Hitchin Committee Minutes

Date:
Tuesday, 12th January, 2016
Time:
7.30pm
Place:
Westmill Community Centre, John Barker Place, Hitchin
 
 

Attendance Details

Present:
Councillor R.A.C. Thake (Vice-Chairman), Councillor Mrs A.G. Ashley, Councillor Judi Billing, Councillor Simon Harwood, Councillor Joan Kirby, Councillor Bernard Lovewell, Councillor Alan Millard, Councillor Deborah Segalini, Councillor R.L. Shakespeare - Smith and Councillor Adrian Smith.
In attendance:
Mary Caldwell (Development and Conservation Manager), Stephen Geach (Parks & Countryside Development Manager), Claire Morgan (Communities Officer), and Hilary Dineen (Committee and Member Services Officer).
Also Present:
At the start of the meeting 14 members of the public.
Item Description/Decision
PART I
76 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors David Leal - Bennett and Frank Radcliffe.
77 MINUTES
RESOLVED: That the Minutes of the Meeting of the Committee held on 17 November 2015 be approved as a true record of the proceedings and be signed by the Chairman.
78 NOTIFICATION OF OTHER BUSINESS
No other business had been notified.
79 CHAIRMAN'S ANNOUNCEMENTS
(1) The Vice - Chairman welcomed all who had attended Town Talk and this meeting, particularly those who had attended to give a presentation;

(2) The Vice - Chairman advised those present that the meeting would be audio recorded.

(3) The Vice - Chairman drew attention to the item on the agenda front pages regarding Declarations of Interest and reminded Members that, in line with the Code of Conduct, any Declarations of Interest need to be declared immediately prior to the item in question.
80 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION - HITCHIN LEG OF THE HERTS CYCLING SERIES
Mr Jez Cox, Project Manager Herts Cycling, thanked the Vice - Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee and gave a verbal presentation regarding the Hitchin leg of the Herts Cycling Series as follows:

• Mr Cox was employed by Hertfordshire County Council to better provide for cyclists;
• The Letchworth Grand prix was the flagship cycling festival and was a fantastic event which was supported by North Hertfordshire District Council and Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation;
• These events were intended to inspire people to cycle;
• The 2016 tour of Hertfordshire had been expanded and needed the support of local businesses and organisations;
• The course for the 2016 event was ambitious and would have a big impact on Hitchin as it was a large event that would take over the Town;
• This was planned to take place on 19 June 2016 as a festival rather than a race and would include approximately 25 stalls providing food etc;
• The aim of this presentation was to encourage more people to get involved and seek further funding.

The Vice - Chairman thanked Mr Cox for his presentation.
81 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION - RIVERSIDE WALK
Mr Brent Smith, the registered speaker, had given his apologies and advised that Mr Keith Hoskins would give the presentation on his behalf.

Mr Keith Hoskins, Hitchin Initiative, thanked the Vice - Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee on behalf of Mr Brent Smith and gave a verbal presentation regarding the Riverside Walk as follows:

• There has been a desire to have a riverside walk in Hitchin for a long time;
• The sections of the walk from Hermitage Road to Nightingale Road and the embankment section at St Mary’s has been completed;
• Most of the section between Bridge Street and Churchgate has been completed, but was not yet open;
• The Management Company for Jill Grey Place were happy for that section to be opened provided the path and raised planters were adopted;
• A bridge across the River Hiz was required to complete the walk;
• Hitchin Initiative were prepared to pay for the construction of this bridge and enter into a contractual obligation regarding the pathway and planters at Jill Grey Place as well as installing a metal fence between the path and Jill Grey Place properties to allay concern about trespass;
• In respect of the bridge, design and water course issues had been resolved;
• NHDC’s Senior Estates Surveyor had undertaken to seek to resolve legal issues.

Mr Hoskins presented photographs of the existing bridge at the Crown House Development and a plan showing the proposed location for the new bridge.

Members noted that there had been provision made on some Planning applications in the vicinity of the proposed Riverside Walk for land and in some cases funding for this project. They asked that the Development and Conservation Manager advise this Committee about what land was involved and what was happening to develop it.

They expressed their full support for the completion of the Riverside Walk and were keen to receive an update on the project as a whole.

The Vice - Chairman thanked Mr Hoskins for his presentation.

RESOLVED:
(1) That this Committee fully supports the completion of the Riverside Walk;

(2) That, at the next meeting of this Committee, the Development and Conservation Manager be requested to advise of the requirements made of Planning Applications in respect of the proposed Riverside Walk;

(3) That, at the next meeting of this Committee, the Senior Estates Surveyor be requested to advise of the progress made to complete the Riverside Walk in Hitchin.

