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  • Decision details

    Questions from members of the public

    Decision Maker: Council

    Decision status: Information Only

    Is Key decision?: No

    Is subject to call in?: No


    The Mayor reported that, under Standing Order 14, five questions had been received from members of the public.


    Three of those were present to put their questions at the meeting.


    Question from John Seaman:


    “To enhance equity may everyone who receives an answer to a written question at a meeting of Spelthorne Borough Council have the opportunity to ask a supplementary question?”


     “Is Flower Pot Green in Sunbury a registered village green?”


    Response from the Leader, Councillor Ian Harvey:


    “Thank you for your questions Mr. Seaman.

    The procedure for public questions and councillor questions is long-established.  There are no current plans to change the way that it works.  Whilst the opportunity to ask questions at Council is one of the rights which citizens have, it is by no means the only option that they have.  Residents who wish to engage with the Council should always speak first to their ward councillors who are the elected representatives for the area.  Your Councillors may have the answers you require or they can get the answers from officers.  On matters which relate to Cabinet issues I would also recommend residents to engage with the Portfolio Holder concerned.  In speaking with councillors directly you will find that you can ask as many supplementary questions as you like and you will most likely get the information you are seeking.


    On your second point - Flower Point Green is not a village green but open spaces in Spelthorne are protected under the Local Plan so there is no particular benefit from such a designation.


    In the current Local Plan, it is designated Protected Urban Open Space. We are in the process of reviewing the Plan and have proposed to remove that designation in favour of the national policy that protects all open space of public value, which will provide more protection than the current designation as we have lost some appeals for development on Protected Urban Open Space. We will also be assessing our spaces, including Flower Pot Green, for the higher level of protection offered by the Local Green Space designation that national policy also provides.” 


    Following the meeting the Council became aware that the response given was inaccurate and provided Mr Seaman with the following additional response:


    “Further to the questions below that you posed for the Spelthorne Council meeting last week, we were alerted to the possibility that the response you received in respect of Village Green status was incorrect. The background information to assist in the response was gathered by my team so we have investigated further.

    We can now confirm that the incorrect answer was given at Council, for which we apologise. It was given in good faith but we should have checked with Surrey County Council, who are the statutory commons land authority. We have the land listed as Common Land, however the Common Registration Act 1965 allowed a separation of Common Land and Village Greens on registration so Village Greens became their own entity.  The listing as a Village Green was made in 1968 and therefore should be registered as such. Both Common Land and Village Greens benefit from the same level of protection but the distinction between designations is to reflect the different purposes the land may have. For example, Common Land is more associated with rights to roam and other traditional rights such as grazing of livestock whereas Village Greens are registered by virtue of activities they host such as sports, pastimes and fetes.


    Common Land is shown on our Policies Map and Flower Pot Green is included within this designation but there is not a separate designation for Village Greens. This is something we can update as we’re reviewing the Local Plan and will produce a new Policies Map. We will liaise with the County Council to ensure we are correctly distinguishing the parcels of land between Common Land and Village Greens.”


    Question from Caroline Nichols:


    “This is a question about the Council’s forward plan for food and drink carton recycling.



    In 2008 Spelthorne Council introduced large collection containers at five recycling sites in the borough. The containers were supplied with a free collection service by ACE, the umbrella organisation for carton processing in the UK. After a while, they were replaced by small lockable black bins because of contamination at one or more sites, but my understanding is that the collection service remained free (as it does for all the ‘first wave’ councils who took up the five-container offer). In December 2017 Spelthorne discontinued the service.


    There is currently no doorstep carton collection and the only bring-site is a separate Surrey County Council facility at Charlton Lane. This, according to ACE statistics, means Spelthorne is one of only 6% of councils that does not make a systematic effort to collect cartons (a scheme which is now being extended to paper coffee cups). According to ACE, currently 66% of local authorities collect beverage cartons at kerbside.


    Why did the Council stop the bring-site collection? Are there plans to introduce doorstep recycling, and would the Council consider reintroducing carton collection at all bring sites?”




    Response from Councillor Richard Barratt, Portfolio Holder for Environment:


    “Thank you for your question Mrs Nichols.


    Most Waste Collection Authorities in Surrey County Council, including Spelthorne, have stopped collecting Tetrapak recently as part of the doorstep recycling stream, in bring bank and community centres, due to logistical and environmental reasons.


    Tetrakpak tends to have high contamination rates and is not widely used compared to other types of recyclable containers, making the whole recycling process unsustainable, disproportionally costly and difficult to maintain as the energy and resources required to for its recycling have a greater environmental impact than other alternatives to dispose of this type of container.


    Additionally, many Waste Disposal Authorities and waste managing contractors no longer accept Tetrapak and it is also no longer possible to ship this stream abroad to be recycled, as countries that used to accept recycling streams including Tetrapak have recently banned their import.


    That is why, after extraordinary exertions, we have decided to stop collecting Tetrapak as this takes too much valuable space, energy and assets that can be used for more popular recyclable materials with lower contamination rates, better sustainability and part of a circular economy.”


