Meeting documents

Scrutiny Streets, Environment & Homes Sub-Committee
Tuesday, 28th February, 2017

Streets, Environment and Homes Scrutiny Sub-Committee Minutes

Date:
Tuesday 28th February 2017
Time:
6:30 p.m.
Place:
Council Chamber, the Town Hall, Katharine Street, Croydon CR0 1NX
 

Attendance Details

Present:

Councillor J Buttinger, Councillor S Fitzsimons, Councillor P Hay-Justice, Councillor S Mann, Councillor M Selva, Councillor D Speakman, Councillor A Stranack

Also present:
Councillor Stuart King, Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment
Steve Iles, Director of Streets
Andy Opie, Director of Safety
Tom Lawrence, Service Manager
Ian Brewster, Senior Trees and Woodland Officer
Rowland Gordon, Service Manager
Councillor Sara Bashford

Item Item/Resolution
MINUTES - PART A
A8/17 MINUTES OF THE MEETING HELD ON 31 JANUARY 2017

The minutes of the meeting held on 31 January 2017 were approved as a correct record of the meeting.

 

The Chair thanked the Cabinet Member and officers for enabling the Committee to undertake pre-decision scrutiny of the Air Quality Action Plan and put forward ideas for inclusion within the Plan.

A9/17 DISCLOSURE OF INTEREST

There were no declarations of interest.

A10/17 URGENT BUSINESS (IF ANY)

There were no items of urgent business.

A11/17 QUESTION TIME: CABINET MEMBER FOR TRANSPORT AND ENVIRONMENT

The Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment provided the Committee with a presentation outlining that his ambition was for the borough to be the cleanest and greenest, a place where people will want to live and work.

 

The introduction of 20mph speed limits in zone 1 and approval for zone 2 were outlined as a success. In addition, the Cabinet Member noted the conclusion of the consultation in zones 3 to 5 with a report to be taken to a meeting of the Traffic Management Advisory Committee in May 2017.

 

The poor performance of Southern rail was noted and the Cabinet Member stressed that, like the Leader, he described the performance as being an economic threat to the area. Recent reports had suggested that the disruption would continue to the end of 2018, and the Cabinet Member assured the Committee that a hard hitting campaign to encourage a resolution to the dispute would continue.

 

The Cabinet Member noted that the street lighting replacement programme had concluded which would provide a saving of £40million over the 25 years of the contract.

 

The challenges outlined by the Cabinet Member included the delivery of the growth zones. There were 39 projects with a number being transport related and it was important that they were delivered for the future of the borough.

 

While the pressure being placed on Southern to resolve the ongoing dispute was stated to be a success, the Cabinet Member stressed that continued pressure needed to be applied. Furthermore, investment into the Brighton mainline was necessary and the Cabinet Member informed the Committee that cross party support was being provided for this project.

 

The Cabinet Member informed the Committee that the Cycling Strategy was being developed and would be taken to a future meeting for scrutiny. However, it was noted that there continued to be low levels of cycling in the borough and more work needed to be undertaken to encourage cycling, although it was noted that there would be further disruption in the town centre with developments which may discourage residents from cycling.

 

Tackling the air quality problem remained a challenge which the Cabinet Member considered to be on the scale of obesity. However, he stated he was pleased to see that the public recognised it is a problem and hoped that the new Air Quality Action Plan would address some of the issues.

 

A challenge which was also recognised was the parking at dropping off and picking up times at schools which the Cabinet Member was looking to resolve.

 

The Cabinet Member also outlined his priorities for the portfolio, including ensuring that Croydon's priorities were within the Mayor's Transport Strategy, and that the right decisions around 20mph speed limits were made.

 

The Cabinet Member reflected on how he had addressed the issues by providing a political leadership with a clear direction of travel that officers and Members were able to understand. The Cabinet Member further sought to be Member led and listened to all ward councillors when concerns were raised. It was acknowledged that the portfolio was highly strategic, with the growth zone projects having an influence on the borough for decades to come, however very local issues were also addressed.

 

Members requested an update on the level of response that had been received as part of the 20mph consultation in zones 3 -5. The Cabinet Member stated that there had been in the region of 4,000 individual responses, which was broadly in line with the expected number of responses, and work was underway to assess the number of communications which were in objection and the number in support, and the figures for each zone. The Committee were informed that the nature and volume of objections would be assessed before the report was taken to the Traffic Management Committee for consideration.

 

Councillor Bashford informed the Committee that she had received figures from officers of 1,200 for Area 3, 1,750 for Area 4 and 2,050 for Area 5. The Director of Streets stated that the responses were being reviewed and there were some positive responses also within the figures provided.

