Following the Council’s adoption of the Better Lives for All Strategy in September 2021, the Committee was provided with an update on the Built and Natural Environment strand of the Better Lives for All Strategy.
In discussion, the following points were raised:
(a) The Build projects in Salcombe were slightly behind schedule but the completion date was expected to be before the end of the year with the Business Units currently being out to Tender. Whilst not in a position to predict the tendering process, the local wish (and demand) for these Units to be secured by businesses connected to the marine industry was recognised;
(b) With regard to Action BN1.1 (Supporting the Delivery of Neighbourhood Plans), it was confirmed that the Council was doing all it could to resolve the issue with the wish to modify the Salcombe Neighbourhood Plan, however the delay lie with the Planning Inspector. In response to a further question regarding whether the Committee could be advised of the Towns/Parishes that had not yet or were not intending to develop Neighbourhood Plans, it was confirmed that developing such plans was a matter for each Town or Parish Council (T&PC) to decide upon. As a result, the Council was always happy to encourage and facilitate the creation of Neighbourhood Plans, but could not insist that a T&PC develop one;
(c) In respect of Action BN1.2 (Facilitate Urban Tree Planting), officers advised that the Tree Planting Plan extended into the 2023/24 Year and that officers would be asked to liaise with local Ward Members about potential planting sites in their Wards;
(d) Referencing Action BN1.5 (Commission Work Leading to Delivery of Priority Cycle Routes and a Twenty Year Vision for the Cycle Network in the South Hams), officers informed that the Tender exercise to select the Consultants to produce the report to identify and prioritise potential cycle routes in the district would be circulated by January 2023 with a view to receiving the final report in mid 2023. This exercise was to be funded through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund monies. It was further confirmed that the consultation exercise with the public, Town and Parish Councils and with other parties, such as the Dartmoor National Park, would be fundamental to the report and the development of the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP).
In response to a question about whether or not the LCWIP work would continue should the Council’s latest bid to the Government for investment not be successful, it was confirmed that Devon County Council could still undertake a high level exercise which would likely result in a lower level of local engagement, but that it would still be a matter for this Council to decide whether it wished to make the funding available for the exercise as part of its Better Lives for All Corporate Strategy;
(e) On the matter of Action BN1.6 (Work to Facilitate the Delivery of Broadband Connectivity Where it is Needed – Supporting Digital Infrastructure for the Future), it was noted that contracts to install Fibre Broadband within the District were not held with the Council but were national contracts and as such it was almost impossible to gather information from the suppliers about their installation plans but that the Council was doing its utmost to facilitate the work and inform local residents about the progress of the installation. A Member highlighted that the text of this Action within the Thematic Update document might imply that the Council had responsibility for, or control over, the Fibre installation programme and suggested that making a revision to the wording would help to clarify the Council’s position. It was agreed that the text would be amended for the next iteration of this Delivery Plan.
In addition, since a number of local authorities in the County were experiencing similar problems, the suggestion was made that the item be added to the agenda of the forthcoming Devon Districts Forum meeting, which was attended by the Leader of Council, following which any affected Councils could approach Devon County Council with a joint request for improved engagement with the both the installation providers and Connecting Devon and Somerset. The Committee subsequently expressed its support for this course of action.
In concluding the item it was PROPOSED, SECONDED, and at the subsequent vote, AGREED that the Recommendation be amended to take account of the actions that the Leader of Council and Assistant Director for Strategy and Projects had committed to undertaking during the debate.
It was then:
That the Overview and Scrutiny Committee note the progress made against the Better Lives for All thematic delivery plan for Built & Natural Environment and request that the Leader of Council and Assistant Director for Strategy and Projects take into account and action the comments raised during the debate.