Louth Eye
 A guide to Louth in Lincolnshire since 2004

Town Council Round-Up: Flood Prevention, Judicial Review, And Dog Controls

August 6th 2014


The vigil commemorating World War One

The Sessions House was packed for the town council meeting of 5th August (although that doesn't take much) thanks to a full agenda which included a number of sizeable planning issues. Since there's a lot of ground to cover I'll be splitting up this report between the planning issues and everything else.

In the public forum Neil Sharpley spoke out against ELDC's decision to allow what he described as "a large American predatory supermarket" onto the cattle market site. He urged the town council to consider a judicial review into ELDC's decision. "We can only destroy Louth once," he said. "Don't let it happen on your watch."

Jason Garrett asked the council to work on getting a good section 106 agreement for the cattle market, instead of pursuing what he described as an "expensive" judicial review.

Councillor Margaret Ottaway said "I totally endorse what Neil Sharpley has said."

WWI vigil

The Mayor, Councillor Andrew Leonard, thanked the British Legion for organising the Monday night's vigil to mark WWI.

Monday's vigil was a well-attended event, in which a member of the British Legion read out moving stories about just a few of the people who were involved in that conflict.

Flood alleviation

Pete Davenport and Andrew Barron of the Environment Agency came to update the council on the progress of the River Lud flood alleviation scheme.

"We are making very good progress on flood alleviation," Andrew Barron said. "We have a supplier busy working on the scheme, and a contractor. The team seem up to the challenge."

Mr Barron estimated that they would have a planning application submitted by 29th October, and that a planning decision could be made by 11th February 2015. He envisioned having in place "two storage areas towards the end of the year" [2015]. "The town council has said it will fund routine maintenance."

The Mayor compared the scheme to "having a washbasin and plug. [The water] can only escape at a certain speed."

Councillor George Horton pressed Mr Barron on how this scheme would impact on other areas, citing an elderly resident in his ward who "had effluent going down the drive". He asked Mr Barron: "What are your plans for Legbourne Road?"

"This scheme is looking at flood risk at the River Lud," Mr Barron responded. He admitted that the scheme "isn't a panacea". However, he did say that "it does allow other [schemes]."

Councillor Gus Robertson said "Kenwick Road is just a torrent. Something has been done but not enough."

Judicial review

Following ELDC's decision to sell the cattle market, the town council discussed bringing the district council to a judicial review. The Mayor confirmed that this review would look at ELDC's process of coming to a decision.

"I believe East Lindsey have made the totally wrong decision," Councillor Chris Green said.

Councillor Brian Burnett questioned how East Lindsey could "properly evaluate fifteen bids" He estimated that a supermarket might be built in summer 2016, he said: "By that time Aldi will be built. Morrisons may have put in an application to expand... They are taking an enormous risk."

"The process to come to that decision was totally flawed," Councillor Horton said. "They have a duty to look at every bid that's on the table." He also mentioned two outside bodies, KLS and the Louth Chamber of Business, who may be considering judicial review. He also mentioned 15th of August, saying: "That was the decision day for the supermarket. I feel that it was already a done deal."

Councillors discussed the money involved in bringing a judicial review. "You can't be afraid of that," Councillor Eileen Ballard said.

The council voted in favour of consulting a barrister about a judicial review by twelve votes to two, with two abstentions. They also voted on a ceiling of 800 for the costs of an initial consultation. The eventual total cost could be significantly more, and roughly how much more is one of the things the consultation would set out.

River Lud attenuation scheme costs

Councillor Burnett reported on plans for the ongoing costs of the River Lud flood attenuation scheme once it has been built. "What has been proposed is we have a ceiling of 10,000 towards maintenance," he said. "Anything major would not be our responsibility."

The council voted in favour of getting a solicitor to look at this.

Dog Control

In June the town council discussed dog controls in Hubbards Hills, and agreed to put the matter to the Hubbards Hills Trust. The Mayor, speaking as a trustee, reported the trust's decisions to the council on Tuesday.

The trust wanted to extend the dog control area, the Mayor explained, saying: "All the lower area would be dogs on leads. They can be off leads, but it is dated."

Councillor Pauline Watson asked how this would be policed.

"We are going to implement it through signing," the Mayor said. He conceded that it would be "very difficult to police."

"I think it's reasonable for all dogs to be on the lead," Councillor Burnett said. "Unfortunately it's the minority who don't obey any rules."

"My difficulty is enforcement," Councillor Laura Stephenson said. She questioned what recourse people would have against those who ignored the signs.

"It is very difficult, with one dog warden in the entire area," the Mayor said. "As a body that's running the area we have done all we can to make it safe."

"Even if a dog doesn't bite someone, people can still be afraid," Councillor Stephenson said.

Councillor Andrew Austin suggested putting the dog warden's phone number on any signs.

"I'm sure the trust wouldn't have a problem with this," the Mayor answered. To Councillor Green's question about how well observed the current restrictions are, the Mayor responded that "there is a minority who don't obey." He also pointed out that Hubbards Hills suffers "very little from dog fouling."

In practice, I found the dog warden unreachable a few days ago when we found a stray dog on a Sunday. One dog warden isn't enough for the whole of the East Lindsey area, particularly when no-one appears to be covering weekends. So whilst I think these signs are a sensible idea, I have doubts that they will get to the root of problems caused by a few antisocial dog owners.

Recording meetings

New laws come into effect today that allow greater freedom for people to record council meetings, as part of The Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014. These will allow the public to tweet, film, and make audio recordings of council meetings.

Councillor Roger Featherstone raised concerns about the legal implications of people making recordings and adding their own commentary. "I think we should think seriously about making our own recordings," he said.

On the subject of getting people to take part in democracy, Councillor Horton said: "I think this is a backwards step. They can't [participate] sitting in an armchair."

"We live in a digital age," Councillor Austin said. "We need to interact with members of the public in a way that they are comfortable with."

"We're not allowed to film members of the public without their express permission," the Town Clerk, Linda Blankley, pointed out.

The council resolved to look into voice recording for future meetings, with a budget of up to 500.

I think voice recording won't make much practical difference to proceedings unless it's made available live online, and I don't know what that would cost. But I hope these new freedoms open up the political process, allowing more people to see how things are done. If that encourages people to get involved in local politics then that's a bonus.

That's all for this general town council round-up, but I'll be posting more soon about the meeting's planning decisions.

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