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Contact: Jo Gresham Democratic Services Officer
Apologies and named substitutes
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Chance, Clayton and Harrison with Councillors Fry, Marshall and Thain in attendance as their respective named substitutes.
Declarations of interest and of Party Whip
To invite Councillors to declare any Disclosable Pecuniary Interests and / or Other Disclosable Interests they may have in items on the agenda, and to confirm the nature of those interests, and any Party Whip.
Prior to any discussion, Councillor Chalk sought clarification regarding the appropriateness of declaring an interest as the Chair of the Planning Committee. This was also queried by Councillors Ashley and Grubb who were Members of the Planning Committee. The Chair explained that the Planning process was completely separate to the scrutiny process due to take place at the meeting and therefore no declarations of interest needed to be made. It was agreed that all Members present would be able to take part in the discussions.
There were no declarations of any Party Whip.
To invite members of the public who have registered in advance of the meeting to speak to the Committee.
The Chair of Overview and Scrutiny has extended public speaking arrangements especially for this meeting, making a doubled 30 minutes available for registered speakers to have up to three minutes each, including on Microsoft Teams, and with the ability to ‘pool’ minutes together for nominated spokespeople. Registered speakers can also submit statements of up to three minutes’ length in writing, to be read out by an officer at the meeting.
Please note there will be no dialogue between the Councillors and the public as part of the Public Speaking arrangements.
If you wish to clarify any further points prior to the meeting, please do not hesitate to contact the Democratic Services Team on email@example.com
The Chair explained to the Committee that four members of the public had registered as Public Speakers and that each had a total of three minutes to address the Committee, under the Council’s Public Speaking Rules,unless they had chosen to ‘share’ their time with the other registered speakers.
At the invitation of the Chair, Ms J. Kane addressed the Committee, as follows:
“Hello and first of all I would like to thank the Chair for allowing me to speak at this evening’s meeting. My name is Joanna Kane and I am also speaking on behalf of Joni Lovell, who had intended to attend tonight and speak in person but unfortunately is unable to do so.
Personally, I have lived in Redditch for more than 25 years and walked in Arrow Valley Country Park on countless occasions. I still remember the first time years ago when I discovered the hub of Arrow Valley Country Park South off Church Lane, commonly known as Ipsley Meadow. The land was given over to the people of Redditch, as public open space for recreational purposes for the then new town, by Redditch Development Corporation.
I was stunned that we had such a beautiful open area on our doorstep, and I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to fully appreciate it until they’ve seen it for themselves. It’s the closest part of Arrow Valley Country Park to local communities and it’s a well-known viewing point in Redditch. It’s important to emphasise that this is not vacant, unused land; in fact it’s very well used for recreational activities including dog walking, kite flying, running, cycling and paragliding.
Over the last 18 months, the importance of recreational public open space for both our physical and our mental wellbeing has been heightened because of the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting lockdown. This is a vital piece of land for local people to enjoy, free of charge.
We know that the council has to make a decision about where to locate a new cemetery.
Eight months ago, Councillor Matt Dormer, the leader of the council, promised the people of Redditch that all 26 potential sites would be re-examined. He said: “I will ensure the examination process that I am undertaking personally is fully transparent so the public can understand the problems the council is facing on this issue, and I will ensure the council works with the public on any final option to ensure we mitigate concerns and provide the best possible burial site.”
What work – which Councillor Dormer said would be significant – was subsequently done to deliver on his promise to re-examine each site?
Why have only three sites been put forward as options in today’s report? And why was the application for change of use of this part of Arrow Valley Country Park South submitted to the planning committee before the options went to the Executive?
The 23 sites that were rejected include Edgioake Lane, where there is already a cemetery which could be ... view the full minutes text for item 51.
This report will follow in an Additional Papers pack once the report has been published for consideration of the Executive Committee.
The Bereavement Services Manager delivered a presentation in respect of the New Cemetery Provision. In doing so the following was highlighted for Members’ consideration:
· Redditch Borough Council operated three cemeteries and four closed churchyards. The three cemeteries were Plymouth Road Cemetery, Edgioake Lane Cemetery and Abbey Cemetery.
· Plymouth Road Cemetery opened in 1855 and was closed to new burial space. The definition of a new burial space was clarified as a burial space that had not been pre-purchased or had been used before.
· Edgioake Lane Cemetery opened in 1885 and had only five years left of burial provision available should the current demand for usage remain the same. This cemetery had been operational for 136 years.
· Abbey Cemetery opened in 1937 and had approximately six months of new burial provision left. It was noted that once Abbey Cemetery no longer had provision for new burials then pressure would fall to Edgioake Lane Cemetery to accommodate new graves. However, if the number of current burials remained the same (approximately 120 new graves per year) then provision at Edgioake Cemetery would lessen considerably and provision would no longer be available after 12 months.
· Discussions regarding new burial provision within the Borough had been ongoing since 2010 when a site at Brooklands Lane had been identified as a potential location for a new cemetery. After investigation, this site was proved to be unsuitable as it was located on an aquifer and therefore failed the initial ground water testing required by the Environment Agency.
· Since 2014, a further 25 investigations had taken place at various locations across the Borough. The outcomes of the 25 investigations were detailed as follows:
16 sites were assessed and subsequently discounted.
5 sites were assessed, deemed suitable for further investigation, and were subsequently discounted.
4 sites were assessed, deemed suitable for further investigation, however, were not recommended for use.
1 site was assessed, deemed suitable for further investigation, and was then recommended for approval.
· Historically, the layout of cemeteries was based on two traditional Victorian designs. One of the designs was for cemeteries that were built on a hill and curved pathways and trees were utilised as features. The second traditional design was a much more formal layout that adopted a garden design.
· When considering the design of new cemeteries, Local Authorities had more options than the more formal, Victorian layout used in previous years. It was noted that these types of new designs would enhance the local surroundings in respect of biodiversity and general ecology. An example of this could be seen locally at Westall Park Natural Burial Ground, which was presented as more of a memorial park rather than a traditional cemetery. The Council would aim to provide this kind of innovation in any cemetery proposals.
· In addition to looking towards a new style of cemetery design, it was noted that Redditch Borough Council’s Bereavement Services had previously taken an innovative approach when looking at provision of services in the Borough. Most notably, ... view the full minutes text for item 52.
The Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s Work Programme was presented for the consideration of the Committee. The Chair confirmed that there were no changes.
The Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s Work Programme be noted.
To consider any urgent business, details of which have been notified to the Head of Legal, Democratic and Property Services prior to the commencement of the meeting and which the Chair, by reason of special circumstances, considers to be of so urgent a nature that it cannot wait until the next meeting
On this occasion there was no urgent business to be considered.