In accordance with the Council Procedure Rules, a total period of 30 minutes is allocated for members of the public to speak at Council meetings. Individual members of the public may speak for up to 2 minutes, but the Chair will have discretion to vary this requirement where they consider it appropriate.
Members of the public wishing to speak are required to provide notice of this at least three clear working days’ in advance of the meeting and should include the question with that notice.
Andrew Wood reported that an event would be held in April to talk about the building of a new farmers’ market in Chelford and all were invited to attend. Mr Wood then talked about the clean air zone in Manchester and that not everybody had electric cars and that there was not enough power in the grid to supply everybody with electric cars. He asked, as electric cars did not pay road tax, who would pay for the road, and stated it was the people who would be going in and out of the clean air zone, and some will not be able to afford the £20 charge for using the clean air zone in Manchester.
Simon Read, Chair of Pickmere Parish Council, expressed concerns about the level of service provided by the Council in relation to planning and highways matters and reported that the Parish Council had taken the unusual step of raising a formal complaint about the difficulty they had faced. In response Cllr M Warren, Chair of Environment and Communities Committee, stated that the planning service was currently dealing with an above average number of planning applications and that additional external support had been brought in to help reduce the backlog of applications. A full review of the planning service had been launched, with a view to improving the customer experience and communication with customers, recruiting more staff, and reducing the backlog of applications. With respect to planning enforcement, the Council had a Planning Enforcement Policy published on its website, which sets out the legislative powers available to the local planning authority, the priorities for investigation, and the actions that may be taken in response to identified breaches of planning control. Resources were targeted to dealing with the most serious breaches of planning control where clear and demonstrable harm is being caused. There were seven Planning Enforcement Officers to cover the borough, who investigated on average 1,000 reports of suspected breaches of planning control each year. Cllr C Browne, Chair of Highways and Transport Committee responded to say that he had been assured by the highways department that the local highways officer would be in touch to proactively open communications with the parish council. The Mayor invited Cllr K Parkinson, ward councillor, to respond. Cllr Parkinson stated that she shared the frustration of the parish council in receiving little or no response from Highways regarding the state of the roads. She stated she was constantly fighting for potholes to be repaired in her ward but was frustrated as only a basis repair was done, which disintegrated within a couple of weeks and then the whole cycle started again.
Robert Douglas asked the Council to revert back to the previous public speaking rules to allow residents to raise questions at any committee meeting on issues that fall within the remit of that committee rather than just the items on the agenda. He also asked the Council to authorise its Environment and Communities Committee to investigate how Cheshire East Council could adopt the excellent policy of Congleton Town Council and completely ban the use of glyphosate. In response Cllr M Warren, Chair of Environment and Communities Committee, responded that the intention behind the public speaking rules, as they were currently framed, was to ensure that the Council’s committees could concentrate on those matters which appeared on their agendas, rather than upon any wide-ranging issue which might be raised by a member of the public on any particular day. Cllr Warren suggested that if Mr Douglas or anyone else had a question which might fall within the terms of reference of a committee, they raise these matters with the Committee Chair, by email. In that way, a prompt and effective response can be provided. In relation to the question on the use of glyphosate, Cllr Warren stated that the Council was aware of public concern around the use of glyphosate in public places. However, Glyphosate was still licenced for use in the UK and as such, if handled correctly and within the guidance, was safe to be used in public places. ANSA and Cheshire East Highways, who undertake weed control in parks, open spaces, roads and pavements on behalf of the Council were encouraged to minimise the use of glyphosate and to find alternative mechanisms wherever possible.
Peter Foster asked about the provision of a greenway with links for pedestrians and cyclists alongside the proposed railway from the Parkers Road area of Crewe to Wimboldsley and onto Clive Green for Winsford and Middlewich, which would allow journeys to work and for leisure, much like the existing Crewe-Nantwich route alongside Middlewich Road, in an area with no minor roads and few footpaths. Cllr C Browne, Chair of Highways and Transport Committee, responded that the opportunityto provide a greenway was closely associated with the planning for High Speed 2 (phase 2B). The Council was actively engaged in responding to consultations on the design refinements for Phase 2B and this would include consideration of all necessary mitigations to impacts on local road networks and routes for active travel.
Sue Helliwell referred to a report in the Alsager Chronicle in which Cllr Rod Fletcher stated that Cheshire East Council has removed £400,000 from a capital programme for enhancements to Bank Corner Alsager, previously set aside in February 2019 for high priority improvements and asked if the money could be reinstated in the next round of highways. In response Cllr C Browne, Chair of Highways and Transport Committee, responded that it was these matters would be considered when Item 7 – Medium Term Finance Strategy, was debated by Council.
Laura Turner stated that nothing had changed since she last spoke at the Council meeting in December and that she believed the Leader of the Council was out of touch with what was going on in Middlewich. She referred to what she believed to be the dysfunctionality of Middlewich Town Council, the inability of ward councillors to act on resident’s behalf, the grossly underfunded infrastructure and increasing number of planning permission granted. She invited the Leader to meet with Middlewich residents who disagreed with the statement he made last December. In response it was stated it was inappropriate for the Council to discuss the affairs and operation of Middlewich Town Council.