REASON FOR DECISION: To progress the proposed Riverside Walk to completion at the earliest opportunity.
82 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION - WALSWORTH FESTIVAL ASSOCIATION
Prior to the item being discussed Councillor Bernard Lovewell declared an Interest as he was the Treasurer to the Walsworth Festival Association. He advised that he would listen to the presentation, but would take no part in the debate about grant funding nor would he vote.

Prior to the item being discussed Councillor Ray Shakespeare-Smith declared an interest as he was the NHDC Representative on the Walsworth Festival Association. He advised that he would listen to the presentation, but would take no part in the debate about grant funding nor would he vote.

Ms Tracey Westgate, Walsworth Festival Association, thanked the Vice - Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee and gave a verbal presentation regarding their grant application as follows:

• The Walsworth Festival was a one day community event that had been running since 1974;
• There were stalls, sideshows, musicians and food;
• The event enabled local groups and charities to promote their activities;
• Each year the event costs increase;
• Funds were generated through pitch fees, entrance fees and advertising revenue;
• 2016 will see an increase in pitch fees for commercial organisations, although charities will not be charged more.

The Vice - Chairman thanked Ms Westgate for her presentation.
83 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION - MIND IN MID HERTS
Ms Katrina Moore, Mind in Mid Herts Association, thanked the Vice - Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee and gave a verbal presentation regarding their grant application as follows:

• Mind in North Herts was a Mental Health Charity working across North Hertfordshire, St Albans, Stevenage, Hertford and Welwyn Garden City:
• There was previously a group for people with Mental Health issues held in Letchworth, but this had now closed;
• Mind offered some outreach work in North Hertfordshire, but there was only one worker;
• Approximately 1 in 4 people will suffer with mental health issues;
• Mind currently supported 70 people in Hitchin, of which 15 were asking for a group;
• Mind aimed to start a new weekly group in Hitchin to provide valuable social support activities.

Members queried why the group in Letchworth closed and asked what the capacity of the group would be and whether the GPs were sufficiently aware of the proposed group to be able to refer people to it.

Ms Moore advised that she didn’t know the reasons for the closure of the Letchworth Group and that the group could serve between 30 and 40 people and that GPs were not aware of the group yet, but they would be informed.

Members noted that Hertfordshire County Council commissioned Minds to provide services and asked how outcomes of this group would be measured

Ms Moore advised that continual assessments would be undertaken including asking clients every 6 weeks and that the types of services offered by Mind included one to one outreach service and signposting to other schemes.

Members asked whether the group in Letchworth would re-open and what other funding sources were available.

Ms Moore informed Members that officers were visiting GP surgeries and were in discussion with Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation about funding a Letchworth group

Members advised Ms Moore that organisations and groups could apply for funding from County Councillor Locality Budget.

The Vice - Chairman thanked Ms Moore for her presentation.
84 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION - HITCHIN SENIOR CITIZENS WELFARE COMMITTEE
Prior to the item being discussed Councillor Richard Thake declared an Interest as he was the NHDC Representative on the Hitchin Senior Citizens Welfare Committee. He advised that he would listen to the presentation, but would take no part in the debate about grant funding nor would he vote.

Prior to the item being discussed Councillor Alan Millard declared an interest as he was a member of the Hitchin Senior Citizens Welfare Committee. He advised that he would listen to the presentation, but would take no part in the debate about grant funding nor would he vote.

Prior to the item being discussed Councillor Joan Kirby declared an interest as she was the Chairman of the Hitchin Senior Citizens Welfare Committee and would be making the presentation in support of the grant and therefore would, after making the presentation, take no part in the debate about grant funding nor would she vote.

Ms Mick Furr, the registered speaker, had given her apologies and advised that Councillor Joan Kirby would give the presentation on her behalf.

Councillor Joan Kirby, Hitchin Senior Citizens Welfare Committee, thanked the Vice - Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee and gave a verbal presentation regarding their grant application.

She informed Members that they ran a Friendship and Lunch Club and a Strength and Stability class for those over 65. Room Hire and transportation costs for these were £4299. They had also been asked to subsidise a bus from Pirton to Hitchin.

The Vice - Chairman thanked Councillor Kirby for her presentation.
85 GRANTS, GRANT APPLICATIONS AND COMMUNITY UPDATE
The Communities Officer presented the report entitled Grant Applications and Community Update and drew attention to the following:

BUDGETS
The current level of unallocated funds within the Area Committee’s 2015/16 Area Grant Budget was £30.155 and the funds in the 2014/15 Area Grant Budget had now been fully committed..

