Agenda item

Agenda item

Questions from Councillors

To receive members’ questions under procedure rule no.11.  The procedure rule provides that any member may ask the Chairman of a board or group any question on any matter in relation to which the Council has powers or duties which affect the District, provided that three clear days’ notice in writing has been given to the Head of Legal and Commercial Services.


There were five questions asked which are set out below together with the responses.  Each Member who asked a question was invited by the Chair to ask one supplementary question which is also set out together with the response.


Question from Councillor Sheahan


‘The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has been reported by the BBC as saying councils are frequently failing to use their powers to tackle anti-social behaviour. In the same report, the Local Government Association were quoted as saying, “…it is vital all agencies – including the Government – ensure all measures in the ASB Plan launched earlier this year are adequately resourced.” Paragraph 40 of the Government’s ASB Plan, says, “while the police, local authorities and other agencies have a range of powers to tackle anti-social behaviour, they do not use them consistently, or, at times, enough.


Does the Council recognise these issues?’


Response from Councillor M Wyatt


‘All local authorities within Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland have committed to following a shared procedure relating to tackling antisocial behaviour to ensure that there is both consistency and best practice applied across the area.


The procedure requires councils and the police to apply an incremental approach to tackling ASB. The approach details the breadth of powers available which range from informal approaches such as providing advice and the issuing of warning letters through to using formal legal powers such as community protection notices, injunctions, closures, and public space protection orders.


When tackling ASB officers start with an informal approach and move along the range of powers incrementally until a resolution can be reached.


When officers consider the use of legal powers the Council’s legal team are engaged and the views of the Joint Action Group (JAG) are sought before acting. The membership of the JAG includes a range of agencies namely the police, schools, social care, youth justice and others as required.


The Council has a track record of making use of the full range of informal resolutions and formal legal powers to resolve ASB issues. The issue of advice and warning letters are a regular occurrence and were most recently used with recent injunctions to resolve a serious issue in June this year into ASB and violence between neighbours in Coalville.


In conclusion, I can confirm that this Council does not recognise the issues in the quote from Paragraph 40 of the Government’s ASB Plan and sees that its practice of managing ASB accords with the best practice highlighted above.


Full details on the Council’s ASB policy can be found at Anti-social Behaviour Policy (


Supplementary question and response


Councillor S Sheahan asked for evidence including benchmarking information to prove that the council accords with best practice.  Councillor M Wyatt confirmed he would be happy to provide the information outside of the meeting.


Question from Councillor J Legrys


‘At Council on the 20 June 2023, I asked Councillor Saffell a question about the reopening of the Right of Way between London Road to Stephenson Way Coalville. The Right of Way is closed due to unsafe structures.


Councillor Saffell replied that the issue is complex, but he would be providing me with regular updates on progress to reopen the Right of Way.


I am disappointed that I have had no such regular update and I would be grateful if I can be informed when the Right of Way will be re-opened?’


Response from Councillor Saffell


Further to my response to the previous question raised on this matter at Council on 20 June 2023, I am advised that there were initially five or six walls in a dangerous condition and which led to the footpath within the park being fenced off. Officers have now had some feedback from LCC Highways who are leading on the matter as the footpath adjoins their public right of way. They have advised that there are now just two walls which need repairing by the owners. Officers are advised by LCC that there has been no response from those remaining owners so the matter will now be handled by the County Council’s legal team who will start the legal process to enable repair of the wall. They have also advised that, unfortunately, this may take some time now it has become a legal process as there could be challenges regarding ownership and responsibility.


I can also advise that some of the temporary fencing has now been removed which means that residents can now access and egress the park from the jitty at northern end from Albert Road without having to walk all the way to the London Road entrance. In the meantime, Officers from the District and County Councils are looking into the position of the two remaining dangerous walls along the footpath so they can decide whether or not further parts can be reopened.


While I can’t give a specific date when the footpath will be totally reopened, progress is being made and as soon as I have more information from officers, I will update Cllr Legrys further.


Supplementary question and response


Councillor J Legrys asked if the residents in that area that used the route regularly could be kept informed via a press release, regarding what action was being taken.  Councillor A Saffell confirmed a press release could be issued.


Question from Councillor R Sutton


The last meeting of Council recommended, under Agenda 11, ‘Appointments to Community Bodies’, appointments to East Midlands Councils and the Regional Migration Board:


In what sense are these ‘community bodies’ independent of this Council and, if, on the other hand, membership of and influence via these two bodies indicates a democratic function, how are policy setting, accountability to Council members and our electorate, and open and transparent decision making all ensured, making specific reference to:


a)       Transport investment and delivery for rail and roads impinging on the District,


b)       The temporary housing and permanent resettlement of asylum seekers in the District?


Response from Councillor R Blunt


I have liaised with and taken advice from East Midlands Councils in preparing the response to this question.


§  East Midlands Councils is independent partnership body that works on behalf local authorities in the region.  East Midlands Councils provides a platform for collective work and decision making and is accountable to its Local Authority membership.


§  Each member council has one seat by virtue of its membership, additional seats are allocated on the basis of political balance.  All East Midlands Councils boards are politically-led, with decisions made by Local Authority councillors (including leaders and portfolio holders) from within its membership. 


§  All councillors in the region are invited to the plenary meetings of East Midlands Councils (two per year) and the agenda, papers and minutes of all Board meetings are publicly accessible.


§  Policy setting, in respect to where East Midlands Councils has these responsibilities, is through the politically led Boards, including the collective regional response to nationally set policy, e.g., the implementation of asylum dispersal programmes, or in the case of strategic transport investment.  Boards agree a collective response to inform the prioritisation of nationally directed investment, e.g. the Integrated Rail Plan.


