Agenda and minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Monday, 25th September, 2023 6.30 pm

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Venue: Council Chamber, Town Hall, Royal Tunbridge Wells, TN1 1RS

Contact: Caroline Britt  Senior Democratic Services Officer


No. Item


Apologies for Absence pdf icon PDF 28 KB

To receive any apologies for absence.

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Apologies were received from Councillors Pope, Palmer and Morton.


Declarations of Interest and Party Whip pdf icon PDF 31 KB

To receive any declarations of interest by Members in items on the agenda in accordance with the Members’ Code of Conduct. For any advice on declarations of interest, please contact the Monitoring Officer before the meeting.


To receive any declarations by members of instruction given by or on behalf of a political group as to how that members should speak or vote on any items on the agenda. For any advice on declarations of interest, please contact the Monitoring Office before the meeting.

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It was noted that Councillor Lewis worked for Adult Education at Kent County Council so would not partake in any discussion about the Amelia Scott.


Notification of Persons Registered to Speak pdf icon PDF 31 KB

To note any Visiting Members or members of the public wishing to speak, of which due notice has been given in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 18 or 19, and which item(s) they wish to speak on.

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There were no members of the public or visiting Members registered to speak.


Minutes of the meeting dated 31 July 2023 pdf icon PDF 153 KB

To approve the minutes of a previous meeting as a correct record. The only issue relating to the minutes that can be discussed is their accuracy.

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Members reviewed the minutes.  No amendments were proposed.


RESOLVED – That the minutes of the meeting dated 31 July 2023 be approved as a correct record.


Items Called- In pdf icon PDF 67 KB

To consider any items ‘Called-In’ under Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rule 13, details of which will have been circulated to Members under separate cover.

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There were no items which had been called in.


Presentation from the Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning pdf icon PDF 72 KB

To receive a presentation from the Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning and to consider any further actions.

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Councillor Pound, Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning, supported by Carlos Hone, Head of Planning gave a presentation on planning enforcement including an update on recruitment/appointment of Planning Enforcement Officers.


Discussion and questions from Members included the following:


-       Planning Conditions were required to be compliant and proportionate in order for them to be included on the planning decision notice. 

-       Because the Council issued approximately 3,000 planning consents every year, it was not possible to keep track of all of them.  The Council was therefore reliant on members of the public to alert the planning department if they felt a development was in breach of a planning condition.  Once received, the issue would be investigated. 

-       The Planning Enforcement Plan sets out how the Council prioritised complaints.  There were four different levels of priority:

o   1st Level (Top Priority) – unauthorised work to buildings that would cause irreversible damage e.g. listed buildings, ancient monuments trees and hedgerows. Action would be taken within 24 hours of notice being given.

o   2nd Level – unauthorised work but of less harm.  The Council would still act promptly and within 5 working days.

o   3rd Level – unauthorised development that caused limited harm e.g. impact to a neighbouring property.  This would be dealt with through the triage process, but still within 10 working days.

o   4th Level – Least impact. This would still be triaged with an expectation of being visited within 15 working days.

-       Approximately 50% of complaints received by the Council were not breaches of planning.  This caused delays in dealing with those that were in breach. If this number could be reduced, the time it took to undertake the initial investigation would be less. 

-       Planning enforcement was not there to be punitive to individuals who had not complied with planning regulations, but to mitigate any harm caused.  Applying retrospectively was part of the planning process. 

-       If a retrospective planning application would resolve the matter, then it was likely this would be the route taken.

-       Planning applications would be considered in the same way, regardless of whether the matter was current or retrospective.

-       Planning enforcement was not about punishing those who failed to comply (whether by accident or deliberately), it was about ensuring that applications were compliant.

-       If a breach had been reported, the first action was for the planning enforcement officer to undertake a site visit and establish that there had in fact been a breach of planning conditions.

-       If a breach had been committed, the planning enforcement officer will discuss the issue with the relevant planning officer to see whether the matter could be resolved via a retrospective planning application. 

-       If the matter could not be resolved then the Council would then ask the applicant to ‘undo’ the element(s) that were in breach of planning conditions.

-       If the applicant failed to comply, the Council could then go down the planning enforcement notice process.

-       The applicant  ...  view the full minutes text for item OSC26/23


Presentation from the Cabinet Member for Economic Development pdf icon PDF 74 KB

To receive a presentation from the Cabinet Member for Economic Development and to consider any further actions.


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Councillor Rutland, Cabinet Member for Economic  Development, supported by Paul Taylor, Director of Change and Communities, Jane Fineman, Head of Finance, Procurement and Parking and John Strachan, Parking Manager.  A presentation and update was given on the Amelia Scott and Assembly Hall Theatre, followed by a discussion on parking matters.


Culture/Amelia Scott/ Assembly Hall Theatre


Discussion and questions from Members included the following:


-       Budgets and the need to deliver the services in the most cost effective way was an ongoing issue for the Council. 

-       The focus was on driving income rather than cost savings or cutting back on services.

-       The Theatre team had embraced the challenge, and were working hard to generate income.

-       The Amelia didn’t lend itself as easily to commercial activities  but the team were doing their best to use the resources available and to operate as efficiently as possible.

-       Efficiency savings of £75k had been made, but that do not affect the service.

-       The public should see more shows being delivered at the Assembly Hall Theatre.

-       The Amelia would continue to deliver a high quality facility offering a large and varied demographic.

-       The Council had no appetite to cut services as these were valuable resources  for all of the Borough’s residents.

-       It was reassuring that both the Amelia Scott and the Theatre were not seen as soft targets when looking for efficiency savings.

-       The teams at both the Amelia and Assembly Hall Theatre were thanked for their continued hard work in driving business.

-       The theatre was restricted in terms of what could be done to make better use of the facility that would help drive business and increase income.

-       Some consideration had been given to reopening the box office, and perhaps to sell drinks in the foyer area. 

-       Consideration was also being given as to the viability of improving  the F&B area at the Theatre.  Expanding the bar was unlikely to be cost effective.

-       Investment had been made in installing a new till system and improved Wi-Fi at the Theatre.

-       The key driving factor was to increase the number of people who attended the theatre by delivering more of the right quality shows.

-       The more people who attended the theatre, the more income would be received in both ticket sales and bar sales. 

-       Income had increased at the Theatre during this financial year compared with last financial year.  This was due in part to having some sold out shows. 

-       It was likely that income had increased year on year since Covid.

-       One of the issues with Covid was the lack of product.  The industry had now started to recover so a better quality of performance was now available.

-       The Theatre Team were actively trying to increase the number of performances.

-       Better advertising would help bring more artists into the Borough.  Also using other areas within the Theatre might offer opportunities for smaller gathering.

-       Taking  ...  view the full minutes text for item OSC27/23


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 140 KB

To consider the Committee’s future work programme.

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The Work Programme was presented for information.


Comments included:


-       For the next meeting in November, the Finance and Performance Cabinet Member will be in attendance to present on the budget.

-       Also in November, there will be a presentation from South East Water.

-       The Contracts Task and Finish Group was still ongoing, but it was confirmed that a final report would be included at the next meeting.


Urgent Business pdf icon PDF 28 KB

To consider any other items which the Chairman decides are urgent, for the reasons to be stated, in accordance with Section 100B(4) of the Local Government Act 1972.

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There was no urgent business.


Date of the next meeting pdf icon PDF 28 KB

To note that the next scheduled meeting is Monday 27 November 2023 at 6:30pm

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The next meeting is scheduled for Monday 27 November 2023 at 6:30pm.