 

The effect of 20mph on pollution levels was discussed and it was suggested that an area be left at 30mph to enable the impact on pollution to be assessed. The Cabinet Member raised concerns that it would not be best way to obtain an insight into the impact of 20mph speed limits on pollution, furthermore he stated that he would like to see detailed academic evidence that there would be an effect before consideration.

 

The Committee acknowledged the need for transport infrastructure to be expanded in the borough and queried the Cabinet Member's position on a number of possible schemes, including the extension of the Bakerloo Line to Elmers End, the tram expansion to Sutton no longer being part of the Mayor's strategy, the Brighton mainline and the opportunities that may arise from a Clapham connection to Crossrail 2.

 

In response the Cabinet Member assured the Committee that the case for tram expansion was continued to be pressed and they were seeking to persuade Transport for London (TfL) of the benefit of the tram system. It was noted that tram systems outside London had been expanded, however the Croydon Tramlink had not experienced the same expansion. With regards to the Bakerloo Line, the Cabinet Member was due to attend an event the following day and would raise the possibility of the expansion into Croydon. The Brighton mainline was stated to continue to be an important strategic project for the borough which the Council would continue to lobby for.

 

The Cabinet Member acknowledged that the possible benefits of Clapham connection to Crossrail 2 were attractive, however noted it was important to be realistic on how many strategic projects the authority could lobby on. The tram expansion and Brighton mainline projects were the priority projects, however it would be continually reviewed.

 

The Cabinet Member assured the Committee that he was aware of the issues around East Croydon and work was underway to begin the process of talking to residents regarding the impact and possible mitigations that would reduce the impact. The biggest impact was identified as being the poor performance of the two junctions on Cherry Orchard Road, however there was an opportunity with the emerging development opportunity of the Brighton mainline which would redevelop the station and introduce two new platforms. If this work was to be done then works to the junctions would be undertaken at the same time. The authority was in discussions with other stakeholders to ensure necessary work was being undertaken to enable the borough to realise its growth potential.

 

The Cabinet Member noted that with the emerging development of East Croydon station that the entrances and exits to the station would move. Any changes to the pedestrian bridge would need to be calculated as being temporary only until the redevelopment was being undertaken.

 

In response to questions the Cabinet Member acknowledged more work could be done to increase the use of electric cars, however the approach that had been taken had been to work on a pan-London basis to ensure that users would experience the benefit across the capital by working with London Councils.

 

Updated on playstreets and car clubs were requested by the Committee and the Cabinet Member assured Members that updates would be provided within the next Cabinet Member bulletin for the Council meeting in April 2017.

 

The Director of Streets informed the Committee that a second interim report of the fatal tram accident had been released by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) which had included some new information. It was stressed that it was important the conclusions were not prejudged, however the Committee were assured that all the organisations involved were working closely to ensure an accident like that did not happen again. Any additional funding required to improve the safety of the network would be expected to be provided by TfL and the tram operator.

 

The Cabinet Member reiterated the importance of waiting for the final report from the RAIB before assessing the possible impact on future tram expansions, however confirmed that the tram network continued to be an important part of the transport infrastructure of the borough. That, notwithstanding the terrible accident that occurred on 9 November 2016, the tram had a relatively safe history.

 

The issue of the safety of bridges was raised due to the closures of the bridges on Blackhorse Lane due to the dangerous state of disrepair. The Director of Streets informed the Committee that the bridge that had failed was owned by TfL, however the council owned bridge had only a short life expectancy. The Committee were assured that all bridges were inspected.

 

Rowland Gordon, Service Manager, informed the Committee that there were a number of bridges in the borough which were approaching the end of their life expectancy. General inspections were undertaken every two years and principle inspections every six years, and if any issues are identified then further inspections were undertaken and work would be undertaken with all stakeholders to address the concerns. The Service Manager stated that a number of bridges had been taken over with the introduction of the trams, however two bridges had been missed and therefore inspections had not been undertaken by either Network Rail or Tramlink. The Director of Streets assured the Committee that safety inspections were undertaken and works were planned for a number on bridge, including Woodhouse Lane, Foxley Hill and the St James Road area.

 

The Chair informed the Committee that a tweet had been received regarding the pressure of the bridge closures on Blackhorse Lane on local businesses and queried how residents and businesses were being kept informed of progress. The Service Manager informed Members that a noticeboard had been put in place in the area, and another would be installed and additional information would be displayed on these boards. Information had also been circulated to Members and more would be provided, if required.