ALLOCATED BUDGETS - OUTSTANDING FUNDS
There were five allocated budgets that were either no longer required or had amounts outstanding. The Communities Officer suggested that these should be reallocated to the Development Budget.

Members agreed that the funds in these budgets should be reallocated but were concerned about the Council policy of not funding dog waste and litter bins through area grants due to the cost of maintenance impacting on the Council’s revenue budget.

There were health implications in not picking up dog waste and litter and they were keen that a way be found for more bins to be installed and maintained through a change to policy.

The Head of Policy and Community Services advised that she would ask the relevant Service Area for comparative costs.

RESOLVED:

(1) That the budgetary expenditure, balances and carry forwards from the Development, Visioning and Ward Budgets, as set out at Appendix A, be noted;

(2) That the actions taken by the Communities Officer to promote greater community capacity and wellbeing for Hitchin be noted;

(3) That the following previously allocated funds totalling £1,063 be reallocated to the general Discretionary Budget:
(i) Lighting Column for CCTV £439;
(ii) Lighting Column for CCTV £61;
(iii) Bench for Cloisters £522;
(iv) Plaque for Bench £7;
(v) Dog bin at St Ippolyts £34.

(4) That the Head of Policy and Community Services be requested to ask the relevant Service Area for comparative costs regarding the installation and maintenance of dog waste and litter bins and report the findings to this Committee.

REASON FOR DECISION: To keep Members of the Committee apprised of the latest developments in community activities in Hitchin.
86 GRANT APPLICATION - WALSWORTH FESTIVAL ASSOCIATION
Prior to the item being discussed Councillor Bernard Lovewell declared an Interest as he was the Treasurer to the Walsworth Festival. He advised that he would take no part in the debate about grant funding nor would he vote.

Prior to the item being discussed Councillor Alan Millard declared an interest as he was the NHDC Representative on the Walsworth Festival. He advised that he would take no part in the debate about grant funding nor would he vote.

RESOLVED: That grant funding of £1,500 be awarded to Walsworth Festival from the Discretionary Budget as funding towards the cost of their annual event on 22 May 2016

REASON FOR DECISION: To improve services provided by local organisations and groups which are accessed by the community.
87 GRANT APPLICATION - MIND IN MID HERTS
RESOLVED: That grant funding of £1,040 be awarded to Mind in Mid Herts from the Discretionary Budget as funding towards the cost of setting up a Hitchin mental health support group.

REASON FOR DECISION: To improve services provided by local organisations and groups which are accessed by the community.
88 GRANT APPLICATION - HITCHIN SENIOR CITIZENS WELFARE ASSOCIATION
Prior to the item being discussed Councillor Richard Thake declared an Interest as he was the NHDC Representative on the Hitchin Senior Citizens Welfare Committee. He advised that he would take no part in the debate about grant funding nor would he vote.

Prior to the item being discussed Councillor Alan Millard declared an interest as he was a member of the Hitchin Senior Citizens Welfare Committee. He advised that he would take no part in the debate about grant funding nor would he vote.

Prior to the item being discussed Councillor Joan Kirby declared an interest as she was the Chairman of the Hitchin Senior Citizens Welfare Committee and had made the presentation in support of the grant and therefore would take no part in the debate about grant funding nor would she vote.

RESOLVED: That grant funding of £2,655 be awarded to Hitchin Senior Citizens Welfare Committee from the Discretionary Budget as funding towards the cost of room hire, transport, insurance costs and a coach trip.

REASON FOR DECISION: To improve services provided by local organisations and groups which are accessed by the community.
89 HITCHIN TOWN CENTRE MANAGER
Prior to the item being discussed Councillor Judi Billing declared an interest as she was a Director of Hitchin Initiative. She advised that she would remain in the room for the presentation.

Mr Keith Hoskins thanked the Vice - Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee and gave a verbal presentation regarding the activities, events and issues relating to Hitchin Town Centre as follows:

• He thanked the Committee for the previous grant funding, which enabled the town to have a more successful Christmas;
• The programme for the next years events would be published soon;
• Hitchin Initiative would be supporting several groups and events including the Hitchin Festival and the Hitchin leg of the cycle tour;
• Thanks to the grant from this Committee the H Samuel clock had been repaired and would be placed back on the building;
• Hitchin Initiative supported the partial pedestrianisation of Brand Street and part of High Street and would be happy to help this progress;
• Consideration was being given to better planting ideas;

Members commented that the Christmas light switch on event was extremely crowded and that it would be better if all of the lights were switched on, not just the Christmas tree.

