The Mayor commented on the following issues:
The Mayor advised that the Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for Culture and Communities was absent from the meeting as she was suffering with Covid.
The Mayor urged councillors and members of the public to exercise extreme care and to continue to wear face masks. He stated the rates in Middlesbrough were middle of the table. He thanked the NHS, the Public Health Team and other staff for helping to keep the town safe.
The Mayor referred to the current spate of bad behaviour in the Hemlington area and the fact that vulnerable people and the town in general were being let down because of the courts. Young people who were intimidating residents were being arrested by the police and the police were requesting curfews, but it appeared that the courts were not respecting the wishes of the police. The Mayor urged people to report crime as if it wasn’t reported, it would not be recorded.
The Mayor referred to a Neighbourhood Watch Scheme that had been set up by A Francis in the Linthorpe Ward and advised that if a Neighbourhood Watch Scheme was run well, crime could be reduced by 25% as a result of a Neighbourhood Watch Scheme.
The Mayor referred to the fact that Middlesbrough had been awarded ‘Tree City of the World' status. He stated that thousands more trees and wild flowers would be planted this year and next year.
The Mayor referred to the fact that people were furious about the fact that Lidl had cut down some trees, in anticipation of a planning application. He thanked Councillor P Storey for making Lidl aware. The Mayor referred to a petition that had been taken down from the Council Website for legal reasons. He advised that he would be happy to help with the main petition if required.
The Mayor welcomed Harrison Scott to the meeting, a participant in the Council’s recent initiative called the Big Takeover. The Mayor stated that he wanted young people to obtain quality jobs if they chose to remain in the town. People often had to leave the town to secure jobs.
The Mayor referred to the progress with Boho X and advised that an announcement was due to be made in the next few weeks.
The Mayor advised that he had met Harrison at the Big Takeover. He had also met Phoebe from Trinity School and Ruby from Nunthorpe School as part of the Big Takeover event, which was a fantastic success.
The Mayor advised that the new ambition for Middlesbrough was that no single person in Middlesbrough would ever go hungry. He advised people who were struggling to get in touch with the Council or the White Feather Project and they would make sure that people were fed and were safe and warm.
Councillor Bell stated that in relation to anti-social behaviour in Hemlington, young people who were being arrested were not subject to a curfew. Recent television coverage by Tyne Tees television of the Hemlington area had showed it in a very bad light, but it had failed to highlight the good parts of the Hemlington area. He urged the Mayor to advise the television company that the Council was not happy with the coverage as there was more good parts of Hemlington compared to the bad parts.
The Mayor advised that Hemlington was a beautiful place, but it did have problems in parts of the area and the Mayor advised that he would contact the councillor to discuss it.
Councillor J Walker advised that many of the issues in Hemlington had been under the surface for the last 18 months. Councillor Walker advised that along with the police, Thirteen, the Council Enforcement Team, she had been trying to improve the area, but had been unable to obtain funding and investment to make the area safe.
Councillor Walker listed many instances of anti-social behaviour and advised that people were frightened to report issues because of fear of reprisal. People were being having to be moved out of the area. The Youth Offending Service were defending young people and no curfews or bail conditions were being imposed. Councillor Walker advised that she, members of her family and her car had been attacked. Fear of crime and reprisals needed to be addressed.
The area required additional and better CCTV as a matter of urgency. The area itself, needed more investment. The library in Hemlington was an example of something that was good, but everything had been impacted because of Covid. Councillor Walker advised that it had to be acknowledged that issues existed in the area and needed to be addressed.
The Mayor stated that he agreed with the sentiments expressed by Councillor Bell and Councillor J Walker. He stated that there was always a balance between the law and civil liberties, but in his view, the perpetrators of anti-social behaviour needed to be locked up. The Council had installed cameras but they were getting damaged. As a result, the Council had made a decision to install Belfast cameras, which were much more difficult to damage. There was a waiting list for cameras. The issues should have been addressed many years ago and the courts and the magistrates needed to be tougher. The Mayor urged the councillors to continue fighting for the area to be safe.
Councillor S Walker advised that on a recent walkabout, with Councillor Branson and Councillor Mason and Councillor Cooper, they had noticed many overgrown trees and bushes. It appeared to be a South Middlesbrough issue. On Newham Way, the trees were very overgrown and could cause a safety issue.
The Mayor advised that the Council needed to come up with a proper plan to address the issue. The budgets had been cut and this was the reason why the issue had been allowed to build up.
Councillor M Storey queried whether the Mayor could provide evidence of what difference the introduction of Public Spaces Protection Orders had made? He stated that it was important to strike a balance between the town centre and the rest of the town in terms of addressing anti-social behaviour.
Councillor Storey stated that the Council needed to look at its Tree Policy in relation to the issue of cutting down trees in the Linthorpe area on the College of Art and Design site. The Local Plan which had been rejected, had specified the site for housing development so there was no protection for that site, which was why a supermarket had come forward. Councillor Storey advised that the local people did not want a supermarket on that site, and he urged the Mayor to look again at the site.
