Hampshire County Council
Environment and Transportation Select Committee Item 5
6 October 2009
Road Infrastructure and Housing Growth
RESPONSE FROM EXECUTIVE MEMBER FOR ENVIRONMENT
A That Hampshire County Council, district and borough councils, and the Highways Agency establish a Transport Group to act as a county-wide forum for transport policy and planning issues, and to provide co-ordination to locally initiated transport assessments.
A County-wide forum of this scale is likely to be difficult for districts given the spatial scale. Our experience with our four sub-regional Transport Strategy Panels (abolished when HATs were introduced) was that this is the biggest scale possible for getting effective engagement and that the district level was best for debating prioritisation of local schemes. The County Council is working with districts on transport aspects of their LDFs as they emerge.
It is more practical for the County Council to work with other national transport providers at the County level on strategic matters. At the moment, Transport for South Hampshire Joint Committee provides this for the south of the county but we are looking at whether strategic issues would be better considered at a County-wide level. This would match the Hampshire Economic Board set up by the County Council at its meeting in July 2009.
National transport bodies have resourcing difficulties engaging at the very local level.
B In order to be proactive in meeting the county's needs, that Hampshire County Council reviews the adequacy of officer time and flexibility given to the drafting of potential bids in readiness for submission to external funding sources.
It is acknowledged that there is considerable pressure on officers involved in developing bids. However the `at risk' investment of time and funding (which may run into £millions for an individual scheme) needs to be proportionate to the prospects for funding being awarded. The £8.5 million annual reduction in our integrated transport capital programme (floor £5 million and local resources £3.5 million) means that we have to balance delivery of local improvements against at risk development of major schemes.
C That Hampshire County Council considers sharing and developing its transport planning and modelling expertise with relevant partners, including looking to increase investment in transport modelling through exploring cost sharing.
This is the intended plan for the development and management of transport modelling in the county.
D That Hampshire County Council reviews its approach to securing section 106 developer financial contributions to ensure that the benefit to the community is maximised, to improve transparency, and to improve monitoring of the impact of payments.
Section 106 agreements pertaining to transport must relate to the impact of the development on transport, as set out in Regulations, Government Circular and informed by case law. I intend to introduce reporting of Section 106 agreements through capital programme reports to my decision day which will improve transparency. I will also explore the resource implications of including summaries of Section 106 agreements in the bi-monthly newsletters to local members. However draft regulations before Parliament would largely replace Section 106 with a Community Infrastructure Levy collected by district councils. I will not therefore be coming to a conclusion on this until this secondary legislation is concluded.
E That Hampshire County Council considers, with partners, how to resource additional sub-regional approaches to transport planning, including roads, with a view to developing organisational structures that can make the most of funding opportunities.
From a national and regional funding perspective, the only sub-regional locations recognised are the growth points in the South-East Plan - South Hampshire and Basingstoke and now the eco-town at Bordon-Whitehill. As a diamond for growth in the Regional Economic Strategy, Basingstoke is part of the Diamonds network across the South East which has published its own vision statement. As the development strategy for Basingstoke begins to emerge, then funding bids for the necessary infrastructure will be developed with other local and national partners as appropriate.
The situation with respect to Bordon/Whitehill is still emerging. I am satisfied that we are already covering all important funding avenues. My recent appointment to the Regional Transport Board has strengthened our position within the South East region.
F That Hampshire County Council and district/borough councils review their relationship with the emergency services as high priority road users to be consulted at key stages of planning and scheme development work.
I am satisfied that we already have good relations with emergency services, who are statutory consultees for all traffic orders and will be invited to participate in the new Local Transport Plan which sets out the County Council's proposed transport policies and programmes. Emergency Services' views will be formally requested in policy and project development work, including developing Town Access Plans and the County Council's Traffic Manager Act duties.
G That the Environment Department undertakes:
a) further consideration of how to keep the wider membership abreast of road related developments, changes to funding arrangements, transport policy developments and related issues, and to consider the member briefing day programme as a potential mechanism for doing so.
b) A planned approach to Member engagement in the development of the new Local Transport Plan.
A Members' briefing/discussion meeting is to be held at least once a year to cover transport policy and planning issues. Shorter term updates and answers to transport policy and planning questions can also be addressed through the local member arrangements once determined.
On the LTP, initial Member meetings are to be held in autumn 2009 with respect to the new Local Transport Plan and there will be further Member involvement throughout the process as the LTP is developed towards the publication date prior to April 2011.
