To answer questions submitted by Councillors under Standing Order No. 11(2)
a) Question from Councillor J Walker to Councillor Mason
“The sadness and uncertainty we have collectively had to face since the beginning of the pandemic has also been coupled with a wonderful community spirit shown by many in our borough. Towns, villages and hamlets across Rushcliffe have come to together to support their most vulnerable neighbours and shown what community and society can do at a grassroots level. In my ward, Ruddington, the COVID-19 Mutual Aid Group set up before the announcement of lockdown saw key institutions come together and mobilise hundreds of volunteers in a matter of days.
What can we do at Rushcliffe Borough Council to continue to nurture and inspire our residents to volunteer in their communities, keeping this energy and good spirit functioning into the future?”
Councillor Mason responded that the Council had always supported and worked with communities and that this was never more so than in the last few months. She reminded Councillors that, whilst the lockdown restrictions had been lifted, things had not changed, and that the country might well see another Covid-19 spike in the winter, so it was imperative that the Council did all that it could to keep the community support volunteers enthused. She referred to the Rushcliffe Reach project, which had been awarding grants to individuals and groups working hard in their communities to support vulnerable people and she asked Councillors to encourage groups to come forward for grants.
Councillor Mason urged Councillors to help communities to build upon what they had achieved in the last few months and to make plans for the winter months to ensure that vulnerable people had the support they needed if asked to shield again.
Councillor J Walker asked if there was a way that the Council could organise practical support across the Borough.
Councillor Mason replied that she felt it was important to keep the support at a local level so that it could be appropriate and responsive to each individual community.
b) Question from Councillor Gowland to Councillor Inglis
“What homeless prevention measures have RBC used during lockdown?”
Councillor Inglis responded that addressing homelessness was an ongoing commitment and not one specific to the Covid-19 pandemic. Councils across Nottinghamshire had pledged that no one should need to be homeless within the county. In addition to the Government’s positive action on preventing landlord evictions, the Council had continued to work with residents at risk of becoming homeless, through the provision of advice and support along with the Council’s partners, including Citizens’ Advice. As part of the Local Resilience Forum, the Council had also been instrumental in encouraging the provision of the two additional temporary domestic abuse refuges, which were providing a vital safe-haven for those fleeing difficult situations in the home. Furthermore, the Council had also responded to the Government’s ‘Everyone In’ initiative and had offered accommodation for rough sleepers who had been found in the Borough.
Councillor Gowland asked whether the ‘Everybody In’ initiative had been withdrawn.
Councillor Inglis replied that the Council was committed to the initiative until September 2020, and would assess the situation with regard to Covid-19 at that point.
c) Question from Councillor Jones to Councillor Upton
“Is it the case that the Government’s Permitted Development Rights Regulations enable offices to be converted into flats, with 2 storeys added to the height and with no regard to minimum living spaces, without Planning Permission?"
Councillor Upton responded that Permitted Development Rights for conversion of offices to residential properties had been introduced several years ago. New Permitted Development Rights had just been approved by the Government and had come into effect on 1 August 2020. They would enable developers to add two-storeys to existing ‘purpose built’ blocks of flats where the resultant height of the block did not exceed 30m. The regulations did not impose minimum living spaces.
Councillor Jones thanked Councillor Upton for confirming the details and asked if Cabinet were happy that this message had been passed to developers in the Borough and whether Cabinet would consider lobbying Central Government to bring in minimum habitable space requirements.
Councillor Upton replied that he did not believe that the Borough had many properties of this type; however, he reiterated that as that change was law, developers should already be aware of it. He advised that he did not feel it necessary to lobby the Government on this matter.
d) Question from Councillor Thomas to Councillor Moore
“How and when will the Council be developing its CIL "Infrastructure Funding Statement" and how will members be involved in this process and the public consulted?”
Councillor Moore responded that the Council was required to publish an Infrastructure Funding Statement (IFS) annually, and by no later than 31 December of each year. No CIL had been received in the period 2019-2020, with only a small amount sent out in demand notices issued that year. Officers were already starting to pull together the information required for the IFS.
Councillor Thomas asked how the Council would ensure that Councillors and residents were involved in the development of the statement.
Councillor Moore responded that there was no requirement to consult the public on the strategic or the neighbourhood portion passed to town and parish councils; although town and parish councils mighty want to consider their own procedures for engaging with their communities. Officers were, however, in the process of preparing some guidance for town and parish councils, which would cover the process by which they would receive CIL funds, what those funds could be spent on, including the bidding process for any strategic portion of CIL that they might also seek to utilise, and their reporting responsibilities. Where there was no town or parish council, for example in West Bridgford or areas with a parish meeting that was where the funds would be be spent by the Borough Council, in consultation with the local community. The procedures for community engagement in the West Bridgford area were being developed in consultation with the West Bridgford Special Expenses Group.