Agenda item

Questions from members of the Council

To receive any questions from members of the Council, of which due notice has been given in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 10, to be submitted and answered.

Minutes:

The Mayor advised that four questions from Members of the Council had been received under Council Procedure Rule 10, full details of which were set out in the supplement to the agenda.

 

1. Question from Councillor Williams

 

 “There are ten cycle parking bays in RVP, and of these six are now seemingly used permanently, that is to say most were cleared after the warning in January but now appear to be reverting to long-term parking to the detriment of those cyclists who work daily in the town and need somewhere to park their bikes safely.

 

Can the Council advise frustrated cyclists what measures it is taking to ensure current provision is actually available for daily use?”

 

 Answer from Councillor McDermott

 

“Officers check the cycle huts on a daily basis as part of their routine patrol of our car parks, and if they suspect that the facility is being abused will put warning signs up prior to breaking the padlock and removing the contents.

 

It became apparent that one of the huts was being misused in January this year, and officers followed this process, which resulted in the contents being removed by the person using the hut before further action was necessary.

 

On two occasions in the last few weeks, when officers were specifically asked to check, there were four vacant huts on one day and two vacant huts on the other. The additional cycle locking points were mostly unused.

 

If the public suspect that the facility is being used permanently by one person, and bikes are being left for a long period of time or the huts are locked while empty, they can email carparks@tunbridgewells.gov.uk and officers will investigate and take the appropriate action.”

 

2. Question from Councillor Pound

 

“Can the Portfolio Holder confirm that the investment criteria for property acquisitions that the Cabinet committed to in October 2013 have remained unchanged since that Cabinet Meeting and that members have not been advised at any time since that date of any alteration to those property investment criteria?”

 

 Answer from Councillor Scott

 

“Yes.”

 

Supplementary Question from Councillor Pound

 

“If the answer is yes, they have remained unchanged, can the Portfolio Holder therefore, on behalf of the Council confirm one or both of the following outcomes:

That the Council publically confirms as some residents believe, that the purchase of the 4 flats in Grove Hill House, all of which overlook the site of what would have been the new theatre was a purely political decision to quell opposition to the Calverley Square project and therefore should be included in the overall cost of the Calverley Square project; or

If they can’t acknowledge that, that the Council now needs to advertise its change in property investment criteria so that all of the Borough’s residents are aware of the Councils willingness to buy residential, leasehold properties if approached by individual owners, and that all will be considered against the same criteria as he says was used in considering the purchase of the 4 flats in Grove Hill House.”

 

Answer from Councillor Scott

 

“The criteria as drafted and approved do not prevent the Council from acquiring property for a variety of reasons including, as in the case of Dowding House, helping the Council meet its obligations to tackle homelessness. In the case of Grove Hill House, the reports were considered by Councillors, including a detailed appraisal from independent, external professional advisors. The reports went through the Council’s full decision-making process, including the Cabinet Advisory Board and Cabinet and was not called-in. For the record, the Labour Member voted in favour.  There is a particularly good reason for purchasing something that will give a good investment return to the Council and if it is within the criteria drafted then the Council will consider it.”

 

3. Question from Councillor Hill

 

“Do we agree that Shopmobility in the Royal Victoria Place provides a valuable service to our Town? If so, why has Tunbridge Wells Borough Council again cut the funding, so much that it can no longer remain open?”

 

Answer from Councillor March (summarised)

 

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and Royal Tunbridge Wells Together recognise the need for a service that makes the Town Centre accessible to visitors and have committed to working with Royal Victoria Place on a solution.  We have been the main financial supporters of Shopmobility for many years. But the Councils well documented financial challenge means we have had to warn the Trustees over 12 months ago that support would be reduced on a sliding scale – that is £10k last year, £9k this year and £8k next year, as agreed by a cross-party working group in January 2019.  And, for information, the National Federation for Shopmobility UK states that their priority this year is trying to make Shopmobility self-sufficient.

 

With the Tunbridge Wells Lotto, Shopmobility has been registered since 31 May 2017 and has received a payment totalling £574.00.

 

Supplementary question from Councillor Hill

 

“This is not just a place to hire a wheelchair, it is an information service for people just out of hospital to parking issues. I must stress it is a service, not a business.  People who use this service also shop in the town can we please look again at funding for this vital service to vulnerable people because if Shopmobility has to close what sort of a message does that send to our residents regarding Tunbridge Wells Borough Council as a caring Council?”

 

Answer from Councillor March

 

“We do know that there is a Concierge service in Royal Victoria Place and they are there to answer a lot of questions. All of the questions that Councillor Hill has mentioned can be dealt with by the Concierge service. There are wheelchairs available if you go to the Concierge and we are dealing with Royal Victoria Place where there will not be a situation where there will be no wheelchairs for people to use in the Town Centre of Tunbridge Wells.”

 

4. Question from Councillor Williams

 

“Is the Council aware that there was traffic gridlock on the mornings of Monday 10, for the first time ever in Sherwood, and incredibly then again on Thursday 13 too, raising residents' concerns that the new proposal for major development at Kingstanding Way should be accessed not from Longfield Road, where full capacity was reached twice that week, but from the next junction up on the A21 towards Tonbridge?”

 

Answer from Councillor McDermott

 

“We are certainly aware of the gridlock caused by flooding which happened on the A21 – we had a rather heavy storm if you recall, we’ve had two weekends of it – and it will be raised with Highways England. Every village in the local areas was swamped with cars as they couldn’t use the A21. As with any planning application, issues relating to highways matters will be subject to discussion between the Council as Local Planning Authority, Kent County Council and Highways England. 

 

Of course the A21 was closed, not only for flooding but also because there was a bad accident there.”

 

Supplementary question from Councillor Williams

 

“Can you sense why local residents are concerned that there be more proposals for more developments without apparently the road infrastructure being improved to accommodate it?”

 

Answer from Councillor McDermott

 

“Wherever you go, you are going to have problems when there is flooding as we have seen in the last couple of weeks. The flooding on the A21 was in a spot where it wasn’t expected. It stopped all the traffic there so what do people do? They turn off at Matfield and go through Matfield and Pembury, or they go through Tonbridge, or they travelled through Tunbridge Wells and through Sherwood. Similarly, with the bad accident between Kippings Cross roundabout and Pembury, no traffic was not able to get through that way and they had to use other routes. I don’t necessarily think it was due to Longfield Road necessarily but it was down to an accident in one case and in the other case a very bad flood.”

Supporting documents:

 

A - Z of council services