Agenda item

Verbal update by Councillor Jung on role of the Coast, Countryside and Environment Portfolio Holder


Councillor Geoff Jung, Portfolio Holder for Coast, Countryside and Environment gave a short introduction that outlined his key responsibilities within his Portfolio that included beach management schemes, recycling and waste, nature reserves and environmental health issues.  Members’ attention was drawn to the Sport, Leisure and Tourism within his Portfolio and were advised that this was no longer was within his Portfolio and that a new Portfolio Holder for Culture, Tourism, Leisure and Sport had been created.


He referred to pandemic advising that it had affected every role within the Council and thanked all the Officers and subcontractors for keeping everything running and applauded the Countryside Team with the award winning Seaton Wetlands and the Waste and Recycling Team which had one of the best recycling rates in the country with over 60% now being recycled.


Councillor Jung said that part of his role was to look at how to adapt the coast to climate change and how to adapt the countryside to more people wanting to live and to visit.  These areas included:


Ø  Clyst Valley Regional Park.

Ø  Seaton Wetlands.

Ø  Lower Otter Restoration Project

Ø  Exe Estuary and the Pebblebed Heaths

Ø  Wild East Devon Project


The Chair invited Members to ask questions that had been submitted before the meeting.  Fourteen questions had been received and are set out below, including responses to the supplementary questions which Councillors submitting questions were entitled to do.


Question 1 – In response to a question about consultation and financial support received from Crown Estates for the Sidmouth East Beach, Councillor Jung advised that up to 12 miles belonged to the Crown that the Council would need to obtain a maritime licence for to carry out any works below the high watermark.  Funding for coastal protection would come from DEFRA.


Question 2 – In response to a question about when the Sidmouth Beach Management Plan work commence, Councillor Jung advised the start date was not far away and details of meetings would be provided on the website.


In response to a supplementary question about what counter measures were being taken on erosion, Andrew Hancock, Service Lead - Streetscene addressed the Plymouth Study and advised it was a planning tool to help drive future planning policy about how to help communities adapt in worst case scenarios.  He advised the erosion rate in the Sidmouth Beach Management figures was not a worst case scenario.


Question 3 – In response to a question about what benefits had East Devon seen from the contributions to the South East Devon Habitat Regulations?  Councillor Jung first outlined the remit of the South East Devon Habitat Regulations and advised that funding had been provided the Pebblebed Heaths and the Nature Reserves along the Exe Estuary including Lympstone.


Question 4 – In response to a question about what lessons had been learnt from last year regarding litter on the beach and the lack of sufficient bins at Orcombe Point and to confirm that this summer following the end of the current lockdown that the Service Plan will be adjusted to ensure that this type of demand is catered for financially in the budget assuming we have a similar summer.  In response Councillor Jung confirmed lessons had been learnt and that Streetscene were ready with the possibility of another busy summer and that temporary staff would be employed to cope with demand.  It was noted the waste tonnage collected last year by Streetscene, district wide, and was 786 tons compared to 692 tons the previous year which was a 7% increase.


Question 5 – In response to a question about how many electric charging points had been installed in East Devon and by whom, it was advised a figure of 168 units was taken from the internet of commercial premises and offices in East Devon which included 16 charging point in the Streetscene Depots and 4 points at Blackdown House.  Councillor Jung was pleased to announce that there would be a further 8 electric points installed in our car parks very shortly which would be discussed at the next Car Park Task and Finish Forum.


In response to a supplementary question about whether there was enough electric points for visitors and residents in East Devon, Councillor Jung believed there would be enough and advised when the time was right petrol stations would start to close and open up fast charging stations.


Question 6 – In response to a question about whether East Devon District Council had a full complement of Environmental Health Officers, it was advised there were current vacancies for an Environmental Officer and Environmental Manager post and recruitment was in progress for three further Officers, funded by Central Government that included an Covid-19 Compliance Officer.


In response to a supplementary question about whether Environmental Health was able to give sufficient advice to food premises in these difficult times, the Strategic Lead – Housing, Health and Environment advised there was a sophisticated risk assessment process that underpinned a lot of the work which worked very closely with the Food Standards Agency to ensure targets were reached.


Question 7 – In response to a question asking for elaboration on the support for turning a car park area adjacent to the new watersports centre in Exmouth into an area of open space for a perceived low rental income.  Councillor Jung advised the temporary car park was designated amenity use and the Queen’s Drive Committee agreed that the area should be grassed.


Question 8 – In response to a question about the reason why Maer Road Car Park was perceived empty when Maer Road, Maer Lane and Foxholes Hill are strewn with cars parked on double yellow lines as DCC Highways allow on-street parking during certain months.  Councillor Jung advised he would this follow up with Devon County Council Highways.


