Venue: Civic Suite, Solihull
Contact: Paul Rogers
Councillor Feeney gave apologies in advance of his departure from the meeting at 7:30 p.m. due to other commitments.
Declarations of Pecuniary or Conflicts of Interest
Councillor D Pinwell declared a non-pecuniary interest in respect of Agenda Item 7 ‘Housing Allocations Scheme’, informing the Scrutiny Board that he was a member of the SCH Board and would hand the Chair to Councillor Parker (Vice Chairman) for this agenda item and would not participate in the discussion.
Councillor Thomas declared a non-pecuniary interest in relation to ‘Draft Climate Change Supplementary Document’, informing the Scrutiny Board that her employer JLR submitted planning applications for site located in the borough of Solihull.
Questions and Deputations
No questions or deputations were received.
To consider for approval the draft Minutes arising from the Economic Development and Managed Growth Scrutiny Board meeting held on 13th June 2022.
Two amendments put forward by Councillor McLoughin were agreed, which were:
- Page 14, paragraph 3: replace ‘Net Zero’ with ‘Jet Zero’.
- The draft Minutes for the Borough Wide Economic Strategy report referencing ‘Blossom Field Road’ should be corrected to read ‘Blossomfield Road’.
The Economic Development and Managed Growth Scrutiny Board:
(i) Subject to the above amendments, to agree the draft Minutes arising from the Economic Development and Managed Growth Scrutiny Board meeting held on 13th June 2022 as a true record.
To consider for approval the draft Minutes arising from the Economic Development and Managed Growth Scrutiny Board meeting held on 17th November 2022.
Councillor Thomas noted that page 24, paragraph 3 of the draft Minutes referring to the 3 Categories of home ownership stated that Category 2 was the most important. The Minute should be corrected to read that the Council should be attempting to move all people into Category 2.
(i) Subject to the above correction, Members of the Economic Development and Managed Growth Scrutiny Board agreed the Minutes arising from the Economic Development and Managed Growth Scrutiny Board meeting held on 17th November 2022.
1.1 Each scrutiny board in January will
receive a report outlining the budget proposals identified within
their respective portfolios for the period from 2023/24 to
The Scrutiny Board received a report outlining the budget proposals identified within the Climate Change, Planning and Housing Portfolio for the period 2023/24 to 2024/25. The report was presented by the Finance Manager.
Members discussed and sought further information from Officers in relation to the following matters:
· The Neighbourhoods and Community Safety management restructure.
· The application of fees charges by the Council to cover the costs of the service/s or works provided.
Having considered the report, the Resources and Delivering Value Scrutiny Board:
i) To note the pressures and mitigating actions set out in the report; and,
ii) To note the schedule of fees and charges proposed for 2023/24 as attached at Appendix B to the report.
To review and input into the Council's revised
Housing Allocations Scheme policy
Councillor Pinwell relinquished the Chair to Councillor Parker (Vice Chairman) for this agenda item and did not participate in the subsequent discussion.
The report provided to the Scrutiny Board presented proposed changes to the Housing Allocation Scheme, which included changes to banding and preference which affected the priority order, adjusting qualification criteria, compliance with updated legislation and extending the Annual Lettings Plan to facilitate priorities and demands to be better reflected in the allocation of social housing.
The report was presented by the Safeguarding & Community Safety Project Manager, SCH, who informed the Scrutiny that:
· The last significant Housing Allocations review took place in 2014.
· Since 2014, the housing landscape had changed considerably, notably with increased pressures to reduce homelessness and addressing temporary accommodation in Bed and Breakfast accommodation.
· There were currently 3,000 on the Housing Register. Only 25% of the total can be assisted. The current average waiting time to receive a housing offer was 193 weeks.
· Priority was therefore given to those in the greatest housing need.
· Much of the original Housing Allocations policy had been retained, but the new policy would reflect reasonable preferences.
The main changes in the proposed Housing Allocations Scheme were presented as:
· Who Can Qualify to Be Included on the Housing Register: A local connection to the borough is now required, such as family association or employment within the borough. If this qualification is not met, those with exceptional housing need will be considered for housing.
· Two-Year Residency Rule: Will not apply to those escaping domestic violence from other local authority areas in temporary accommodation.
· Income and Asset Threshold: Will be introduced and set at an appropriate level based on gross household income, which will determine if the resident/s have the means to access private rented/purchase.
· Exemptions: Will apply for those with insufficient funds for adaptations; subject to domestic violence and/or financial control; armed forces applicants.
· Banding System: Introduces 4 Bands based on a preferential scheme:-
Band A – Additional Preference (very urgent housing need)
Band B – Reasonable Preference (urgent housing need)
Band C – Reasonable Preference (housing need)
Band D – Reduced Preference
· Reduced priority criteria would be applied in the cases of some applicants with instances of unreasonable behaviours (ASB) and rent arrears.
· High Priority needs were recognised in the Housing Allocation Scheme proposals for those children in need and at potential risk and any households potentially impacted by housing regeneration schemes in the borough.
· Band T – It is proposed to remove Band T altogether from the new allocations policy i.e. tenants currently on the housing register with no need (currently 286).
· Annual Lettings Plan: It is the intention to provide and agree targets and identify needs on the Housing Register fairly and to identify any unintended consequences once the new Housing Allocations Scheme is introduced. SCH are proposing to submit the Annual Lettings Plan for annual scrutiny and once established to delegate its on-going management to Officers.
