Agenda item

Questions asked under Standing Order 7(1)(2) and (5).


(A)       Mr Hunt asked the following question of the Leader or his nominee:


“1.    What involvement has the County Council had in this regeneration project involving Bedford Square, Ward’s End and Devonshire Square in Loughborough Town Centre?

2.     What financial contribution to the scheme has been made, and what work has been done so far by the County Council?

3.     Could you confirm that the County Council has previously adopted these streets and whether that has ceased?

4.     When the project is completed, what maintenance responsibilities does the County Council expect to have, and will they be similar to those of Loughborough Market Place (including Cattle Market and Market Street)?

5.     Has the County Council agreed the design of the project and specifically the choice of stone and the kerbs which are already spoken of as a hazard to pedestrians and cyclists?

6.     Does the commendable 20mph limit conform throughout the town centre (e.g. High Street, Swan Street, Derby Square and within the Inner Relieve Road), if not, could this be considered for safety and uniformity?

7.     Why is it that the Borough Council engages such highways projects in Loughborough when the County Council is the Local Transport Authority?

8.     Are there any other recent examples of District Councils contracting similar highways projects?”


Mr O’Shea replied as follows:


“1.    Leicestershire County Council (LCC) is the Highway Authority (HA) for the roads named and as such requires a third party working on the highway to have an appropriate approval to do so. Charnwood Borough Council (CBC) has entered into a section 278 of the Highways Act agreement with LCC in order for them to be able to complete the project.

2.     No financial contribution has been made by LCC. The project is being funded exclusively by CBC. As part of the s278 approval process, LCC officers have appraised the design submitted by CBCs design consultant against the standards contained within the Leicestershire Highways Design Guide (LHDG) in order to issue technical approval.  Legal Services have prepared the s278 agreement.


During construction on the site, officers have inspected the works to monitor the standard of workmanship and compliance with the approved drawings.

3.     These streets are adopted public highway and continue to be. However, under the terms of the s278 agreement, CBC are responsible for maintaining their works until such time they have fully complied with the terms of the s278 agreement, and a final certificate is issued.

4.     CBC will be responsible for maintenance of the site for a minimum period of 12 months upon substantial completion of the works. Upon issue of the final certificate, the road will then revert to be the maintenance responsibility of LCC.


5.     As a standard process with all third party/developer promoted schemes, detailed design drawings are required to be submitted to the Highway Authority for technical approval. In preparing and submitting their proposals, the works promoter is expected to comply with the Authority’s standards contained in the Leicestershire Highway Design Guide, or other local & national design standards (as appropriate). In issuing technical approval, LCC is not verifying the buildability of the works promoter’s proposals, just that they have demonstrated compliance with relevant design standards. Any technical approval is provided with the caveat that the promoter may be required to change or amend their proposals to address their responsibilities under the terms of the Legal Agreement and in response to any matters raised within road safety audits carried out at various stages of a project and reflecting specifics of the local environment. For this project LCC gave technical approval for the original design submission in February 2021 e.g. compliance with the relevant design standards. As the works have progressed a number of issues have arisen, which CBC through their designer have been working to resolve in accordance with their responsibilities under the S278 agreement. It is the responsibility of the works promoter to ensure approval is in place before construction and that construction is undertaken in accordance with that approved design. Any variations will be inspected and, if necessary, defects will be addressed prior to the issuing of a final certificate.


6.     The 20mph limit will only cover Wards End and the Cattle Market from the entrance of the Wards End car park to the junction with Granby Street. This was the extents that the works promoter CBC requested in order to facilitate the Public Realm scheme.


An extension to the 20mph limit could be considered by CBC or LCC, but this would be subject to a viability assessment and further funding, the extent of which could be significant should an assessment determine the need for speed reducing features to make it self-enforcing.


I have asked officers to let you have a plan of the extents of the 20mph limit.


7.     As the aims and objectives of the scheme are to improve the public realm and promote regeneration, this is not the role of the Highway Authority and therefore this isn’t a highway project, but a Public Realm project delivered by CBC using funding available to them for town centre regeneration.  I am aware that the project has had a lot of public criticism on safety grounds, which have come the way of the County Council as the Highway Authority.  It does need to be made clear, as above, that it is a CBC project and public criticism, and concerns should be directed to them.


8.     As per Q7, this type of scheme is driven by the aim of improving the public realm and regeneration of a particular area.  North West Leicestershire District Council (NWLDC) is currently working towards delivering a similar type of project, and other district and parish councils are investigating the possibility of similar such projects.”


