Agenda item

Questions on matters relating to the work of the committee


Beech Street

A Member commented that he would be interested to receive an update on this now that the zero emissions scheme had been operational for a few months and that there had been decreasing levels of traffic in the City.


Officers reported that the zero emissions restrictions came into force on 18 March 2020 at Beech Street, just a matter of days before lockdown was announced. Members were informed that the restriction was still in place, operating 24/7. However, any motorists passing through this area in a non zero emission vehicle that had been picked up by cameras were receiving information letters to advise them of this and were not currently being issued with penalty charge notices. Officers were cognisant of the fact that, due to lockdown, there had been a huge reduction in traffic volumes in the City and that it was therefore not possible to truly monitor the impact of this experimental traffic order on either air quality or traffic on surrounding streets. The public were also not able to accurately feedback on how this experiment was impacting on them all of which would be very important when evaluating how successful the experiment is and making a decision as to whether it should be retained or not. Members were further advised that a decision had been made by the Director of the Built Environment, under delegated powers, to extend the public consultation period and the objection period beyond the initial six months previously agreed. Officers continued to monitor traffic flows to determine an appropriate period by which to extend. When a decision had been reached on this nearby residents would be advised via letter drops with the usual channels also being used to communicate plans more widely.


City Plan 2036

A Member sought clarity on the approval process for this and asked for confirmation that the document would be coming back to this Committee again after public consultation given that they had yet to agree that, following consultation, the Plan be submitted to the Secretary of State for examination and hadn’t yet authorised the Director of the Built Environment, in consultation with the Chair and Deputy Chairman, to compile a list of further changes to the Plan in response to any public representations.


Officers stated that when the Plan came back after consultation, the expectation in the regulations is that the City Corporation would not make any substantive changes to the Plan and that it would then proceed to examination together with any comments received. If the Committee wanted to make substantive changes they were able to do so but this would mean that the Plan had to go back out to consultation for a second time ahead of submission.


Affordable Housing – SPD

A Member questioned when the Committee could expect to receive the Supplementary Planning Document on Affordable Housing noting that it had originally been earmarked to come to this meeting. Officers responded to state that concerns around effective consultation during the pandemic meant that this document would now be deferred until the Autumn and to Committee in July to facilitate this. In response to further questions, Officers underlined that the SPD would not be gaining weight at present given that it had not yet been granted Committee approval.


The Member expressed concern at seemingly endless delays around this document over the past three years. The Chair suggested that he and Officers continue to discuss this in more detail outside of today’s meeting and that Officers look to see how this might be accelerated.


Public Lifts

A Member noted that a number of the City’s public lifts were not currently operating due to the inability to secure call out services for them in the present circumstances. He questioned whether it would be possible to reopen these in the near future given the Prime Minister’s recent call for the public to return to work. The Chair requested a written response from the City Surveyor to the Member on this point given that the appropriate Officer was not in attendance for today’s meeting.



A Member referenced the fact that the Minister for Housing had suggested that it was important for construction to get back underway, so much so, that it should be accelerated so that work could happen on sites some 12-13 hours per day. However, it did recognise that this could only happen unless there was good reason otherwise. He questioned whether Officers had had time to digest these comments and consider how best this might be handled in the City.


Officers recognised that this matter was causing significant distress to some residents in the City and were very cognisant of the fact that many people had been stuck at home now for many weeks, especially those in shielded categories who were unable to leave their homes entirely leading to additional mental and physical health impacts.


Officers went on to report that the City Corporation’s standard hours for construction were clearly set out alongside a process on how to vary those hours which could be done at very short notice given the type of buildings in the City and the various needs the City had in terms of safety and engineering. Members were assured that there was therefore already a very flexible approach to construction hours in the City. What the City did not do was set hours through planning conditions rigidly and some of the comments made by the Housing Minister would therefore not be directly applicable to the City. What the Minister did not mention were the other powers that relate to construction sites which had not been relaxed such as the Environmental Protection Act Statutory Nuisance Provisions which contain a duty to act if a nuisance exists and the Control of Pollution Act which was the Act that sets hours within the construction industry.


Members were informed that Officers dealt with approximately 1,200 applications for extended construction hours each year. In places where there was no impact on residents or others 24 hour permissions were already in place. To date, approximately 4 applications to extend hours for social distancing had been received and Members were informed that many City sites had remained operational throughout this recent lockdown period.


In summary, Officers confirmed that there would not need to be a change in approach for the City as they already had the ability to act flexibly on these matters and had been doing so throughout this period to enable construction to continue. What Officers would not do is put the needs of social distancing on sites over the needs of residents health. Each application was dealt with by an Environmental Health Officer and was site specific. All approved applications were now displayed on City Maps alongside approved hours and contact numbers for both the site and pollution team officers should anyone wish to discuss or challenge any of these approvals.


In response to a further question, Officers confirmed that applications for extended hours for sites near residential sites had the same approval time as all other sites but the outcome of assessments was likely to be different.


The Chair commented that a communications piece on this matter would be issued shortly after this meeting given that it had been raised as a concern by a number of City residents already. He added that Government guidance was very clear on the inappropriateness of extending hours in densely residential population areas.

Another Member added that she was extremely concerned and sought assurances that construction hours would not be extended for sites simply to help contractors because certain projects had run behind schedule. She commented that on Golden Lane there were sites on both sides and had questioned both the Chair of Policy and Resources and the Chairman of the Community and Children’s Services Committee as to whether there had been any requests from the COLPAI site but recognised that the City Corporation had no power over Taylor Wimpey on the Denizen site.


The Chair cautioned against referring to specific sites but asked Officers to comment on the process and how residents throughout the City would be informed of any applications to extend hours ahead of their approval.


Officers reported that the Code of Construction Practice had a very strong chapter on consultation with residents and made a lot of reference to prior consultation with residents and Ward Members. Therefore, unless an emergency application was received, consultation was required through various channels.