 

In response to Member questions the Service Manager acknowledged the repairs had taken a long time as additional surveys were required to ensure that when the contract was let it would be a design and build contract, so as to lower the costs. It was intended that the contract would go out to tender in June 2017 and TfL would project manage as they had more in house experience, however the council would look to undertake works on both bridges at the same time.

 

The Service Manager informed the Committee that they did not anticipate additional works to the bridge at Old Lodge Lane, however it was a Network Rail bridge and officers would inform councillors if more works were required. It was noted that it had taken a number of weeks for the signs notifying would be taking place to be removed and Members requested that sign removal be included in future.

 

Members queried whether they would be an expansion of car clubs in the borough as it was stated that the ability for residents to use the facilities would facilitate decreasing the number of vehicles in the borough. The Cabinet Member confirmed that an update on car clubs would be included in the Cabinet Member bulletin, including increasing the number of on-street bays, however they were looking at planning consents to encourage increased uptake.

 

The Cabinet Member, in response to Member questions, stated that he interpreted the environmental aspect of his portfolio to be focussed primarily on tackling air quality. Most aspects of the portfolio crossed over with other Cabinet Member portfolios and the Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment often spoke with colleagues, including Councillor Butler (Cabinet Member for Housing, Regeneration and Planning) regarding the impact of boilers on air quality and volume of high emission boilers in the council's housing stock. The Cabinet Member assured the Committee that there was a high level of collaborative working.

 

Concerns were raised regarding infrastructure spending and the backlog of road and pavement repairs and the Cabinet Member stated that he was confident that there was a sensible approach in regards to inspection and Members, and residents, also raised concerns which were reviewed. The Director of Streets informed the Committee that an asset management approach had been adopted, which had led to move to a planned and preventative approach with condition surveys being undertaken. A backlog of repairs was still in evidence, however the Director of Streets stated that significant inroads had been made to decrease the volume but that it would take a number of years to recover the full backlog.

 

The Committee noted that under the Council's budget Community Ward Funds were to increase, however expressed concerns that it had been difficult to assess the costs of possible improvements to areas. The Cabinet Member informed the Committee that he had requested the Directors of Streets and Safety to compile a list of possible works and the associated costs to assist Members. The associated challenge was that new assets, such as street trees, had an associated maintenance expenditure, however the Cabinet Member stated he did not foresee it as being an insurmountable challenge. It was acknowledged that often there were often solutions, such as working with community and requesting they water community gardens.

 

The Committee came to the following conclusions:

  • Thanked the Cabinet Member for his presentation and update.

RESOLVED: To

  1. Note the report;
  2. Recommend to the Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment that consideration be given to how best to improve communication with the public on future bridge repairs; and
  3. Request that the next Cabinet Member bulletin for the Council meeting in April 2017 include updates on car clubs and playstreets.
     
A12/17 UPDATE - FELLING STREET TREES

The Chair outlined the importance of trees as an important tool in cleaning up air pollution. In addition, Members often received concerns from residents regarding trees being cut down as they had been part of the street scene for a number of years. It was stated that it was important to ensure that residents understood why trees were being removed.

 

The Senior Trees and Woodland Officer acknowledged that it was a difficult and emotive subject as trees made a large impact on the environment of the local area. The Committee were assured that trees were felled due to health and safety concerns. On occasion, officers are unable to inform others of the decision to fell a tree due to the urgent safety concerns and being able to take advantage of no nearby parked cars.

 

When officers were able to plan a felling then notices were put up to inform residents that works would take place. In addition, sometimes works could be undertaken to make a tree safe, such as removing sections.

 

The Committee noted that the geography of Croydon required different approaches depending on the soil, however queried whether the council was approached by insurance companies applying pressure for trees to be removed. The Senior Trees and Woodland Officer informed the Committee that requests would be made to the Insurance team, however all requests were assessed to see whether they were valid. Trees would not be removed if the danger was perceived, but there was no evidence.

 

Members noted there was no dedicated tree replacement budget and that money was found in the maintenance budget. It was suggested that this was insufficient as 10% of trees in the borough had been lost in past decade and the importance of trees was increasing. It was further requested that Members be informed before a tree was removed to enable ward councillors to respond to resident enquiries, and if a try were to be removed as an emergency that notification and reasons be provided to Members.

 

The Cabinet Member agreed to review the request for informing Members of tree works, however stated that it would be difficult due to the relatively small size of the team and the volume of trees being removed. The Cabinet Member noted the small budget for tree replacement and informed the Committee that a capital bid was to be prepared to address some of the shortfall.