· It was the intention to take the new Housing Allocations proposals to ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
Note progress in the first year of delivery of
the Council’s Net Zero Action Plan and consider the Net Zero
Action Plan Annual Report 2021/2022
The Net Zero Action Plan (NZAP) Annual Report 2021/22 provides a narrative on Solihull’s progress in delivering the NZAP, interprets the KPI data and details how the Council is performing against the actions in the plan. The report also details key challenges in delivery and future focus. The report was presented by the Group Manager, Climate Change & Sustainability. The Scrutiny Board was informed that:
· All KPI data was focussed on 2021/22.
· The annual report addressed year 2 of a 3-year timeline for this iteration of the NZAP.
· The reported 19% CO2 reduction in 2019/20 coincided with the Covid Pandemic period and should be treated some with some caution.
· Solihull Councill had halved its emissions since 2017/18.
· The annual report data showed a scale up in many NZAP areas, such as roll out of EV charging infrastructure, tree planting activity and reaching towards net zero objectives. However, there was a recognised need for more renewables energy generation in the borough.
· Council activities accounted for less than 1% of borough wide emissions.
· Key challenges on delivering the NZAP were funding, national policy, energy costs and delivery of net zero.
· Focus towards 2024 was centred on actions such as retrofitting of properties and encouraging sustainable travel, funding, public engagement actions and the on-going reduction of Council emissions.
Having received the report presentation from the Group Manager, Climate Change & Sustainability, the Scrutiny Board raised several questions pertinent to the report, which in summary included the following matters:
Councillor Thomas clarified that on page 19 of the NZAP Annual Report 2021/22 (5.4.1 Cycling Infrastructure), the 2 cycle lanes referenced were not new, but rather had been subject to various improvements. Councillor Thomas noted that the biggest gaps and challenges found within the NZAP were found on page 16, which referenced 11,000 households as being in fuel poverty and questioned whether the Council could bring them out of fuel poverty, and on page 25 (Section 8: Energy Supply), asking why the Council was not seeking to accelerate renewable energy capacity as originally hoped for.
Members were advised that there were several underlying issues in relation to addressing fuel poverty in the borough. Current energy costs would have a significant impact on achieving fuel poverty goals, as did the current cost of living crisis. Energy efficiency had a role to play via retrofitting policy and programme for properties across the borough. In terms of renewables, a 20%increase in capacity in the borough had been achieved. There were some technical issues in Solihull with some of the renewables schemes. However, a renewables energy feasibility scheme had been undertaken looking at models to encourage further uptake in renewables.
In terms of gaps and challenges facing successful achievement of the NZAP Action Plan objectives, further detail would be included in future. However, Members were advised that consistency of policy application was key, as was provision of funding and wider finance.
The Head of Stronger Communities noted that the provision of a renewables programme was the start of a ... view the full minutes text for item 8.
To review and provide comments on the draft
The report presented the draft Climate Change SPD for consideration by the Scrutiny Board. The report was presented by the Team Leader, Planning Policy. The Scrutiny Board was informed that:
· The Draft Climate Change SPD was included din the Council Plan Update 2022/23 and was not a vehicle for new policy, but rather gave guidance for planning applications.
· The SPD was organised thematically with 7 main chapters, which were:
Renewable/Low Carbon Energy.
Climate Change Adaptation.
Having received the presentation, the Scrutiny Board raised the following questions pertinent to the report, which in summary included the following matters:
Councillor McLoughlin welcomed receipt of the draft Climate Change SPD at the meeting of the Scrutiny Board, noting that it was important to receive it in draft form and at the development stage for scrutiny comment.
Councillor McLoughlin further commented that:
· he would welcome greater detail to be included addressing community projects and energy in the draft SPD.
· Regarding paragraph 6.26 of the draft Climate Change SPD, Councillor McLoughlin stated that globally 11% of emissions arose from building materials and that the Councils recognition of reducing such embodied carbon as a key factor in reducing carbon emissions was very positive.
· Reference to orientating buildings to maximise natural energy conservation was excellent.
· Paragraph 5.37 of the draft SPD referencing the surveying of underlying geology and digging of trenches and drilling unobstructed by tree roots was a significant issue across the borough and was applicable to any site, not just development sites. A good SPD would help guide n=both a Planning Committee and developers.
· Local Plan Policy P9 and references to “where possible”, to what extent did the SPD govern Planning Committee decisions and developers actions?
Regarding Local Plan Policy P9, the Team Leader, Planning Policy agreed that clarification would be welcomed for a policy requirement “should / encourage”. Where possible, a planning/development balance would be established. In terms of a sustainability check list there was not a “yes/no” answer.
Councillor Thomas queried whether in terms of Building Standards referenced in the Draft Climate Change SPD would it be possible to include reference to adherence to future 2025 Building Standards.
In reference to dedicated recycling space, especially for apartments and low- rise blocks, Councillor Thomas questioned whether an addition could be made to include reference to provision of collecting waste from flats that does not rely on plastic sacks i.e. adequate waste collection services.
Referencing Solihull Cycle Network, Councillor Thomas stated that the canal routes were very challenging, difficult to access (with provision of steps only, not ramps) and that some sections of the route were too narrow to cycle on.
The Scrutiny Board was advised that the SPD referenced Building Regulations 2021, but that Building Regulations could be brought forward where possible. However, some building sites were still using very old Building Regulations, not the 2021 standards. Any updating of the Building Standards in use on site was a step in the right direction. ... view the full minutes text for item 9.
To review the Economic Development and Managed Growth Scrutiny Board Work Programme 2022/23.
i. To agree the agenda for the Scrutiny Board meeting scheduled for 13th March 2023 as detailed in the Economic Development and Managed Growth Scrutiny Board Work Programme 2022/23.
The Economic Development and Managed Growth Scrutiny Board closed at 8:20 p.m.