Two questions were received:
1) Question from Councillor Wilkes to the Portfolio Holder for Finance, Town Centres and Growth:
“Given the safety concerns raised about Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RACC). Can the Portfolio Holder update the council on the status of Council owned buildings in the borough?
I was pleased see that Sir Thomas Boughey Academy in my Ward took proactive remedial action to replace RAAC panels which were present in some roof constructions at the school. This was before the recent government announcement of a list of schools across the country containing RACC and a funding package for remediation. Does the Portfolio holder agree with me that Sir Thomas Boughey Academy should receive retrospect funding from the government to compensate them for the work already carried out?”
Councillor Sweeney stated that the buildings owned by the Council in the Borough had been reviewed and an engineer had confirmed that he had no concerns.
Councillor Sweeney stated that he absolutely did agree that the Academy should receive funding and this would be something that he and the Leader would take up with the local MP to take to Parliament.
2) Question from Councillor Brown to the Leader of the Council:
“On the 14th of September a category 2 non compliance breach was issued to WQ relating to issues with temporary capping across the site. This followed an unannounced inspection on the 19th June by the Environment Agency. The EA found that there had been a failure to install temporary clay capping to the flanks of Phases 1,2,3 & 4 and concluded that `there could be a significant impact on quality of life if not addressed promptly and adequately.` WQL issued a statement saying they did not accept these findings and will challenge them directly with the E.A.
Does the Leader of the Council share my concern that WQL may be falling back into the attitude of `denial` and the habit of disputing the findings of regulators?”
The Leader stated that Cabinet had received its monthly update yesterday and the Chief Executive had been questioned about issues relating to the Environment Agency, particularly the Category 2 breaches that had been announced. It had been queried whether they should have triggered taking legal/enforcement action by the Abatement Notice.
Securing the Abatement Notice took over a year and any prosecution would now take a higher burden of proof and would again be a lengthy process. In addition any enforcement of the Abatement Notice would need to be carried out in accordance with the Council’s Enforcement Policy which focusses on an ongoing compliance. A statutory odour nuisance would have to be identified within the zones identified within the Abatement Notice and consideration would then be given as to whether the odour event was as a result of the best practical means on the site. Officers would then consider any such breach against the Council’s Environment Policy which would require sequential use of power. If Officers felt that there was a strong case for enforcement they would not hesitate to approach the Secretary of State to take it forward to the courts.
Regarding the attitude of denial, the Leader felt that, dependent upon what meeting was being held with RED Industries, they went from continued denial to what was said in the Abatement Notice.
The Council could not take immediate action, a process had to be followed.
Councillor Brown asked a supplementary question stating that she was interested in the move back towards denial and uncooperative outward facing attitude of the company. A meeting was being held on 28th September. The Leader was asked if he anticipated that this attitude would continue because the EA were due to present their findings there.
The Leader stated that within the Abatement Notice agreement, the Chief Executive had reported that the company were cooperative, giving the information required by the Council and allowing the Council to question them. Relating to the Liaison Committee to be held next week,
The EA would report on the breaches and would be questioning them closely.