Mr Hunt asked the following supplementary question:


“I have a supplementary question on question 5 which relates to the public criticism of the safety of new paving being installed. I echo these concerns having spoken to a number of people who have tripped and fallen. Members will have seen a Leicester Mercury article of a cyclist who fell and injured his knee and I have spoken to an experienced cyclist who tripped while walking with her bike. The paving is clearly dangerous.


In the answer to question 5 the Lead Member refers to the Section 278 agreement. Given that there appears to be evidence that the works carried out by Charnwood Borough Council are causing concern and are a danger to the public could I be assured that the County Council will inspect the works carried out and if necessary, require any defects to be addressed before a final certificate is issued?”


Mr O’Shea replied as follows:


“I can assure Mr Hunt that the works will be inspected, and a final certificate will only be issued when the County Council is satisfied with the works carried out.”


(B)       Mr Hunt asked the following question of the Leader or his nominee:


“1.    On 20th January 2022 the Director of Environment and Transport published a report stating that there were “a number of savings which are not yet currently developed enough to be able to quantify and build into the detailed savings schedules” and added that “Potential to see whether increasing wildflower populations on verges provides opportunities for reductions in grass cutting in urban areas. But on 6th May 2022 the Authority published a press release saying “a partnership with local wildlife charity NatureSpot, aims to improve biodiversity and encourage wildlife, by leaving wildflowers to flourish on urban roadside verges across Leicestershire”. I understand that “leaving wildflowers to flourish” also represents a cut in our grass cutting service. What is the previous and proposed number of cuts in these urban areas?


2.     Which streets will this affect in Loughborough?


3.     The press release suggests that the policy involves “volunteers and parishes giving up their time to restore the verges, including the sowing of native wildflower seeds”. When will the sowing begin and how will the locations be chosen?


4.     Will restoration of verges include streets on former council estates, like Schofield Road?


5.     Will those with a “licence to cultivate” be included in the scheme with a requirement to reduce grass cutting and substitute a wildflower initiative?


6.     Given the importance of this policy and the pride that residents consistently show in well maintained grass verges, will the authority produce a suitable communication directly to residents?


7.     What is the saving in the current financial year and why wasn’t it included in the MTFS in line with good practice?


8.     What other “savings are under development” are likely to be included in this financial year that were not included in the MTFS?”


Mr Pain replied as follows:


 “1.   The current number of urban grass cuts is a minimum of six per year. For the sites included within this scheme there would be one cut in the autumn and collection of the grass from the site one week after cutting.


2.     There are no Urban Wildlife Verges in the town of Loughborough, but several verges have been taken by individual parish councils in the Charnwood Borough Council area.


3.     The purpose is not to ‘plant’ wildflowers but encourage natural regeneration through the reduction of cuts and allowing the natural ingress of wildflowers. Sowing of seeds is not necessary everywhere, only to give a boost to biodiversity in some areas where species content is low. This will also support existing species to thrive in the main summer season and re-seed in the autumn.


4.     Verges are selected in places where the district council or parish council can support a contract or volunteers to deliver the later cuts and collection of arisings.


5.     Individual residents can deliver the same approach as parishes by obtaining a ‘licence to cultivate’ outside their homes. Those who currently hold a licence to cultivate will not be required to substitute a wildflower verge.


6.     Communications about specific verges being considered for the Urban Wildlife Scheme are issued via parish councils. We have a verge agreement that stipulates the need for consultation locally about any verges in the Urban Wildlife Verge scheme. The County Council publicises the benefits of the scheme, the Environment Policy and Strategy Team have been offering workshops for Councillors, parish council staff and district and borough representatives willing to engage in the scheme, to explain the value of the scheme for nature and the process of entering and ways of managing.  We also publish information here  54 parish councils are participating in this 2022 season and there are already four additional expressions of interest for the 2023 season.


7.     The sites included within this scheme represent less than one percent of the total number of verges that are treated each year therefore there will be no material cost savings in not cutting these sites.

8.     At this present time, there are currently no savings ‘under development’ that are expected to be included in this financial year’s MTFS.


Mr Hunt asked the following supplementary question:


“My question revolves around the confusion between reducing the number of cuts in urban areas which was announced in the MTFS as a project in hand and whether that applies to the wildflower project which was announced in a press release. I think we need very clear explanation of where these two schemes meet, if they meet at all, and what reduction in cuts in urban areas are being proposed or are likely to be proposed?”


Mr Pain responded as follows:


I believe the answer is exceedingly clear. The current number of urban cuts is a minimum of six per year.