 

The ailing population of trees in the borough was considered one of the concerns as there were a number of trees still standing that were in decrepit state. The Senior Trees and Woodland Officer confirmed they would like to replace trees, however there were a number of issues including utilities and pavements. The council required the support of residents, and had received £800 from residents in south Croydon to plant new trees which would be progressed.

 

The Service Manager stated that the council needed to be mindful of street cleansing when deciding upon which trees to plant, and so fruit trees were not always advisable as the authority was looking to improve standards of street cleansing. The Committee were assured that a leafing strategy was completed each year in line with the information the council had regarding the trees and that there was a connection with the contractor, Veolia.

 

Following a suggestion from the Committee the Senior Trees and Woodland Officer confirmed he would look into whether a scheme to monitor street trees which linked into the Street Champions could be introduced.

 

The Committee noted that a number of trees had been removed in Riddlesdown by the City of London and were informed by the Director of Streets that there had been communication with the City of London in regards to the trees, however more could be done as the council had little influence. Members suggested that the City of London should be requested to inform ward councillors if work was to be completed on trees in the area.

 

In response to Member questions the Senior Trees and Woodland Officer confirmed that officers reviewed sites for new trees and advised which type of tree would be most appropriate for the location. Furthermore, consideration was also given to the diseases which were being suffered by trees.

 

Members noted that the photo in paragraph 4.1 of the report looked quite attractive, however stated that a number of trees had been severely cut back and queried the reasoning. The Senior Trees and Woodland Officer informed the Committee that the photo gave any example of legging up work which would enable people to walk under the trees. Pollarding was undertaken on street trees to restrict the growth of the tree to ensure it would not cause damage of obstruction. It was stated that pollarding kept the tree young and would enable the tree to survive longer than if left.

 

In response to Member questions the Senior Trees and Woodland Officer stated that in previous years more trees had been planted, however the priority for 2016/17 had been on the maintenance of the current trees, rather than introduce new trees.

 

The Committee came to the following conclusions:

  • Thanked officers for the report and discussion; and
  • Suggested that in the briefing for new councillors some information of tree maintenance be included.

RESOLVED: To

  1. Note the report;
  2. Recommend to the Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment that a specific budget for tree replacement be established;
  3. Recommend to the Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment that a regular report on which trees are being removed be circulated to Members;
  4. Recommend to the Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment that limited access to the new software be provided to Councillors to enable them to review which trees had been felled;
  5. Recommend that more S106 money be used for tree replacement and encourage the use of the Community Ward Funds for tree replacement;
  6. Recommend to the Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment that a list of empty tree pits be provided to Councillors to enable engagement with residents regarding possible replanting;
  7. Recommend to the Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment that a tree replacement programme which plans for trees being replaced when removed be considered; and
  8. Recommend to the City of London Corporation that they notify ward councillors of tree works in the area.
     
A13/17 HIGHWAY VEHICLE CROSSOVER POLICY

The Service Manager clarified that the image at page 32 of the agenda was a result of a pre-2015 decision and the new criteria required that vehicles were able to access the parking space through the use of one manoeuvre only. Applicants were required to provide documentation for the car to enable officers to assess whether the car would be able to fit into the space.

 

Concerns were raised by the Committee that spaces were being assessed for cars owned by residents at the time of application, however residents were then changing their vehicles later on to possibly larger cars. It was suggested that cars parked horizontally to the property was dominating the street scene and changing the appearance from the Victorian/Edwardian character that was previously in place.

 

Following a suggestion from the Committee, that crossovers should be assessed on the size of an average vehicle rather than the car currently owned by the residents, the Service Manager confirmed that the minimum dimensions required for a crossover would be large enough for an average car.

 

In response to Member questions the Service Manager confirmed that around 400 applications were received per annum and that the application form encouraged residents to use a permeable surface. Furthermore, inspectors would check the hardstanding before a crossover was built.

 

Members queried how crossovers were enforced, with regards to overhanging vehicles, and how the council enforced against those who convert their front garden but do not apply for a crossover. The Director of Streets confirmed that enforcement was not undertaken by Planning, but was part of traffic management however it was difficult to enforce as evidence needed to provided that the pavement was crossed to access the space.

 

Following a Member question the Director of Streets stated that there was no flexibility in the policy in regards to the removal of trees as the criteria was clear. It was further noted that some trees looked young however were established and mature, and if healthy the council would not allow its removal and would not wish to set a precedent.

 

Under the new policy it was stated that there was some flexibility with regards to the width of the crossover, however a second crossover was not encouraged but there was flexibility if there was not a high volume of on street parking in the area.

 

In response to Member questions the Service Manager confirmed that officers could request contributions from applicants for the planting of street trees, however it was felt that there would be few contributions made. The Director of Streets informed the Committee that S106 funding did have an allocation for street trees, of around £14,000, and officers were further reviewing the agreements to assess whether more funding could be accessed for further funding.

