Councillor Quinn, Cabinet Member for Environment will attend the meeting to update Members.
Report from Neil Long and Mike Bent attached.
Councillor Quinn, Cabinet Member for Environment presented a report giving an overview of how Parks and Countryside are being managed as well as future plans in moving the section forward positively.
It was explained that the Parks and Countryside service has responsibility for the health and safety, management and development of all the Council’s parks and countryside areas. The service manages land and buildings assets and facilitates the Asset Transfer Strategy, developing partnerships with local clubs and organisations to promote self management of sports pitches, bowling greens and allotments.
The services also encourages and facilitates local communities and organisations to be actively involved in parks and the countryside through volunteering and friends of the parks groups. The service looks to find innovative ways to involve local businesses and individuals through sponsorship and marketing, including North West and Britain in Bloom and the Green Flag Award.
The report contained information relating to how the team carried out work in the following areas; health and safety; maintenance; individual service elements; asset transfer strategy; community involvement; invasive weed control; and Chalara Fraxinea (Ash die back) management.
The report also set out work that was being carried out in relation to future projects including; 1000 acre woodland and the Burrs strategy and Burrs Activity Centre.
Those present were given the opportunity to ask questions and make comments and the following points were raised:-
· Councillor Hankey referred to invasive weeds such as giant hogweed and pests affecting trees and asked whether the problem was due to climate the global community or both.
Councillor Quinn explained that the issues were due to both factors. One area that needed work was more vigorous control in relation to importing.
· Councillor Hankey referred to Ash die back and asked what was being done about this issue.
Councillor Quinn explained that Ash die back did not kill the tree but affected its immune system so that it would die at some point in the future. The plan to ensure that other trees were planted to make sure that when the time came for the Ash trees to be removed, replacements had already been planted and were established.
· Councillor James referred to the level of staffing within the team and asked for a breakdown.
Neil Long explained that the management figures were set out in the report. There were also a team of gardeners which numbers changed seasonally. There were also volunteer gardeners and the volunteer rangers.
· Councillor Harris referred to the information provided relating to farmers carrying out grass cutting on some sites and asked whether more of this could be pursued.
It was explained that for this to happen the sites have to meet a number of criteria such as type and length of grass as well as the size of the site.
Neil explained that there was a lot of work carried out with regard to sponsorship of flowerbeds and signage from local garden centres and businesses which amounted to around £40,000.
· Councillor Smith referred to Japanese Knotweed and asked how the treatment of this could be ensured on privately owned land.
It was explained that there was a lot of work being carried out in relation to the treatment of both Japanese Knotweed and Giant Hogweed. It was anticipated that a cross borough team would be established to work jointly on this issue.
· Councillor Caserta referred to the reduction in budget that the teams had to work with and asked if Section 106 monies could be used for any of the work required.
Neil Long explained that Section 106 money is allocated at the point of planning application and stipulates the work that will be done. Section 106 money is mainly used to sustain safe play areas. The allocated of the money is monitored to
Ensure that it has been used as was set out in the application.
· Councillor Walker asked whether the document setting out the City Forest Park plan could be shared with all Councillors.
Councillor Quinn stated that he would ask that the Committee receive a presentation from the Forestry Commission in relation to the City Forest Park regeneration.
It was agreed:
That Councillor Quinn and Neil Long be thanked for the update.