(Democratic Services Manager) To consider the attached Member request for a Scrutiny review submitted by Councillor J H Whitehouse, who has requested that this be a ‘Spotlight’ review.
The Democratic Services Manager informed the Committee that a Member request for a Scrutiny Review had been received from Councillor J H Whitehouse.
Councillor J H Whitehouse had requested a ‘spotlight’ Scrutiny review of air pollution caused by vehicle emissions, to: identify the locations of poor air quality in the District caused by vehicle emissions; learn how air quality was measured; and consider the measures available to the Council to address the problem. If this request was supported by the Committee then a scoping exercise would need to be undertaken and reported back to the Committee at its next meeting in September 2019.
Councillor Knight highlighted that the review could also examine the air quality from building developments throughout the District, but that there was currently no plan in place to resolve these issues and maybe this was not the right time for such a review. However, Councillor Neville felt that the review would be timely; the point being to examine what could be done to tackle this issue and then formulate a plan. The Council did have some powers to deal with this issue, whether it be through planning or dealing with idling traffic; other areas could be added during the scoping exercise if it was felt appropriate.
Councillor Murray was very supportive of the request and acknowledged that, although the Council could not do everything to improve the air quality within the District, it could do something. This review would be a start, was precisely worded, and would examine the measures and resources available to the Council before making its recommendations. Councillor Mohindra applauded the sentiment behind the request for a review, but wondered whether the District Council was the right body to undertake this review? Information on this subject might have already been collated by other public sector bodies.
However, the Portfolio Holder for Planning Services, Councillor Philip, felt that the request for a Scrutiny review was flawed. Air quality was a key part of the emerging Local Plan, particularly in the Habitats Regulations Assessment (2019). The air quality levels for the Special Area of Conservation (SAC) within the District were higher than for the areas of human habitation. The Stronger Place Select Committee had scrutiny of the Local Plan within its remit, and this issue could be examined there; there was no need for a separate Task & Finish Panel.
Councillor J H Whitehouse acknowledged that air quality could be a wide topic, but she simply wanted a short, focused Task & Finish Panel to examine this subject. The Councillor had received numerous complaints about engine idling at Epping Underground Station, and Abridge was probably another area within the District with poor air quality due to traffic fumes. The Council had powers to issue fixed penalty notices but they were not used. There was the option to have follow-up Panels to tackle the other air quality issues.
Councillor Sunger, who was the Chairman of the Stronger Place Select Committee, pointed out that the ‘Green Agenda’ was an item on the Select Committee’s work programme and there was as yet nothing allocated against it. Therefore, the Councillor welcomed this as a topic for discussion at the Select Committee’s next meeting in September 2019. Councillor Knight informed Councillor J H Whitehouse that she would be happy to attend the Select Committee meeting with her and together they could list all the air pollution issues within the District, not just traffic emissions. Councillor Philip reiterated that if there were particular air quality issues within the District then the Stronger Place Select Committee should be used to tackle them.
The Committee voted on the Member request for a Scrutiny Review, but the motion to set up a Task & Finish Panel to examine this issue was lost.
(1) That the Member request for the establishment of a Task & Finish Panel to undertake a Scrutiny Review of air pollution caused by vehicle emissions not be agreed; and
(2) That the matters raised by the Member Request be added to the current work programme for the Stronger Place Select Committee.