’t clear what residual assets they may have and when they do publish the accounts, officers will closely examine them. The City Mayor also commented, in relation to theatres in the city, that the cost of Curve had risen dramatically under the Liberal Democrat / Conservative administration.