Agenda item

Public speaking

Information on public speaking is available online



Jack Rowland asked a question in relation to the Service Plan reports showing a variation on delivery – specifically on:

·        the objective to “Develop a mitigation strategy for phosphate levels arising from development affecting the River Axe”.  The report showed the reason for the variation being due to the post of District Ecologist becoming vacant, but is soon to be filled. He asked when the post would be filled, and if the previous post holder had begun work on a mitigation strategy or if the new post holder would have to start from scratch.  Bearing in mind the importance of such a strategy in relation to planning applications in the area, and impact on other authorities.  The timescales for delivery were requested.

·        the objective “Seaton Jurassic – conclude how best to deal with the building defect issues and alongside let/sell to ensure the site is continued to use in some form or another by March 2023”.  The report showed comment that discussions progressing constructively with Seaton tramway as future operator. An opening prior to Easter 2024 is looking unlikely.  Cabinet decision made September 2022 on a lease, can officers confirm if current negotiations are on track without divulging commercially sensitive information. Will the centre be open by the tourism season for 2024.


Written responses to the questions had been received from officers as follows:


River Axe phosphate levels:

The post of Ecologist, following resignation and departure of the previous post holder last year, was filled in mid-April 2023 and as part of his job the new ecologist is taking the lead on River Axe mitigation matters. The previous ecologist had left handover notes with the work that had been undertaken to date, including a review of potential mitigation options, and the new ecologist has been getting up to speed with the work previously undertaken and upskilling themselves in this complex and specialised area.


The Council are also looking to secure additional ecological staff support, specifically on account of the new demands and work requirements with Development Management associated with the implementation of mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) required under the Environment Act 2021 from November 2023.  Some of this work may overlap with the River Axe mitigation work , e.g., exploring options for nutrient mitigation and stacking these with BNG environmental credits to deliver best outcomes for the environment and land managers.


The Council has taken the role of lead authority in respect of collaborative working with partners in other planning authority areas (Dorset and Somerset) and is advancing work on strategic solutions to provide appropriate mitigation in respect of addressing net increases in phosphates arising from development and adversely impacting on the River Axe.  It is relevant to note, as well, that developers can identify and deliver mitigations measures themselves that would allow for new development to come forward.  It is understood that a number of schemes are being investigated by developers.


The Council are working with a wide range of stakeholders and partners including industry and farming interests to identify appropriate mitigation measures and much of the work is geared around identifying and implementing actual projects, as opposed to developing or having a strategy that is not necessarily and directly linked to projects and implementation.  Milestones will arise as and when projects are identified but at this stage specific schemes that can be implemented on the ground, on specifically defined sites, are still to be properly and fully identified and progressed. The theory around what will work is understood, the bigger challenge is actually developing and implementing specific projects.


Mr Rowland had a supplementary question, which was, Somerset Council have an agreed phosphate systems, so would it be worthwhile examining this system to see how it may benefit this authority.


Seaton Jurassic

A recommendation was made by Cabinet in October 2022 to progress heads of terms with Seaton Tramway.  Negotiations continue and whilst the building has disappointingly remained closed for the summer 2023 season, both parties are committed to doing all they can to ensure a visitor attraction is open ready for Easter 2024 if the process can be agreed swiftly. A further report to Cabinet is planned for September with recommendations that will help to ensure that the project can be successfully concluded.


Mr Rowland did not have a supplementary question in response to the provided response, but looked forward to the report being before Cabinet in September.


He did have a further suggestion in relation to the Portfolio Holders’ annual report and recommended they be given at least four weeks notice for preparation of the report, to take account of the time that the portfolio holder would need to prepare a comprehensive report alongside officers.


Questions arising from the officer responses included seeking clarification on monitoring the delivery of a mitigation strategy, in that any new strategy should go before the Overview Committee.  The Chair advised that this issue would be left to the appropriate officer to deal with as required.