Mr Hoskins advised that he would ask for High Street and Bucklersbury to be closed for next year’s event. A lot of money had been spent on the electrical infrastructure for the lights and although it was possible to fit the lights with timers that would switch them on at the same time, this would be very expensive.

The Vice - Chairman thanked Mr Hoskins for his presentation.
90 SECTION 106 AND UNILATERAL UNDERTAKINGS
The Development and Conservation Manager presented the report entitled Section 106 and Unilateral Undertakings.

She advised that the report sought to make Members aware of the contributions received as a result of planning permissions and subsequently the monies committed to specific projects.

The figure in Paragraph 8.4.1 for 2014/15 the income should read £1,289,621.

The changes to legislation, as detailed in Paragraph 8.2, came into effect in April and, whilst implementation was in its infancy with regard to negotiating 106 agreements, the emphasis was on the justification for contributions.

She had attended various Parish Council meetings to explain this, particularly those with development proposals within their parish boundary. She explained that for any project to possibly be included in any agreement, work needed to be undertaken to prepare a brief, costings and the justification, in order to satisfy the tests set out in Paragraph 8.1.1.

A good example of this was Offley Parish Council, who worked up a scheme and held a public consultation that demonstrated their use of monies, collected from the current scheme under construction, for improvements to the recreation ground and, with some further agreements to be included the monies would be available once orders were finalised.

The Development and Conservation Manager drew attention to Paragraph 8.4.1, which set out the income and expenditure over the years and Paragraph 8.4.2, which showed the projects that had benefited from the contributions during the last financial year and so far this year.

It was anticipated that approximately £312,000 would be drawn down for projects under the Greenspace Strategy.

The amount of contributions available to spend, as detailed at Paragraph 8.4 did not take into account monies allocated, but not yet spent.

When considering Appendix A, the allocations or the specific requirements for the contributions were highlighted in red. Some of the capital projects may not take place until 2018/19 for example Greenspace Management Plans and with others there was a ten year spend time.

Contributions towards capital projects in Hitchin, including Hitchin Town Hall, initial works for Bancroft Recreation Ground and other play schemes and projects, would be completed by accounts at the end of this financial Year.

Members noted that this may be the last report Mary Caldwell would make to this Committee, as she would be retiring in March 2016 and wished to place on record their thanks for her hard work and support over the years and offer good wishes for her retirement.

RESOLVED:
(1) That the contents of the report be noted;

(2) That the Development and Conservation Manager be requested to continue to present a report regarding Section 106 and Unilateral Undertakings on an annual basis;

(3) That, other than where a contribution has been negotiated for a specific purpose or project, Ward Members of the area where Section 106 or Unilateral Undertaking funding is generated be consulted prior to allocation of funds to any project;

(4) That, other than where a contribution has been negotiated for a specific purpose or project, Ward Members of the area where Section 106 or Unilateral Undertaking funding is generated and the Area Committee be consulted prior to funding being allocated away from that area or from a village location to a town;

(5) That this Committee thank Mary Caldwell, Development and Conservation Manager, for her hard work and support over the years and offer good wishes for her retirement.

REASON FOR DECISION:
(1) To ensure that there is a robust system for negotiating and managing Section 106 and Unilateral Undertakings.

(2) To ensure that this is kept under constant review and that the risk associated with this activity is managed in an appropriate manner.
91 INFORMATION NOTE - BANCROFT RECREATION GROUND
The Committee received an Information Note regarding Bancroft Recreation Ground.

The Parks and Countryside Development Manager informed Members that a phased approach had been agreed and that drawings reflecting the short, medium and long term plans were being drawn up.

The water splash park was progressing well, a new power supply was awaited and once installed the project would almost be complete, with just turfing around the splash park needed.

Hitchin Committee had previously allocated grant funding to Bancroft Recreation Ground and asked that a suitable project be identified.

It was suggested that this money be put towards enhancing the River Hiz and the Riverside Walk by transforming the drainage area to have a more natural river feel and improve biodiversity.

Members were pleased to support the planned improvements outlined by the Parks and Countryside Development.

In respect of the toilets at Bancroft, Members noted that an application had been made to Hitchin United Charities for consent for Hitchin Hackspace to use them, but an answer had not yet been forthcoming despite strenuous efforts by NHDC Officers.

Councillors Judi Billing and Bernard Lovewell agreed to take this matter forward.