In terms of Boho X, Councillor Storey advised that he was pleased to see the progress that had been made. He stated that he was pleased that the Council had decided to go back to the original plans for the site.
Councillor Storey stated that it was good to see the efforts that had been made with regard to making sure that people did not go hungry. It was however a disgrace that people were having to go to food banks, and people needed to speak out about the extreme poverty in the town.
The Mayor advised that when the PSPO was introduced into the Gresham Ward, the area was out of control. The PSPO was a legal order which put signs up to prevent bad behavior. The PSPO was put in place just before the Covid pandemic had arrived so it was difficult to quantify any meaningful data. There had been hundreds of formal recorded warnings issued and a number of people had received fines.
In terms of the Local Plan, it was a framework for what the Council wanted to see with regard to any development in the town, however it would not prevent people from building supermarkets. Cancelling the previous Local Plan had resulted in fewer trees being cut down, as in the case of Mandale Meadow. Mandale Meadow was going to have 55 houses placed on it which would have resulted in the loss of many trees. There would still be houses built on the plot, but not as many as 55.
The Mayor advised that the Council aimed to build over 1000 houses on brownfield sites, and in his view rejecting the Local Plan and redrafting it was the correct thing to do.
Councillor McTigue queried whether Councillor J Walker had contacted the MP for the area in relation to the issues in Hemlington. Councillor Walker advised that she was due to contact him the next day. Councillor McTigue stated that all the Northern MPs should contact the Government to urge them to scrap the Criminal Justice System. People who committed crimes needed to be locked up and harsher sentences needed to be imposed. There needed to be training in prisons. The Criminal Justice System needed to be redrafted.
Councillor Wright wished the Deputy Mayor a speedy recovery. He queried with regard to the situation with the decision for Mandale Meadow.
Councillor Wright stated that it was good to hear about the Neighbourhood Watch initiatives and the introduction of PSPOs, Street Wardens and to hear about issues with the courts, but he queried with regard to whether the Mayor could develop an overall strategy for tackling crime and anti-social behavior across the town.
Councillor Wright welcomed Harrison Scott to the Council meeting. He stated that the Mayor was correct in that aspiration and ambition were central to what Middlesbrough children needed in the future. High quality jobs were achieved through a good quality of education. He queried whether the Mayor had spoken to any of the SEND children in Middlesbrough in terms of their aspirations and ambitions. Councillor Wright also queried with regard to whether the Mayor had resolved the issue of insufficient place planning for children with EHCP’s moving forward to the next school year.
The Mayor advised that there was a plan to build on private land, a country park and housing on Mandale Meadow. The current vision involved building a road that would go though Mandale Meadow and the Executive would not actively endorse a road through the Meadow unless this was a financial and legal requirement and it was a requisite of the application. The Executive did not intend to rush into taking the decision about Mandale Meadow.
In terms of Street Wardens, the Mayor advised that they had saved twelve lives and had helped homeless people and helped feed people. The Neighbourhood Watch schemes would be rolled out across the town if they proved to be effective. The police were responsible for front line tackling crime. The Mayor stated that he supported the Street Wardens, Neighbourhood Watch schemes and PSPO’s if it protected victims and helped to deter crime and keep streets safer.
Councillor Rooney welcomed Harrison Scott to the meeting.
Councillor Rooney advised that the Local Plan was a document that informed residents what would be developed in the town, how it would be developed and what the requirements would be of any developer. The plan advised developers with regard to what would be expected of them in terms of development of a piece of land. If the land was classed as white land, it allowed developers to do whatever they wanted in terms of that land. The Council could object but if there was no Local Plan,
in terms of the development on Green Lane/Roman Road, it was for 25 dwellings of low level which had been built into the Medium Term Financial Plan and would have brought income into the Council. Because the Council did not have a Local Plan, Lidl could challenge the Council and the likelihood was that they would win and it would cost the Council.
Councillor Rooney suggested that councillors receive a briefing on the Local
Plan from the Head of Planning. Councillor Rooney stated that the Mandale Meadow application was contentious. It was not in the original Local Plan but had been planned to be included within the revised plan. The application had originally been for 100 dwellings.
In terms of the road, the Council had held three events and hundreds of people had attended. The feedback from residents had indicated that 80% of residents felt that they had been listened to and were happy with the new proposals. The road had been moved from the original place on the plans nearer to the A19. The application for the country park would achieve benefits to the Council. It was private land that had been developed and sold and the Local Plan would allow the Council to have some control over the application.
The Mayor stated that the Local Plan was unfair as it would allow people to destroy ancient trees and build housing where it was not needed. It was out of date and by rejecting it, the Council had prevented unnecessary building. The new plan would focus on building on brownfield sites and would allow for 1000 new houses to be built. It would be great for the shops and the economy.