Agenda and minutes

Economic Development, Environment and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel - Wednesday 12th October, 2022 10.30 am

Venue: Spencer Room

Contact: Susan Lightwing 

No. Item


Welcome and Evacuation Procedure


The Chair welcomed all present to the meeting and read out the Building Evacuation Procedure.


Declarations of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest.


There were no declarations of interest received at this point in the meeting.


Minutes - Economic Development, Environment and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel - 14 September 2022 pdf icon PDF 137 KB


The minutes of the meeting of the Economic Development, Environment and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel held on 14 September 2022 were taken as read and approved as a correct record.


Prevention of Damage to Grass Verges in MIddlesbrough

Officers from Environment and Commercial Services will be in attendance to discuss the topic of Prevention of Damage to Grass Verges in Middlesbrough.


RECOMMENDATION: that the Panel determines whether further information is required.


Officers from Environment and Commercial Services were in attendance at the meeting to discuss the topic of Prevention of Damage to Grass Verges in Middlesbrough.  A slideshow of photographs of examples of grass verge damage that had been submitted by Middlesbrough Councillors was shown to the Panel.


It was acknowledged that damage to grass verges was a problem and the original layout of houses, housing estates and some of the road network in Middlesbrough had not been designed to cope with the increase in car ownership.   Many households owned two or more vehicles and the demand for available car parking space had risen.


The natural solution to combatting damage to grass verges was to remove them completely or replace them with parking bays.  However,  the funding currently available was not sufficient to accommodate the level of demand for action.    The total budget for Highways Projects was approximately £1.3 million a year which was used for carriageway resurfacing, street lighting, bridges and structures, traffic signals and flood relief.  About £200K of that budget was allocated to grass verge repair or replacement.


In 2020, when the Scrutiny Panel last investigated this topic, there were 328 outstanding requests from Councillors and residents on the work schedule, which were prioritised according to the Council’s approved methodology.  Currently, in 2022, there were 347 outstanding requests for works which would cost approximately £5.25 million pounds to complete.  On a positive note, 20 schemes had been completed in the last 2 years.


Unfortunately, in the Council’s current financial situation, increasing the budget for grass verge maintenance could only be considered at the detriment of other work such as road or pavement repairs which were also in high demand.


Under current legislation it was not an offence to park a vehicle on a grass verge unless it caused an obstruction, there were waiting restrictions on the road, or there was a local byelaw in force.   Heavy Goods Vehicles were however prohibited from verge parking.  There were a range of enforcement powers available to the Council but it was highlighted that enforcement tactics could lead to vehicles being parked elsewhere and causing further issues.   Enforcement activity was also resource intensive. 


Stockton Council had been successful in using Community Protection Notices (CPNs) to tackle grass verge parking.  Middlesbrough Council had also introduced CPNs in March 2021 but they had not been used to date for that purpose.   Both the Community Safety Team and the Environmental Enforcement Team had been trained to issue CPNs.  CPNs were issued to deal with the unreasonable behaviours of individuals that negatively impacted on the local community. 


The process involved assessing the damage to grass verge and then proving that the behaviour of the motorist was unreasonable and detrimental to the locality.  Photographic evidence of the driver of the vehicle was also required, since breaching a CPN was a criminal offence.  Two warnings would be issued initially, a removal notice would be posted on the vehicle and then a CPN warning.  If no action was taken  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22/27


Nutrient Neutrality

The Head of Planning will be in attendance to provide an overview of the Panel’s new scrutiny topic of Nutrient Neutrality.


RECOMMENDATION: that the Panel determines what further information is required.


The Head of Planning explained that the basic concept of nutrient neutrality was to ensure that any land use or developments occurring around watercourses did not cause an increase in harmful nutrient levels.  In Middlesbrough this related to the impact of nutrients on the Teesmouth and Cleveland Coast Special Protection Area (SPA).


On 16 March 2022, Natural England added Middlesbrough to the list of 74 Local Authorities affected by nutrient neutrality, highlighting that immediate action and a new approach was needed.  Since legislation was already in place there was no transition period and the advice had to be adopted with immediate effect.


Natural England’s advice was that excessive levels of nitrogen impacted on the integrity of the SPA and some new developments should not be permitted unless nutrient neutrality was achieved.  Excessive nitrogen could lead to algal blooms which impacted on protected species and their habitats. 


Natural England had provided a calculator to help determine potential impacts.  Nutrient Neutrality was achieved by ensuring there was no more nitrogen as a result of development.  The amount of nitrogen from existing land use and proposed land use was measured and had to be mitigated.  It was noted that there was a greater impact on brownfield sites than on greenfield ones.


Natural England’s advice affected the whole of the River Tees catchment which encompassed 11 planning authorities, from Tees Estuary across to Cumbria.  However, only Middlesbrough, Stockton and Darlington were affected in their entirety.


There were three main sources of nitrogen: agriculture (from fertilisers), industry and people (through the waste water infrastructure network).  Work had shown that waste water from households and human activity accounted for potentially less than 1% of the total but this was what the advice was specifically targeting.  The biggest impacts were believed to be from agriculture, industry and the water authorities. 


As the Local Planning Authority, Middlesbrough Council made decisions on planning applications, prepared the Local Plan and took into account all land issues including impact on the environment.   The Council also had a role to act as a Competent Authority to protect European sites in line with Habitat Regulations, undertake assessment tests to check whether plans or proposals would cause harm, and agree any mitigation required to allow development to proceed.


Nutrient neutrality guidance affected all developments where there would be an increase in overnight stays, producing more nitrogen via the sewerage system.  Residential developments, hotels, and student accommodation were all included.  Commercial properties, schools, offices or home extensions were not, as the assumption was that people using those facilities already lived in the catchment area and already contributed to the wastewater system and should not be double counted.  Some other developments such as tourist attractions or hospitals might be out of scope depending on the area served.


Further guidance was awaited on mitigation measures which might include:


           Removal of land from agricultural use.

           Tree Planting.

           Reed beds/filtration.

           Engineered solutions.


Mitigation had to be provided within the catchment area and would likely lead  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22/28


Overview and Scrutiny Board Update

The Chair will provide a verbal update on matters considered at the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Board held on 21 September 2022


The Chair provided a verbal update on agenda items from the Overview and Scrutiny Board meeting held on 21 September 2022 which included the attendance of the Mayor, updates from the Chief Executive and the Scrutiny Chairs, and the Corporate Performance Update: Quarter One 2022/2023.


Middlesbrough Council Motion No. 153 – Toxic Chemicals in the River Tees

Verbal Update


Councillor Branson referred to recent news articles regarding the shellfish deaths along the north east coast and the likelihood that this was caused by pyridine rather than algal bloom as detailed in the official government report.   It was unclear whether or not Middlesbrough Council would be taking part in any joint scrutiny investigation into the issue. 


AGREED that the Democratic Services Officer would seek clarification from Legal Services as to Middlesbrough Council’s willingness to participate in a joint scrutiny investigation with other Tees Valley Authorities.


Date of Next Meeting - 9 November 2022


The time and date of the next meeting of the Economic Development, Environment and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel was confirmed as 9 November 2022 at 10.30 am.


Any other urgent items which in the opinion of the Chair, may be considered