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Website URL : http://www.swansea.gov.uk/index.cfm?articleid=619
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Agenda and minutes

Venue: Committee Room 1 - Civic Centre, Swansea. View directions

Contact: Scrutiny 636292 

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

·         None

2.

Disclosure of Personal and Prejudicial Interests

Minutes:

·         None

3.

Notes pdf icon PDF 123 KB

To approve & sign the Notes of the previous meeting(s) as a correct record.

Minutes:

·         Approved

4.

Public Questions

Questions must relate to matters on the open part of the Agenda of the meeting, and will be dealt with in a 10 minute period

 

Minutes:

·         None

5.

Question and Answer Session - Corporate Property Services and Corporate Building Services pdf icon PDF 120 KB

·         Geoff Bacon – Head Corporate Property Services

·         Nigel Williams - Interim Head of Corporate Building Services

 

Minutes:

  • Outlined the aim and objectives of the inquiry
  • Brief overview of the meeting with the planning department

Head of Corporate Property Services – Q&A

  • There are occasions when land is not disposed of due to ecological reasons
  • Due diligence means that land has ecology surveys done at the start and this will establish how marketable it is or whether to retain it
  • Only then will the land go on the disposal list
  • Land is given a value differently depending on whether that land is for sale or for lease
  • Tree Protection Orders don’t tend to be put on Council land
  • Environmental factors are considered and then a financial estimate is developed by the team
  • There is a direct conflict between income maximisation and environmental issues which is a fundamental issue
  • Policy determines this conflict and an outcome comes from negotiation
  • Any statutory restriction will override any Council policy
  • Debates arise over environmental mitigation
  • There isn’t a lot of contact with external agencies such as NRW unless necessary. Generally any issues go through the Nature Conservation Team
  • External ecology surveys are sometimes undertaken on potential sites but the cost of undertaking these investigations needs to be offset by any income – it has to be financially viable
  • There is emerging work which has a greater emphasis on ecosystems and the benefits of land such as flood and carbon alleviation – this means that land may be much more valuable than first thought
  • Could there be potential for long term income rather than selling assets and only having one lot of money from the land
  • The external data and surveys which are done are shared with ecology
  • The land availability for development is very small – most of the land in Swansea will never be developed
  • Generating income from a piece of land would be great but it takes staff to manage it and departments do not have the resources
  • Someone needs to manage land with income generating projects and all land needs a co-ordinated approach
  • Corporate Property Services do not manage any enforcement on the land. Enforcement is only monitored through other departments such a planning (if subject to planning) and other ecological enforcement
  • People are prepared to take the risk and financial penalty for damaging land and species if it makes profit/ensures land development
  • There are not enough resources for legitimate enforcement
  • Local Councillors have a big role to play in reporting issues which require enforcement, if there is enough publicity it should deter people from doing them
  • There is potential overage (clawback of money) if a developer expands the site they are issued and builds more properties making the land more valuable retrospectively
  • Is the pre-application process fit for purpose and considering connectivity and other environmental issues – there may be potential to tighten this process up
  • The right people need to be involved early on to ensure that the everyone is engaged in the process properly
  • There could be potential to invest in the land which has value (the land which is marked for sale) and create long term income from it
  • There are resource issues in all teams to manage problems and create opportunities
  • Promotion and management of land costs money and this is at the other end of the aims of the service – to increase immediate income

Corporate Building Services

  • The team link in with the Nature Conservation where they need to
  • No building/premise manager is able to circumvent laws and link in with ecologists regarding bats etc when they need to
  • The team are very keen on recycling and maintaining the natural environment
  • The apprentices (in particular) are showing great initiative with recycling and reusing and are looking for opportunities to increase benefits to nature
  • Would like to see a ‘top down’ approach to the issue of biodiversity and ensure the message is really filtered through the organisation in the same way that other important messages have
  • The service would like ‘tool box’ talks on the issues and would welcome training and information which allows them to contribute to the issue
  • Ecology surveys are done at ‘trigger points’ e.g. roof work not for example annually
  • Each premise manager would welcome opportunities to enhance the wildlife of their premise and there could be training/top tips issued to each one
  • There is no lack of desire to contribute to this important issue and ensure that the environment is maintained for future generations
  • Again a lack of enforcement and deterrent is a big issue as people know there is no negative impact on them
  • It would be really beneficial to have this as a corporate objective so that the status of the issue can be raised and the message stronger throughout the organisation

Discussion

  • There can be confusion around over who manages pieces of land both for the public and internally
  • There is a piece of work being undertaken at the moment to try and make this easier and the responsibility and management of the land is clearer
  • There is no lack of will to pay regard and contribute to the enhancement of biodiversity
  • Much of the restrictions come from a lack of resources
  • There are also success stories and a lot of positive work
  • The Council cannot police all sites and they rely on ward members and householders to contact the Council with any issues they see
  • The council lease 50+ fields for grazing mainly via short term Farm Business Tenancies that are often based on old guidelines/legislation that could bring the council and the tenant into conflict with current WG legislation.
  • There is no baseline data of what habitats and species are present which is needed to ensure the correct grazing regime is set up and inappropriate works e.g. over/under grazing, re seeding, turf removal are prevented.
  • The grazing sites need to be surveyed to ensure the correct grazing and management regime is set up.
  • Grazing is a valuable site management tool as it is an income generator, reduces costs of contractors and machinery and stops the need for use of herbicides.
  • Income from existing grazing agreements can be used to pay for the surveys
  • Looking at adding biodiversity as a Corporate objective
  • Biodiversity and environmental issues needs to be embedded in all services and employees
  • This starts from the top down and it is starting to happen
  • The issue has substantial public support

 

 

Contacts:
© 2011 City and County of Swansea
Civic Centre, Oystermouth Road, Swansea. SA1 3SN. Tel: 01792 636000 Fax: 01792 636340