1. Mr M Hill, OBE (Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services) provided an update on the Trading Standards event ‘Scams: The true cost – Working together to Tackle Financial Abuse’ that took place on 1 October 2019. The event focused on the impact that scams had on the individual, to services and the economy as a result of the psychological and financial abuse incurred and the importance of joint working across the relevant agencies to help minimise future detriment.
2. Mr Hill informed Members that district licensing had adopted a new approach to authorising developments that affected great crested newts and that new site-based assessments and mitigation processes had been put in place to drive strategic habitat improvements. He had recently visited the project undertaken by Countryside Partnerships to see appropriate habitats in the Egerton area. Similar projects were being constructed in other parts of the county.
3. Mr M Whiting (Cabinet Member for Planning, Highways, Transport and Waste) provided a verbal update on the following issues:
(a) Kent County Council received 144 responses for the Kent Biodiversity Strategy consultation. The majority were from individuals. There was strong support for the strategy but also some criticism that it needed to be more ambitious. The comments had been addressed and a final draft of the Strategy was due to return to the Committee in the new year.
(b) Last month, Government announced that the A28 Birchington, Acol and Westgate-on-Sea Relief Road scheme had been approved to the next stage of project development for Major Road Network funding. The scheme would provide an alternative route and would utilise the existing Shottendane Road which ran south of and parallel to the A28. The new road would link to the A28 south of Birchington and to Manston Road and Hartsdown Road, east of Westgate-on-Sea, through future development sites. It would also provide a southern link through an extension to the existing Columbus Avenue, providing traffic relief to the village of Acol. The scheme was part of the Thanet Transport Strategy to support the draft Thanet Local Plan. The Government’s announcement provided confidence to progress the scheme to the next stage of the Strategic Outline Business Case.
(c) With regard to the Thanet local Plan, the examination hearings had recently finished. A decision on the soundness of the draft Local Plan was expected early 2020.
(d) KCC owned eight windmills, spread across the County, and continued to prioritise where the capital investment was required to maintain the iconic agricultural heritage of Kent for future generations as well as to support the volunteers who continued to open them for the benefit of the community. Where possible there was a desire to maintain them in working condition as at Cranbrook, Herne, Stelling Minnis and Margate. Others were to be found at Chillenden, West Kingsdown, Whittersham and Meopham and all were listed buildings representing some of the best examples of their kind in the country.
(e) Surrey County Council had committed to facilitate 1.2 million trees within the Surrey region by 2023. Mr Whiting commended the initiative and had asked Kent County Council officers to review ways in which Kent could mirror the initiative with its 1.8 million trees.
4. The Cabinet Members and officers responded to comments and questions as follows:
(a) Mr Whiting assured the Committee that Kent County Council was not divesting its responsibility for the maintenance of windmills and had actively sought support from Trusts and volunteers to help operate them. Kent County Council had received £300,000 funding to help repair the iconic landmarks and continued to work with local communities to ensure their continued use. Mrs Stewart (Director of Environment, Planning and Enforcement) said that a Capital Programme was in place to help maintain the windmills and this was linked to the Heritage Conservation Strategy which identified the best way to conserve Kent’s historical landmarks.
(b) Mr Whiting thanked Members for their comments concerning the facilitation of trees and said that work was being carried out by officers to review the scheme adopted within Surrey. A report detailing Kent County Council’s plan would be brought back to a future Committee.
5. It was RESOLVED that the verbal update was received, with thanks.