 

The Committee were informed that application numbers under the previous policy were similar to those received since the policy change. In the period December 2015 and September 2016, 32 applications were declined however the figure had fallen to three.

 

The Chair stated that the change in policy had had a detrimental impact on the Addiscombe ward as the Victorian/Edwardian properties with small front gardens were being paved over for off-street parking. It was noted that the policy stated that the street scene would be taken into account as part of the decision process, however the Chair stressed that he was unable to see how the policy objective was being achieved and parking was being privatised with on-street parking being removed in some roads and causing parking stress in surrounding roads.

 

The Director of Streets acknowledged that no criteria would be able to resolve the issue of visual amenity and parking completely, however officers were working towards improving the situation. The difficulty was that some would argue that on-street parking had a negative impact on the visual amenity and that a high number of the population had vehicles. It was noted that some boroughs had introduced policies which limited crossovers in CPZ areas, which had not been put in place in Croydon.

 

The Cabinet Member informed the Committee that the policy had been amended to allow flexibility for the width of crossovers which had followed lobbying from some ward councillors. The figures for successful application had risen and people were previously unsuccessful were encouraged to reapply where there had been no impact on on-street parking. The Cabinet Member confirmed that the policy should discourage horizontal parking and that if issues were raised the policy may undergo a further review as a one size fits all approach would not work considering the variation across the borough.

 

The Committee stressed that the character and heritage of the local area needed to be considered when applications were reviewed to ensure there was no detrimental effect on the street scene.

 

The Chair welcomed the openness of the approach and the work which had been undertaken, however suggested that amendments would need to be made to ensure there was no detrimental effect on one area. The policy needed to be mindful of the style of street, parking pressures and whether the property was within a CPZ.

 

The Committee came to the following conclusions:

  • Thanked officers for the report and discussion;
  • Agreed that different parts of the boroughs faced different parking pressures and that the recently introduced policy had tried to address those concerns by introducing a degree of flexibility;
  • That Members understood the pressures officers were under to assess crossover applications; however believed there were further amendments which could be made to improve the policy further;
  • Noted that areas with a predominantly early 20th Century Street scene were at more risk of off-street parking having a detrimental impact on the visual look of the local streets, due the small frontages of their gardens;
  • Noted that in CPZ areas that Croydon Council could lose on-going revenue from a parking bay, if the bay was removed to allow a cross over. Also noted that some other boroughs did not allow cross over in areas with parking bays;
  • Noted the restrictions the council could apply to turn down crossovers applications, including in areas of high parking stress, but no evidence was provided to this being used;
  • Noted that granting of crossovers reduced the number of parking spaces in the street permanently and can cause a domino effect. The reduction of on-street parking in one street can then increase the parking stress in neighbouring streets. It also reduced the amount of parking for visitors and trades to the area;
  • Expressed concern as to whether the policy's rules in regards environmental impact of water run-off were adequate;
  • Expressed concern that the rules in regards the size of cars and minimum space standards were too relaxed, and rules should be based on the size of largest cars sold, so to avoid oversized cars overshadowing the houses or parts of the car hanging over the edge of the pavements; and
  • Sought further clarification as the rules in regards to whether vehicles could park horizontal to a property, especially about how they entered or exit the off-street space.

RESOLVED: To

  1. Note the report;
  2. Recommend the Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment makes further amendments to the Vehicle Crossover policy, with the aim to preserve the street scene of those parts of borough in a manner that would not cause further parking stress;
  3. Recommend the rules in regards parallel parking are revisited as part of the review;
  4. Recommend the Council consider whether to designate some areas of Croydon as high parking stress areas and to consider the appropriate level of restrictions on cross-overs in those areas; and
  5. Recommend the Council review the policy to ensure it has adequate safeguards in regards water run-off.
     
A14/17 WORK PROGRAMME

The Committee noted that the remaining meeting of the Sub-Committee in 2016/17 would focus on the Stockholm Vision Zero initiative and vehicle collisions in Croydon.

 

RESOLVED: To agree the Scrutiny Work Programme 2016/17.
 

A15/17 [THE FOLLOWING MOTION IS TO BE MOVED AND SECONDED AS THE "CAMERA RESOLUTION" WHERE IT IS PROPOSED TO MOVE INTO PART B OF A MEETING]

The Chair informed the Committee that there was no business to be conducted in Part B of the agenda, in accordance with the Council's openness and transparency agenda.

MINUTES - PART B
  None
The meeting ended at 9.18pm