1. Miss S Carey expressed her enthusiasm in her new role as the Cabinet Member for Environment and provided Members with a brief insight into the anticipated work that would be undertaken within the coming months, including increased Cross-Party Member Working Groups.
2. Mr Payne (Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport) provided a verbal update on the following issues:
International Transtech Awards
The KCC Public Transport Team won the Gamechanger Award for Rural Innovation at the inaugural International Transtech Awards. This was for the rural electric mobility minibus scheme which has been operating in the Paddock Wood area.
In July Kent County Council teamed up with Renault to introduce their first electric Renault Master minibus in England. This scheme had been operated by Compaid, the charity helped local disabled and vulnerable people to go about their daily lives and the minibus had been specially designed to cater for their needs. Owing to the success of the scheme the Electric Renault Master was due to go on general sale in 2020.
The bus was also able to monitor driver behaviour. Compaid drivers had achieved a gold standard with no instances of harsh braking, speeding, or sudden uncontrolled or excessive manoeuvres. This was a great testament to the quality of operators that Kent Public Transport had available.
Following the success of the trial, and the earlier successful trial of electric buses throughout Kent, which included Fastrack and Canterbury Park & Ride, Kent Public Transport were working on a policy to only procure electric buses as assets from 2021. This would make Kent Public Transport early adopters and pioneers of KCC’s electric strategy.
Transport for Southeast (TFSE)
The shadow Sub-National Transport Body, Transport for the South East, was currently out to consultation on its draft transport strategy. The region included sixteen highway authorities from Kent and Medway to Hampshire and the Isle of Wight; an area that had an economic output greater than Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales combined, and second only to that of London, yet investment in transportation in the region was woefully low. The TfSE draft transport strategy had a thirty-year vision and would assist the vision for clean growth. The proposed Kent County Council response would be brought to the Environment & Transport Cabinet Committee in January 2020.
Kent Highways & Transport had received significant correspondence regarding the plan by Gatwick Airport Limited to upgrade its emergency runway for routine use to assist with their future growth aspirations. KCC’s position was that it was firmly opposed to the proposed upgrade or any potential second runway at Gatwick Airport. The routine use of Gatwick’s emergency runway would result in a significant increase in aircraft movements, and a potential increase of noise, air quality and other issues affecting the local communities, which would be intolerable. KCC continued to raise its concerns and would be responding formally to the Development Control Order process.
Kent Highways Parish Seminars had been well attended throughout the autumn period. The primary focus was around transportation and Parish Highway Improvement Plans. Mr Payne noted that through collaborative working, KCC and the Parish Councils would be able to work together to identify and deliver priorities for Kent’s residents. Mr Payne recorded his thanks to the representatives of Kent Association of Local Councils who also attended and spoke.
Recent Weather Events
Kent Highways teams had attended various flooding areas across the county as a result of recent heavy isolated rainstorms. As part of the Live Labs innovation project, which had been reported at previous Cabinet Committee meetings, KCC sought to improve its approach to drainage maintenance and had installed pilot drain sensors as part of that work. The sensors would automatically identify when highway drains required cleansing. The trials would identify whether the technology could be installed on a wider basis.
The highways teams continued to keep Kent’s roads and residents safe throughout the winter period. Kent Highways had a full salt stock complement of over 23,000 tonnes and during November, there had been five overnight precautionary salting runs.
Kent Highways had delivered £25 million of the £29 million road surfacing programme. The remainder would be delivered in the New Year once the winter season ended.
The streetlight conversion programme had delivered 120,000 LED street-light conversions, around 2,000 more than the original contract. Conversions would be ongoing as part of KCC’s general approach to streetlight maintenance. This would ensure continued energy saving and carbon reduction.
KCC had commissioned urgent repair and weatherproofing works to a selection of the KCC windmills during the year 2019/20.
At Drapers Mill, Margate, a combination of weatherproofing works and mechanical repairs were carried out during the late summer. These involved re-tarring the weather-boarded smock tower, removing and repairing the windows and renewing the covering on the museum roof. Mechanical repairs involved vital work to the fantail gearing and the sweep framing which was preventing the mill from being able to operate by wind power.
At Meopham Mill, essential holding repairs to the doors and windows at all levels had been undertaken throughout the autumn. Major structural repairs were required and, subject to funding, these would commence next summer.
Following weather damage to the shutters in its sweeps, urgent works were carried out at Cranbrook Union Mill during October. These were successfully done using rope access techniques to avoid the expense of a mobile access platform or cherry picker.
At West Kingsdown Mill, a programme of emergency and urgent weatherproofing works had been commissioned. The work carried out would safeguard the structural timber frame by renewing the weatherboard cladding and windows. A start was made during November and the work was due to be completed in March and April 2020.
3. Cabinet Members responded to comments and questions as follows:
(a) Mr Payne confirmed that the policy for procuring electric buses was in reference to KCC’s own fleet of assets and this would be carried out with the input from Miss Carey (Cabinet Member for Environment) as part of the Energy and Low Emission Strategy.
(b) Mr Lewis commended the work of officers for the work carried out within Margate to mitigate and reduce flooding.
(c) With regard to the discolouration of paint on Cranbrook Mill, this was primarily due to the ridged weather boarding which caused bacteria to collect and as a result led to the discolouration.
(d) In response Members queries as to whether the drainage sensors would be an addition to the scheduled maintenance programme or a replacement for it, Mr Payne confirmed that the pilot of the drain sensors was in its infancy and that more data needed to be collected to ascertain whether the pilot had been successful and whether the technology could be installed on a permanent basis.