Question 9 – In response to a question about the number of times when EDDC had prosecuted a developer for not complying with a construction environmental management plan, Councillor Jung advised although it was not within his Portfolio he had sought advice from the Planning Development Manager who advised there had been no prosecutions as the National Planning Policy Framework promoted negotiation before enforcement.


In response to a supplementary question seeking evidence to confirm that actions had been achieved from the Exmouth Beach Management Plan which was delivered in 2015 and cost the public approximately £250,000 and do you accept the plans to rewrite the East Devon Local Plan 2013 – 2031 adopted in 2016 which would be another considerable cost to the public. 


The Service Lead - Streetscene advised that it was not a statutory requirement to have a beach management plan, but that it was good practice to have a plan and keep it up to date to assess the causes of erosion and the measures that need to be taken.  The Exmouth Beach Management Plan had an actions section, of which many of the smaller actions had been undertaken, including trial pits along the sea wall to assess the integrity of the toe.  


Members’ noted that the largest outstanding action of the plan was that it was anticipated that the sediment beach level drop on the main beach would start to cause an issue in the 2020’s.  The Service Lead for Streetscene confirmed this was evidently now the case and highlighted that funding from DEFRA was predicated around primarily protecting residential property and that there was no residential properties at risk along the main beach, and as such grant funding was unlikely.  He outlined that a scoping study is planned through the Streetscene Service Plan, and that this would be undertaken this year to look at future amenity beach replenishment and what those costs would be.


The Service Lead - Streetscene also advised about an Innovation Study Funding Submission with Devon County Council for coastal protection measures to trial in Exmouth that could accrete (hold) sand along some sections of the beach.


Question 10 – Concerns were raised that there were a number of areas that have houses built with wildlife areas which were under site management for five years only, after five years the land was then considered ‘no man’s land’.  In response to a question about trees being at risk of being cut down in Exmouth which were not covered by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO), Councillor Jung confirmed that trees without a TPO or outside a conservation area on private land would be at risk and highlighted a bigger issue that if trees were on land without a landowner there would be no-one to issue the Tree Preservation Order to help protect the trees.


Councillor Jung advised that EDDC were looking at planting a lot more trees and said he would like to see a one stop shop to provide information on planting and cutting trees


Question 11 – In response to a question about how the charging of refuse bins collections to town/parish councils is determined as Cranbrook is charged £520/bin/year which is significantly higher than other town/parish councils, Councillor Jung said he understood the concerns raised but as the highways in Cranbrook had not yet been adopted by DCC Highways, they were currently owned by the Consortium.


Question 12 – In response to a question about the management of SANGS and whether Cranbrook Town Council could manage their own SANGS, Councillor Jung advised that Council policy on delivery on the expansion of the town is detailed in Policy CB15 of the Cranbrook Plan which states it is for the developers to accompany their applications for a management strategy to detail how the SANGS are to be managed.


Question 13 – In response to a question about the increase in fly tipping in the last year and how many people have been prosecuted, Councillor Jung advised last year there had been 497 reported cases of fly tipping compared to 558 this year.  He confirmed there had been a total of 17 fixed penalty notices served, resulting in 10 notices being paid in full and 7 unpaid notices due to insufficient evidence during investigation.


In response to a supplementary question about working with Devon County Council to provide security cameras outside recycling centres to deter fly tipping when the centres are closed, The Service Lead - Streetscene advised he would follow this up with Devon County Council’s Waste Manager.  He advised DCC do investigate cases of fly tipping outside the gates of their HWRCs, but at Sutton Barton was not aware of cameras.


Members’ were made aware of a possibility of using safety cameras on the Suez fleet to catch people who litter and fly tip when they are out and about which would greater increase the chances of catching some of these people.


Question 14 – In response to a question raised about the aims and vision for Wild East Devon, Councillor Jung advised for East Devon to be a leading organisation in the delivery of species recovery, health and well-being improvements, outdoor learning and nature connectedness, this has to be achieved with a focus on habitat and access management along with innovative public engagement programmes which is an initiative driven by Councillor Marianne Rixson.


In response to a supplementary question to seek clarification on the delivery a new visitor infrastructure to Seaton Wetlands on page 3, item 8 of the Service Plan, Councillor Jung advised that it was considering visitor/information centre and a café similar to what the National Trust provides in their areas.


The Chair invited one further question as follows:


In response to a question about the use of double bins by some households and what was being done to promote recycling, The Service Lead - Streetscene advised when these cases are reported there was often a legitimate reason  for the use of more than one bin.  He identified the need for public participation and to make recycling as easy as possible providing leaflets and information and engagement to residents.  Members’ were made aware of a request for an additional staff member to help tackle unauthorised capacity.