§  East Midlands Councils does not have responsibility for deciding the numbers, or location, of asylum dispersal (including contingency hotels).  This is a nationally determined programme, undertaken in consultation with East Midlands Councils and local authorities.  Similarly, while East Midlands Councils seeks to influence the prioritisation of strategic road and rail investment, decisions remain either nationally determined, or though the respective Local Transport Authority as appropriate.


Supplementary question and response


Councillor R Sutton stated that East Midlands Councils did set policies when required and made decisions, therefore he asked Councillor R Blunt if he agreed that residents should be able to access these minutes and therefore should be tabled at Council meetings.  Councillor R Blunt could not provide a response as some further work was required on the appropriate process for feeding back from community bodies, therefore a response would be provided outside of the meeting.


Question from Councillor Sewell

‘Having recently been frustrated by the Planning process at this Council, I would like to ask the following question:

Call-ins from Ward Members/neighbouring Ward Members are refused on a regular basis, from what I gather from my colleagues, even when strong material planning considerations are put forward.

I believe the refusal to allow call-in is decided by the Chairman of the Planning Committee, along with the Strategic Director of Place.

When a Ward Member/neighbouring Ward Member puts forward a call-in, they do so with prior local knowledge, and because of local constituents’ concerns. The Strategic Director of Place, Planning Officers and Chair won’t always be aware of these ‘local’ matters and totally rely on the Planning Portal for resident comments – this portal isn’t always useable or accessible by members of the public.

Will consideration please be given to at least allow Ward Members/neighbouring Ward Members to be present at the discussion appertaining to the particular application they have the concern about? Phone calls or emails refusing call-ins aren’t giving Ward Members the clarity necessary to provide the right information to concerned constituents on contentious planning issues.’


Response from Councillor A Saffell


The process for call in, is set out in the Constitution (page 37-38) under the terms of reference of the Planning Committee, paragraph 2.4 which sets out those matters which are reserved to Committee:


2.4 Excluding those types of applications detailed at paragraph 1.3 above, the determination of an application where:

(a) a ward member of the ward to which the application relates or the ward member of an adjoining ward (if that adjoining ward is materially impacted by the application) has notified the relevant Strategic Director (in writing or by email within 4 weeks of being notified of the application) that the application should be determined by the Planning Committee; and

(b) in the opinion of the Chair having consulted the relevant Strategic Director (or his nominated officer):

(i) the notification is supported by one or more material planning grounds; and

(ii) the item relates to a matter of local concern,

Provided that where the relevant ward member or neighbouring ward member has a disclosable pecuniary interest in the application in question, this “call-in” shall automatically be triggered for consideration by the Chair under (b) above.

Where the Chair decides that an application does not satisfy (b)(i) or (ii) above, written reasons shall be given to the requesting member.

There is currently no constitutional requirement for the Chair to contact Members regarding each call-in request that they make.  However, at a meeting of the Planning Cross Party Working Group in June 2020, it was agreed to slightly amend the process so that the Chairman of Committee would speak to the Ward Member on their call-in reasons before a final decision was made.  I understand that the new Chair of Planning Committee is now making contact with ward members to discuss the call-in requests and to understand their concerns before discussing with officers and making a final decision. It is also open to the ward member to contact the Chair about their call-in requests.


As I’m aware that some Members continue to have concerns about the current call-in procedure, as indicated by the question raised, I would suggest that this matter is discussed at the next Planning Cross Party Working Group, to explore whether any minor changes to the process maybe required. I will ask for a meeting of the Planning Cross Party Working Group to be arranged for the Autumn.


Supplementary question and response


Councillor C Sewell asked how the planning department could be adequately funded to enable all Ward Councillor call-ins to be heard at planning committee which she was aware happened at other authorities.  She believed this would be more democratic.  Councillor A Saffell felt that accepting all call-in’s would be a step too far as it was important to have material planning reasons.  He confirmed that the Planning Cross Party Working Group would be convened soon to discuss, and he invited Councillor Sewell to attend.


Question from Councillor T Eynon


‘How does this authority intend to meet its statutory duty, under section 66(1) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, to have special regard to the desirability of preserving not only the listed buildings of Snibston Colliery but its setting on Ashby Road which includes the former Coalville and Local Mines Fire Station, the Pithead Baths, Ebenezer Chapel, Deputies Row and the Snibstone New Inn?’


Response from Councillor A Saffell


Under Section 66(1) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990the Council has a “general duty as respects listed buildings” in the exercise of our planning functions The Council fulfils its statutory duty under S66 when dealing with applications for planning permission that would affect listed buildings at Snibston Colliery, including the Grade 2 administrative offices, locomotive house and powder magazine, or their settings, by carefully considering the impact of any development proposals on the listed building or its setting. Applications will be assessed and considered by the Council’s Conservation Officer and their conclusions would be afforded considerable weight in the decision making process.


The headstocks and engine houses at Snibston Colliery are scheduled monuments, but there is no similar general duty as respects scheduled monuments. However, the Council ensures that any applications for planning permission conserve the scheduled monument and its setting in the same way by carefully considering the impact of any development proposals on monument or its setting. Applications will be assessed and considered by the Council’s Conservation Officer and Historic England and their conclusions would again be afforded considerable weight in the decision making process.


I can confirm that a recent planning application for a major development on Ashby Road was refused permission and one of the reasons for refusal was that the scale, layout and appearance of the proposed development would erode the setting which contributes positively to the significance of the scheduled ancient monuments that form part of Snibston Colliery.


Supplementary question and response


Councillor T Eynon referred to the applications being assessed by tree officers and Environmental England and asked what opportunities existed to work in collaboration with heritage agencies.  Councillor A Saffell stated that he would make some enquiries and provide a response outside of the meeting.


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