Members were pleased that the water splash park was taking shape. They asked whether the toilets would be open year round or closed for the 6 months that the splash park was not operating and whether there would be a café on site.

The Parks and Countryside Manager confirmed that the toilets would only be open whilst the splash park was in operation and that a café was not planned in the short term, but would be developed in the long term.

Members asked for costings to keep the toilets open all year round.

RESOLVED:
(1) That Councillor Billing and Lovewell be requested to progress the consents required from Hitchin United Charities in order for Hitchin Hackspace to use the Bancroft Toilet Building;

(2) That the Committee supports the use of funds, previously allocated to Bancroft Gardens of £26,403 (Capital) and £5,030 (Revenue), for the proposed improvements to the River Hiz drainage area;

(3) That the Parks and Countryside Development Manager be requested to provide this Committee with costings for the additional period needed to keep the toilets in Bancroft Recreation Ground open year round.

REASON FOR DECISION:
(1) To enable use of Bancroft Toilet Building to be progressed as quickly as possible;

(2) To enable the funds previously allocated to Bancroft Gardens to be used for a project approved by the Committee.
92 INFORMATION NOTE: NORTH HERTFORDSHIRE DISTRICT MUSEUM AND COMMUNITY FACILITY AT HITCHIN TOWN HALL
The Committee received an Information Note regarding the North Hertfordshire Museum and Community Facility at Hitchin Town Hall.

Members asked that the costs associated with resolving the damp in the cellar be circulated to Members of the Committee.

RESOLVED: That the Strategic Director of Customer Services be requested to circulate to Members of this Committee details regarding the costs associated with resolving the damp in the cellar of Hitchin Town Hall.

REASON FOR DECISION: To keep the Committee appraised of the costs associated with the redevelopment of Hitchin Town Hall as a museum and community facility.
93 INFORMATION NOTE: CHURCHGATE AREA
The Committee received an Information Note regarding the Churchgate Area.

Whilst acknowledging that that Hammersmatch had to give permission for any information to be put in the public domain, a Councillor stated that he was disappointed that Members had not been allowed access to Project Board discussions. He felt that he could have helped with those discussions and offered expertise and contributions that may not otherwise have been available
94 WARD AND OUTSIDE ORGANISATIONS - MEMBERS’ REPORTS
PEDESTRIANISATION OF BRAND STREET AND PART OF HIGH STREET
Councillor Ray Shakespeare - Smith asked the Committee to request a report regarding he feasibility, processes involvement of Hertfordshire County Council and the time line of potential partial pedestrianisation of the area of road from the lights on Hermitage Road along to Brand Street and the complete length of Brand Street.

Councillor Simon Harwood suggested that the potential partial pedestrianisation from the traffic lights at National Westminster along the High Street to outside of Waterstones should be included in this request

RESOLVED:

(1) That the Strategic Planning and Projects Manager be requested to liaise with Hertfordshire Highways, in order to present a report on the feasibility, processes, involvement of Hertfordshire County Council and the time line of potential partial pedestrianisation of the area of road from the lights on Hermitage Road along to Brand Street and the complete length of Brand Street. Also the potential partial pedestrianisation from the traffic lights at National Westminster along the High Street to outside of Waterstones;

(2) That the report in (1) above be circulated to all Hitchin Committee Members prior to the next meeting of this Committee due to be held on 1 March 2016 and be presented at that meeting.

REASON FOR DECISION: To investigate the feasibility of partially pedestrianising an area of Hitchin.

SAFE HARBOUR CROSSINGS
Councillor Simon Harwood instigated a discussion regarding safe harbour crossings.

Councillor Harwood expressed the opinion that safe harbour crossings were needed on London Road and Stevenage Road towards the Three Moorhens Roundabout. He acknowledged that consultation regarding these proposals had taken place but felt that the people who used these areas to cross should have been consulted as well as residents.

At the invitation of the Vice-Chairman, County Councillor Derrick Ashley advised that residents had been widely consulted and that the response, of those who had replied to the consultation, had been overwhelmingly against the proposals. Residents opinions must be taken into consideration and the only grounds for overriding this was on safety grounds, for which there was no evidence. He acknowledged that some residents had not responded to the consultation and stated that those who remained silent could not be heard and this demonstrated that it was important that residents respond to consultations.

Councillor Lovewell advised that Hertfordshire County Council were currently undertaking work to alleviate poor air quality in this area. They were trying to find a solution to improve traffic flow as cars stopping and starting increased the poor air quality.
Published on Monday, 1st February, 2016
8.50p.m