Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Virtual Meeting - Online access

Contact: If you have any questions about this meeting, including any opportunity for public participation, please contact Fatima Rehman (Phone: 01628 796251 Email: fatima.rehman@rbwm.gov.uk) 

Video Stream: Click here to watch this meeting on YouTube

Items
No. Item

67.

Apologies for Absence

To receive any apologies for absence.

Minutes:

None.

68.

Declarations of Interest pdf icon PDF 219 KB

To receive any Declarations of Interest.

Minutes:

None.

69.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 112 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the previous meeting.

Minutes:

RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That the minutes of the meeting held on 17 September 2020 be approved as a true and correct record, subject to the following change:

·         Councillor Singh’s attendance to be amended for 17 September 2020.

70.

Order of business

Minutes:

RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That the order of business as detailed in the agenda be varied.

 

71.

Safety of Highway Trees pdf icon PDF 160 KB

To consider the attached report.

Minutes:

David Scott, Head of Communities, said the Borough had a statutory duty to survey its trees every five years, which was contracted to VolkerHighways, in conjunction with the internal tree team. It could be argued to have three-yearly inspections due to climate change, more severe storms and higher rainfall instead, however this would require greater resource. The ten-year tree and woodland strategy were coming to an end and would be refreshed in late 2020.

 

The external arboriculturalists surveyed all trees over 75 mm diameter when measured at 1.5m above ground level and were prioritised based on whether they were on A, B or C roads and were targeted in the higher risk urban areas. Trees that were potentially at risk, unsafe or needed restoration were identified and had an earlier reinspection if required. Approximately 31,000 trees over 1,7500 roads had been inspected, 500 trees of which needed reinspection in a shorter cycle. Tree stock was replenished with local and diverse species to deter from spreading diseases by imported stock.

 

The Chairman indicated that for this item he was only taking comments from Panel Members. He asked more about the visual inspection and the Panel was informed that qualified arboriculturalists used a standard inspection framework to consider the health and condition of the trees. A standard assessment was followed, all data captured is stored in a database and this methodology was used for all roads. This included looking at high-risk species that dropped branches at particular times of the year, as well as the proximity to other trees, root plates, crown structure and the condition of the leaves and tree as a whole. A reliable judgement was then formed, identifying defects such as the removal of deadwood or weak branches near the highway was completed. Trees were cleared by 5.3m over the highway and 2.5m over the footway.

 

Councillors Baldwin and Haseler complimented the inspections undertaken. Councillor Baldwin said there was a need of flexibility to reinspect trees that were of concern more than once in the 5-year cycle for the safety of residents.

 

Councillor Bateson asked if tree owners near the highway should cyclically inspect their trees by a commercial arboriculturalist, as more private trees fell than RBWM-owned trees. The Panel was informed that private residents had similar responsibilities as RBWM as tree owners, to ensure their trees were in safe condition, and where defects were spotted on private trees, the household was given a  ‘calling card’ with guidance to encourage tree inspections.

 

The Panel noted the item.

72.

Order of Business

Minutes:

RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That the order of business as detailed in the agenda be varied.

73.

Capital Programme Update

To consider the report.

Minutes:

Chris Joyce, Head of Infrastructure, Sustainability and Economic Growth said due to other urgent matters, it was not possible to bring this report forward. It was proposed to move this item to the next meeting, which would inform the Panel on the capital planning processes for projects coming forward and how this could be improved.

 

RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That the Capital Programme Update item be itemised for January 2021.

 

74.

VolkerHighways Ltd. Annual Review pdf icon PDF 642 KB

To consider the attached report.

Minutes:

Ben Smith introduced the item and said the five-year contract was awarded to VolkerHighways in April 2017, with an option to extend for up to another 2 years, subject to satisfactory performance. The contract covered highway services and the core contract value was £3.9 million per annum, as well as off-contract work that was done to deliver elements of the Capital Programme. This included delivering the annual Road Resurfacing Programme, in the order of £1.5 - £1.9 million.

 

A formal governance structure was in place where the Contract Lead met weekly, monthly, quarterly, six-monthly and annually to review the contract operation. Annually, the borough participated in the National Highways and Transport Benchmarking Survey, where a sample of residents of 750 residents were asked questions about the service provided. RBWM was the sixth highest nationally in street cleanliness, and above the national average for the conditions of the highway network. Outside of the VolkerHighways contract, the borough performed poorly on local bus services and public transport.

 

A report was to be presented in April 2021 to Cabinet, to consider the extension of the contract. The Commissioning team was undertaking diagnostics to review the performance of the contract and provide data to review various options for the service. This included re-procuring the contract, having different contracts for some or all of the services, or bringing the services in-house.

 

Darren Myser, Project Manager at VolkerHighways, said there were a suite of 30 measures for performance, such as customer care, added value and quality management. VolkerHighways performed well in most areas and concerns in other areas due to the harsh winter periods over the last few years. Breakdown of vehicles led to a delay in the service in 2018-19. In 2019-20, two old gully emptiers were being used, which were now replaced due to breakdowns. All the gully waste was recycled, which introduced a saving on the service. In this time period, there was a dip in the 28-day completion of works, with resources now spent to ensure work was done in time. Overall, despite the challenges of COVID-19, the performance criteria were still met.