    The written response sent to Mrs Nichols following the meeting included this additional information:


    “The following article explains why although TetraPak is recyclable it is not environmentally friendly: https://treadingmyownpath.com/2014/09/11/why-tetra-paks-arent-green-even-though-theyre-recyclable/


    Question from Shadia Doerfel:


    “As a resident and voter within Spelthorne, and in the light of the May 2019 elections where Spelthorne residents voted to change the political make-up of the Council by voting in Greens, Libdems and Labour Councillors into the Council family, and given that the Local Plan intends to directly affect residents of Spelthorne for the next 15yrs, can the Council and Cabinet confirm that:


    (a) the Local Plan Working Group will be updated to reflect the residents' votes in and results of the May 2019 elections so that a representative of each democratically party forms part of this group's quorum? If not, why not? (It seems in light of the above that paragraph 8 of the 2018 FAQS is overtaken by the May 2019 elections and now appears undemocratic.) and

    (b) given the regard apparently demonstrated towards those who form part of the community or who work in green spaces such as Parks Officer Richard Leppard who was recently celebrated by Daniel Mouawad and Madam Mayor for 50yrs service, will the Council will similarly reach out to Spelthorne residents so that Council including Cabinet members and those who sit on the Local Plan Working Group will hold regular meetings and open forum events on a monthly or 6 weekly basis to engage residents in the development of the Local Plan so residents are not excluded from this crucial conversation?


    If not, why not?”


    Response from the Leader, Councillor Ian Harvey:


    “Thank you for your question Mrs Doerfel.


    I don’t agree that the political make-up of the Council changed in May 2019.  The Borough had the benefit of a Conservative majority administration before then and they were wise enough to return a Conservative majority administration for the next four years.  This demonstrates our residents trust in us to deal competently with the Local Plan. 


    As regards the Local Plan Working Party, this is a long-standing working group which has assisted Cabinet in its work for many years. It is not political and there is no requirement for political proportionality, as there are with some Council Committees, such as Overview and Scrutiny. Working parties and task groups are not formal committees, they are informal ways of dealing with larger pieces of work where officers and members need to work closely together over a period of time.  It is not a public committee because officers and members need the opportunity to debate matters privately whilst issues are at a formative stage.  This is common practice across local government.


    Although the May elections saw newly elected councillors from other political parties join the Council, my decision was to maintain the status quo by retaining Cllr Beardsmore on the group.  He has a long-standing involvement with both the planning committee and the Local Plan Working Party, he is well respected and his experience valued. Political proportionality is not the main criteria for a task group or working party, what matters more is the experience of the councillor and the contribution they can make. 


    When councillors seek to mislead or frighten the public by wrongly suggesting that our green spaces are under threat then they highlight how unsuitable they are to serve on such a working party.  We are seeking knowledge, competence and level headedness.  Councillors who demonstrate an unwillingness to take advice from officers or work collegiately with other councillors on a non-political basis also rule themselves out. 


    As regards the second part of your question:  Work on the new Local Plan has been progressing for a number of years and the first public consultation on Issues and Options took place in May and June 2018. This was the first opportunity for our communities to give us their views on strategic options for how the Local Plan should progress. The responses we had to the consultation are being used to help shape and develop our strategy before we carry out further consultation in the autumn. We continue to have regular engagement with our communities throughout this process and all councillors will be able to play a part in the development of the Local Plan even if they are not part of the working group as it is still in the engagement and scoping stage.” 


    Question from Rachel Batsford


    The following public question was read out at the meeting by the Head of Corporate Governance in the absence of the questioner:


    “Why has Richmond Road, Staines been denied Parking Permits although a petition was signed by the qualifying percentage of residents in favour of a permit scheme? All other roads surrounding the town centre have been granted them (I refer to Zone A, B, C, D & E)?


    Why has the council proposed a 15 storey development on the site of the old BUPA building in Staines when the profile of all surrounding buildings in Staines is much lower? This will set a terrible precedent for further developments overlooking the river, spoiling the skyline of our historic town.


    Please can the council reconsider the design of this development to be more in keeping with the area?”


    Response provided at the meeting by the Leader, Councillor Ian Harvey:


    “Thank you for your questions Ms Batsford.

    In response to your first question. Although Spelthorne Borough Council manages the enforcement of parking locally, it doesn’t have the authority to decide which streets are covered by Controlled Parking Zones.  The County Council is the Highway Authority and these are matters which they decide.  Notwithstanding this, Spelthorne and Surrey work together through the Spelthorne Joint Committee which would be the appropriate forum to consider and decide such matters. We advise that the appropriate course of action is for you to approach your County Council Divisional Member for their engagement.


    In response to your second question. The scheme’s height and massing has carefully evolved in consultation with key stakeholders including planners, the public and an independent regional design review panel. This is not the only site in Staines where tall buildings will be developed. There are already consented examples such as Bridge Street Car Park (12 storeys), London Square (10 storeys) and the former Centrica site (14 storeys).  Also, it is important to recognise central government imposes annual housing targets upon the Council. If we don’t intensify development on brownfield sites in sustainable town centre locations, then we will not be able to demonstrate a supply of future housing in sufficient numbers.  Failure to deliver housing puts pressure on our valuable green belt land, as developers will seek to exploit the failure to deliver in the town centres.  The town centres, particularly Staines are viewed as being the most appropriate location for accommodating sustainable higher density developments given their location next to local facilities and transport links. 


