Planning & Environment Extraordinary 17 January 2014

Minutes of the Planning & Environment Extraordinary Committee Meeting on 17 January 2014

Present: Councillors Derraugh (Chairman), Hughes, Loch, Wilkie and Mrs M Suckley (Administration Officer)

 In attendance: Cllrs Carter,Griffiths,Marlow and Shipman, CWaC Councillor Gittins, CWaC Officers: Sarah Clein (Head of Localities Rural), Kieran Collins (Area Highways Manager), Bethan Edwards (Local Sustainable Transport Funding (LSTF) Programme Manager), Steve Bakewell (Senior Manager Waste Collection & Disposal), 2 Police Officers and 70 members of the public


  1. Apologies for absence: None.
  2. Declarations of Interest: To receive any Declarations of Interest.
  3. To consider CWaC’s revised scheme for work being undertaken in Cuckoo Lane

Sarah Clein, CWaC Head of Localities Rural: admits CWaC have learned clear lessons from this experience. We have to work in partnership with residents, the Town Council and other agencies and work back through this process. CWaC genuinely commissioned this work to make the route more accessible for more people. Cuckoo Lane is a Public Right of Way and we have a duty to provide accessibility and remove any trip hazards. We have received lots of information and viewed comments on Facebook. CWaC will be sending a detailed letter next week to Neston Town Council, responding to their issues. CWaC now have a list of people wishing to be involved in the consultation process. This is the ‘mid point’ in the exercise. Work has now ceased, apart from contractors securing the site. The following issues are being addressed:

  • Road planings – the Environment Agency advocates the use of recycling materials on Public Rights of Way – this is standard industry practice. We were reassured, if the work had continued, any contamination would have been removed. There is no evidence of any hazardous materials but we acknowledge that the planings contained large pieces of metal which would have been removed.
  • Road safety – this issue has been referred to CWaC School Safety officers, with regard to increased numbers of users.
  • Width – the average width of the path should be 2 to 2.5m wide but we acknowledge that some sections are 3m width and confirm that the rest of the works will not be wider that 2.5m. CWaC also agree with the poor state the path now looks and are hoping to overlay the planings with a softer, more aesthetic surface and have some samples of stone to consider. No decision will be made until all interested parties have been consulted and come to a joint decision.
  • Sandstone – CWaC’s archaeologist’s report suggests covering over the sandstone to further protect it. CWaC recognise that this may be contentious. Certain parts of the sandstone are rutted, making them a trip hazard on this Public Right of Way. This report will be made available to interested parties.
  • Vegetation – CWaC have taken ecological advice and been advised that there is no evidence of irreparable damage to flora or fauna, which will recover given time.To sum up, CWaC will be consulting over the next few weeks and are not proposing to allow anyone back on site until all parties are in agreement on a way forward.                                          

Questions to the Committee: Members of the Public made the following representations to Council

Mr Anthony Annakin-Smith: is not in agreement with everything proposed but welcomed the fact that CWaC are listening and requested that any further works should be undertaken sympathetically. Mr Annakin-Smith suggests amending the road planings as a way forward and believes no additional work should be undertaken on the unfinished section, especially as it is on the sandstone pavement. Cyclists, horse riders and the disabled – no one is seeking sanitisation of footpaths. Drainage solutions should be sought. CWaC had not had the appropriate licence from the Environment Agency to lay the road planings in December. The Cuckoo Lane proposals had not formed part of LSTF funding. This should be a learning point for CWaC, showing the power of the community and ask that we give provisional support.

Mr Phil Wynne: has listened but is still a little concerned about how taxpayers’ money has been spent and queries how many trip hazard claims have been submitted regarding Cuckoo Lane. We will have to come to a compromise but some responsibility will have to be faced for the desecration of our countryside.

Mrs Marion Ankcorn: supports LSTF funding to connect individuals to jobs and wants economic growth for the area. Mrs Ankcorn has concerns that the ancient pathway has been destroyed and questions the value of this work. It is not an access route as it is easier to travel up Hinderton Road. Cuckoo Lane was not in the LSTF documented scheme. It is an ancient pathway with protected hedgerows and habitats. Mrs Ankcorn gladly supports the maintenance of the lane by making it less muddy or by fixing the broken stile, not devaluing it in the process.

Mrs Ruth Such, Access & Bridleway Officer, British Horse Society: states road planings are not suitable for horses. The legal definition of a bridleway is a highway over which the public have a right of way on foot, on horseback or leading a horse. Pedal cyclists have a right to use the bridleway but this should not have been altered purely for cyclists. It should not be improved to the detriment of other users. It should be robust enough for horses to walk. The golden rule should be to upkeep this pathway and keep as natural and sympathetic as possible to the local area. Mrs Such acknowledges the path was in need of repair but it must be suitable for all users.

Dr Rob Ward: congratulated the Town Council for listening to local concerns and acting as a conduit between parties and thanked CWaC for answering concerns. Dr Ward suggested a limestone surface and reassures all that the vegetation will grow back. There is a need for a compromise. He has avoided the path in the past as it has been too muddy. The area at the top of the lane has seen the most improvement. Dr Ward recognises that it is very ugly at present but it will improve naturally and even more so once the surface has been treated.

Mr Geoff Holland, Wirral Footpaths & Open Spaces Preservation Society: accepts the proposals put forward with some reservations (not the covering up of the sandstone on the Holloway). Mr Holland stated that the work at the top end of the lane was improved after he had visited the site and recommended improvements. The Environment Agency states that road planings should only be used ‘without affecting the surrounding countryside.’ Mr Holland is optimistic that the right decision will be reached and there might, in time, be an improvement. We cannot flatten every single bridleway in the county.                              

CWaC Cllr Louise Gittins: hopes CWaC will listen to the experts. Cllr Gittins has concerns the road planings might rise to the surface in time and the thick clay deposits dug out to make way for the path have exposed bluebell bulbs. Suggests the work is halted until HDVC Western Link Cable work is completed.

Sarah Clein, CWaC Head of Localities Rural response: we have taken detailed notes of concerns made today. All interested parties should leave their contact details with CWaC this evening. CWaC cannot reverse what has already been undertaken as this may cause more damage. We have suspended all work and will take account of what people have said.

Kieran Collins CWaC Area Highways Manager stated that the Council have the appropriate approvals in place despite Marion Fraser, a member of the public asking why the Environment Agency will not be prosecuting the Council for not having had the proper licence in place prior to dumping 150 tonnes of road planning on the site.

Cllr Derraugh declared an end to further debate. Cllr Wilkie thanked all for attending, stating that this had been a candid exchange and lessons had been learned.

A proposal was made and seconded that Neston Town Council welcomes the response of Cheshire West and Chester Council to the concerns that have been expressed and ask that CWaC officers meet with the representatives of the interested parties to agree a revised scheme that, as far as is practical, satisfactorily addresses the concerns that have been raised. The proposal was carried. The Committee resolved to approve the motion.

Cllr Hughes announced that he is aware that the vast majority of people in attendance tonight are against this scheme. There are over 15,000 residents in Neston, many of whom will support it and he urged CWac to try to engage with those who are in favour of the scheme as well.

 144   Any other items which the Chairman determines are urgent for discussion or next agenda item. None.

145   Date of next meeting: The date and time of the next meeting was confirmed as Tuesday 11 February 2014 at 6pm

       Meeting closed at 6.45pm