 

The Chairman asked how the service could be approved, and the Panel was informed that there were internal and external audits to identify areas of improvements. Mew electric powered equipment and handheld tools were purchased. To increase sustainability, three electric vehicles were used for highway inspections, with a lack of capacity for more due to the limited power for chargers in the depot. A review of using sustainable and cost-effective materials was underway. VolkerHighways were looking to use a more cohesive asset management system that managed assets with a work ordering system and a customer care module. This would allow VolkerHighways to respond directly to enquiries for a better flow from start to finish.

 

The Chairman asked if using plastic chips in the roads was an option in the borough. The Panel was informed that recycled products were sought when using and laying asphalt, such as rubber grit and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 74.

75.

Highways Investment Report pdf icon PDF 190 KB

To consider the attached report.

Minutes:

Ben Smith introduced the item and said the report showed the scale of the issue, how to assets were managed and how individual schemes were prioritised under the Capital Programme. As a highway authority, the borough was responsible for all the highway assets, which was managed in accordance to the Highway Asset Management Strategy and the Highway Maintenance Management Plan. Through local transport plan grants, money could be leveraged by central government, which graded authorities based on their asset management. The borough was in the highest banding, which allowed maximum funding and has been implemented to develop the Capital Programme.

 

Bids were assessed against strategic priorities, and the overall Capital Investment Programme would be agreed by Cabinet and then Council as part of the Budget every February. The Capital Programme would include highway related activity and the Commissioning team would return to Cabinet with a list of detailed schemes to spend funding on by using technical data, programming tools and surveys.

 

The Vice Chairman asked if the highway had land value or was based on the usage of the highway. The Panel was informed that the highway was valued based on the accounting guidelines by Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy. The Vice Chairman asked if the 17,000 streetlights in RBWM were owned by the authority, which was confirmed.

 

Councillor Bateson asked why there were no air quality monitors on the A30 and A4 and the Panel was informed there was not a vast network of air quality monitoring across the borough due to cost. There were fixed traffic counters across the highway network that collected annual data for plans such as the Local Transport Plan and traffic volume levels. Air quality monitors were placed where there was poor air quality, high levels of residential population and sensitive locations such as schools and hospitals. Councillor Bateson suggested traffic and air quality monitoring as an item on the agenda.

 

ACTION: Ben Smith to inform about air quality and traffic monitoring locations offline.

 

The Chairman asked how traffic flow was predicted and managed when new developments were in progress. The Panel was informed that highway assessments were undertaken using the highway model to assess the potential impacts of development set out in the Borough Local Plan. Data was collected and applied using methodologies set out by the government on predicting the estimated traffic. The model was applied to the road network to assess projected capacity issues and requirement for network improvements, which would then be added to the Infrastructure Delivery Plan. The funding of the scheme would be identified through Community Infrastructure Levy, Section 106 (S106) and external funding. New developments submitted through the Planning were accompanied with a Transport Assessment that identified the impacts of the development to the road networks and improvements required.

 

The Vice Chairman said the S106 was a small sum for highway improvement and asked how this amount would improve road structures and the Panel was informed that some of S106 was secured for specific improvements.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 75.

76.

River Thames Scheme Partnership Funding pdf icon PDF 210 KB

To consider the attached report.

Minutes:

Ben Smith introduced the item and gave an overview over of the River Thames Scheme (RTS), which was an Environment Agency (EA) led project to reduce flood risk, by building a new flood channel alongside the River Thames in three sections. There were several partners, local authorities and organisations like Thames Water on the RTS. Channel 1 was within the borough, which contributed £52.7 million of the overall £635 million project to deliver Channel 1. In 2017, the Council approved £10 million funding, with some sums paid pre-2017. There was a funding gap of £40 million and the financial strategy was to apply for a flood levy that was awaiting approval by central government, which was approved by Council. The legislative change did not happen and therefore the levy option for funding was unavailable.

 

At the time of the meeting, the RTS was at the point of submission of the consent order, which was the planning, design and procurement stage of the scheme. The project required a commitment from the Section 151 (S151) officer that the borough would be able to meet its full commitment; however, the S151 was not in the position to commit as the flood levy was not secured. The sponsoring board for the RTS decided to proceed with Channels 2 and 3 downstream without Channel 1. The EA committed to work with borough to explore other local flood measures that could provide flood protection. The solutions and costs were yet to be deciphered, but the funding was available to deliver local measures.

 

The Chairman asked what progress was made in finding local solutions and the Panel was informed that a meeting with the EA was diarised. The EA would present the options available and the impact they would have on flood mitigation. The options would be relatively low cost and have a short timescale for delivery.

 

The Vice Chairman asked why there was reliance on the flood levy as a means of financing Channel 1 when this was not approved by the government. The Panel was informed that the paper submitted to the Council in 2017 stated the financing was subject to the new legislation being enacted, with positive commitments from the government. Since then, the cost of the scheme was altered as more work needed to be done. The Vice Chairman said that over the five years, the borough invested £1.5 million of the total £50 million, therefore alternative sources other than the flood levy was not sought. He felt backup plans should have been put in place.

 

The Chairman asked if other local authorities in the RTS were impacted by the lack of flood levy. The Panel was informed that Surrey County Council supported the borough in lobbying the government to allow a flood levy so that the RTS could be funded. Surrey County Council made the decision to proceed with the scheme through other sources within their council and pay their commitment in full.

 

Councillor Larcombe said the EA website illustrated that the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 76.

77.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 82 KB

To consider the Panel’s Work Programme for the remainder of the municipal year.

 

To include consideration of items scheduled on the Cabinet Forward Plan.

 

Minutes:

The Chairman and Vice Chairman would review the Work Programme offline, along with officers. Scoping was required of the suggested items.