H That the Executive Member for the Environment works with the Chairman of the Environment and Transportation Select Committee to seek more proactive Hampshire County Council engagement with the Highways Agency through Overview and Scrutiny, eg the Highways Agency to attend the Environment and Transportation Select Committee annually.
Government agencies are instructed to only submit themselves to Government Scrutiny - a Regional Scrutiny body has been set up with proportional representation from MPs in the Region. The Highways Agency might be more likely to contribute to an annual briefing/discussion meeting as described above. The Select Committee could act as host but open the visit to all members.
I That the Highways Agency work on more frequent sharing of information with local Members about their schemes in Hampshire, with consideration of using existing groups, such as the Hampshire Action Teams, and local transport forums, to achieve this.
The scale of engagement proposed is likely to pose a problem for the Highways Agency in terms of resource implications - the Select Committee could explore this with the Highways Agency if they agree to attend as described above.
J That Hampshire County Council considers a review of arrangements for Member engagement in Transport for South Hampshire and connections between the Partnership for Urban South Hampshire scrutiny committee and the Hampshire County Council Environment and Transportation Select Committee.
Transport for South Hampshire is managed through a joint panel of Executive Members and its scrutiny is through the three individual authorities at present. The Select Committee could approach the scrutiny committees of the other two authorities to explore if a joint working arrangement was of interest.
Similarly the Select Committee could approach the joint PUSH Scrutiny Committee to explore its relationship with the individual authorities.
K That the Environment Department works on more consistent communication between HCC local highway managers and local County Council Members regarding the schemes in their areas.
The department has worked on the provision of information through HATs and through self-service information available on-line. Training can be provided for Members if required.
L That the Environment Department considers better ways to ensure County Councillors are made aware of officer communications with local District Councillors about matters in their area
There is a protocol for keeping County Members informed - it would be helpful to have details of the problems being experienced by Members.
M That the Environment Department seek to ensure that earlier, and consistent knowledge of future transport/highways related decisions to be taken by the Executive Member be communicated to relevant local members.
All schemes are listed in the annual programme and sub-programmes. Key decisions are published bi-monthly. All decision reports include local Member views, and reports are published eight days in advance for other Members who are interested. It would be helpful to have details of the problems being experienced by Members to understand why this is not considered sufficient.
N That the Environment Department develop improved Member involvement in relation to larger schemes, eg SDA developments and Eco Towns that fall into or affect their area.
There are County Council member representatives on the two SDAs and the Eco-town, which are district council led. These key development areas are not yet at a stage where transport assessments are complete or feasibility work progressed. In Basingstoke (the other growth location) a transport model has been developed and the impact of growth options on the network will be shared with local members once complete. It would be helpful to have details of the problems being experienced by Members.
O That the Environment Department considers facilitating greater Member involvement in developing the policy background for external funding bids, focusing on the political rather than the technical aspects, eg whether to submit a bid, how to reflect the needs of the whole county in bids, etc.
The Executive Member for the Environment is now a member of the Regional Transport Board and well placed to influence the direction of transport policy and investment in the region. The strategy for making bids for the county will come through the Executive meetings.
The annual budget sets out the capital programme priorities for the year ahead, including feasibility work on major schemes. The Select Committee could decide to include an annual stock-take on where things are with major scheme feasibility work and review bidding prospects in its work programme, but it must be remembered that success in these bidding rounds is largely about meeting the required criteria, making a strong business case supported by evidence and demonstrating the capacity to deliver.
The new LTP will set out the Council's longer term investment strategy and its short term implementation plan.
In South Hampshire, this is the function of the TfSH Joint Committee. The Committee holds its meetings in public so any member may attend. The TfSH Business Plan is approved by the County Council. The TfSH strategy produced in 2008 is being refreshed in conjunction with the new LTP formulation and Members will be involved.
Regional Funding is now committed up to 2016 and we are awaiting decisions on the 2016-18 period.
P That the Environment Department undertake consideration of how Members might be involved in future Department for Transport consultations on possible schemes on the national and international networks
For many major consultations the County Council's response is provided through the Executive Member decision day or Cabinet. On matters of known wide interest, the Director usually circulates all Members.
More minor consultation responses, within policy, are produced by officers to meet timescales
There is little consultation from the Department for Transport on improvements to the strategic networks. Department for Transport/Highways Agency proposals are often progressed without consultation in advance with the County Council, eg the crawler lanes on the M27 and ramp metering on Junctions 4 and 4a of the M3 in its programme. Forward intelligence on potential future projects may be appropriate for the Committee to include for its annual liaison meeting with the Highways Agency if this can be established?