    Although the Council is promoting this development with its housing company, Knowle Green Estates Ltd, it is important to remember that the Planning Committee will have the final decision on whether the plans are appropriate for the area.” 


    Question from Paul Street:


    This question and answer was circulated in writing to all present at the meeting as Mr Street was not in attendance:


    “We notice that Spelthorne BC procure their electricity for their estate and operations from nPower via the Kent Council Laser energy buying group. This is electricity from a fuel mix of some of the lowest proportions of renewable energy and highest of fossil fuels. Why is Spelthorne not switching to 100% renewable electricity supplier in the interest of climate change, especially when it appears it would be economically more advantageous to do so? Some other councils within Surrey have already made the switch and others are planning to do so. And secondly, but directly related, do Spelthorne BC plan to declare a meaningful climate emergency with targets and an action plan?”


    Response provided in writing from Councillor Richard Barratt, Portfolio Holder for Environment:


    “Thank you for your question Mr Street. 


    As regards the first part of your question on energy procurement: 


    As you correctly observe, Spelthorne Council procures its energy through the public sector energy buying group LASER. We have a four year term agreement under which they procure our energy, including electricity. They also provide the Council with a full energy bureau service including bill validation, online reporting and monitoring, query management and additional services. Our current agreement ends in Sept 2020 and we have already started work to review what we will purchase in future.  In the draft specification we are including green energy supply options.


    Energy supply is just one element of Spelthorne’s work to improve sustainability.  We have had success in making our buildings more energy efficient, reducing the amount of energy we consume and the associated carbon emissions. We have undertaken numerous projects across our estate to date, reducing energy use by 24% and also have solar installations on a number of our properties including most recently on two of our Day Centres.  We also work with the community to improve their use of energy.  We support homes in fuel poverty through the Governments ECO: Help to Heat Scheme and a Capital fund. Through this scheme 348 energy efficient measures have been installed in fuel poor homes in Spelthorne in the last year and 2,643 measures since the scheme began in 2014. We have also supported 70 Park Homes with new boiler and heating controls.


    This list of Council projects includes


    Council Offices:

    Loft Insulation

    Cavity Wall insulation

    Energy Efficient Lighting

    Powerperfector (Voltage optimiser)

    Draught proofing

    Boiler optimisation & pipe insulation

    Switch off controls for photocopiers, printers and dispensers

    Behavioural change campaign (previously Green Champions)

    New double glazed windows (as part of office refurbishment programme, rather than the sustainability programme)


    White House Depot:

    Powerperfector (Voltage optimiser)

    Switch off controls

    Boiler optimisation

    Light sensors in Mess Room


    Tothill MSCP:

    Powerpefector (Voltage optimiser)

    Energy Efficient Lighting


    Elmsleigh MSCP:

    Energy Efficient Lighting


    Greeno Day Centre:

    Energy Efficient Lighting

    Re-Commissioning of air handling unit

    Correct operation of Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs)

    Boiler optimisation

    Cavity Wall Insulation


    Fordbridge Day Centre:

    Energy Efficient Lighting

    Correct operation of TRVs

    Boiler optimisation

    Cavity Wall Insulation


    Staines Day Centre:

    Energy Efficient Lighting

    Boiler optimisation



    The Solar PV installations at Staines and Fordbridge Day Centres now generate 15% of their onsite electricity use.


    We have Electric Vehicle charging points in our two multi-storey car parks in Staines Town Centre and for staff at our Knowle Green offices.


    As regards the second part of your question:


    Many councils have declared a climate emergency but very few have put any meaningful plans behind it.  This is purely meaningless tokenism and is not the way this Council operates. This Council will wish to consider its agenda carefully in light of the progress we have made in our 2016-2019 Sustainability Strategy.  This covers nine key areas.  Energy efficiency; Water efficiency; Waste and pollution; Sustainable procurement; Sustainable planning, housing, and regeneration; Sustainable transport and travel; Biodiversity and open spaces; Awareness and engagement; Risks and adaptation.


    Once officers have reported on the outcomes of this strategy and the way forward for the Council, we will consider how we can meaningfully improve our targets to bring about a net zero carbon Borough and the timescales to achieve this.


    I should also point out that that we are taking other tangible practical steps to improve the environment in addition to those mentioned above such as strongly advocating for the environmentally friendly Southern Light Rail linking Staines and the main rail network to a newly expanded Heathrow, and the scheme currently underway of planting 851 trees in the Borough. In Spelthorne we don’t just make worthless statements, we actually do things. I look forward to hearing your support for these positive measures.”


    The Mayor confirmed that the responses would be sent to the questioners in writing following the meeting.


    Publication date: 06/08/2019

    Date of decision: 18/07/2019

    Decided at meeting: 18/07/2019 - Council

    Accompanying Documents: