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Councillor Report – September 2018 | Uplands Labour

Councillor Report – September 2018

Cwmdonkin Park

Users of Penlan Crescent and Cwmdonkin Park are concerned that the fence  between the two is in a poor state and the hedge comes and goes. Lighting is often poor when the trees are in leaf and there’s a concern that  a driver  could miss the edge of the road, going down the slope into the park.  There’s been difficulty getting Highways and Parks to  agree on who has responsibility.  Highways say that in the absence of  previous accidents and with the danger only a potential one, there’s nothing in their budget to provide a barrier and the cost could probably not be met from the Community budget. Nick, accompanied by Friends of Cwmdonkin Park secretary Mike O’Carroll met at the site, recently,  with Ceri Davies from Regeneration. Ceri’s view was that the topography and the soil  could not support a hedge thick enough to  constitute a viable barrier. The only viable, practicable course appears to be the repainting of the white line. We can use the community budget for this.

The Optimist

There have been complaints by nearby residents about the noise levels coming from this premises. Labour councillors requested investigations by council officers which revealed that  the premises was sticking to its licence conditions about when music was played but the music was too loud when the folding front doors were opened. Uplands Labour councillors want to support this business which appears to be an asset to the area but we need to ensure a balance between commercial and residential interests and that people are not disturbed.  The establishment is in breach of its planning consent, by not having rebuilt the disabled access ramp, and Mary has been approached by members of the Disability Liaison Group about this.   Planning officers confirm that enforcement action is underway.

Bar St James

An appeal against the Council’s refusal to allow extended serving hours has failed, with the Inspector rightly commenting that this is a residential area.  We are pleased with this demonstration that the Inspector appreciates the impacts of these developments on communities.

 

HMOs

This issue doesn’t go away. The August planning committee meeting saw it crop up surreal fashion.  HMO planning applications from Uplands were being considered. Nick asked planning committee to reject but admitted that he understood the position they were in when advised by officers that without Supplementary Planning Guidance in place there was little  to give weight to any decision to reject which could therefore be likely overturned on appeal.  Every time this happens, it grows the body of case law which planning authorities are supposed to refer to in the absence of a robust local policy.  The draft SPG was voted down last July, by the same Committee members who were last month advocating rejection of applications despite the fact that it was their actions that left us without a clear local policy, hence that the application was before them with an officer recommendation to approve and rejecting it could be deemed negligent by the Planning Inspectorate. Labour members of the committee (which is meant to be non-political, with no whipping) have been criticised in some quarters for voting the applications through. The truth is, they realise there is no alternative, until an SPG as part of the LDP, is in place. Other committee members meanwhile attempt to square the circle, failing to understand the consequences of their own actions.  One  member drew an analogy comparingf the vote against HMO applications to the Falklands war, which tells us something, at least.

 

Sustainable Transport

Nick is the member champion for sustainable transport, on which there are a number of positive developments.

  • The Santander-University bike hire scheme has been launched and is a huge success. This is not a council scheme but the council is supporting it: it encourages alternatives to car use and could encourage students not to bring and use cars, thus reducing parking pressure in Uplands and Brynmill. Uplands Labour Cllrs continue to promote collaborative working with the University, particularly the sustainable transport officer Jayne Cornelius, who put a lot of work into the Santander bid, and Kevin Childs, Director of Student Services.
  • A successful bid to the Welsh Government’s Active Travel fund has been made with Swansea awarded £2,068,000 for land acquisition and construction of cycle routes in 2018-19. The following schemes will benefit: The Northern strategic route which is Swansea Vale link road, Llansamlet link, Tir Canol link and Sketty Lane widening. The local schemes to benefit will be Cwm Level link, Trallwn link, Birchgrove link, Ynystawe link and Singleton park link. This is great news for existing and aspiring cyclists, increasing cycling provision and
  • Plans for a Mansel Street-Walter Road cycle route, connecting a major commuter route with the new road network on the Kingsway and, via Orchard Street, the railway station, are being considered. Wheelwrights, the cycling advocacy organization, has carried out two consultation exercises with an overwhelmingly positive response. The advantages are obvious: an increased and enhanced cycle network, encouraging people away from the car, safer, keeping cyclists off the pavement, reducing traffic congestion and increasing air quality.  Highway officers are looking at options  as to how this scheme can be delivered. Nick spoke to a meeting of Wheelwrights in July, discussing the improvement of the cycle network.
  • Buses: The Uni-Bus service continues to be well-used even during the University vacation (although some students are still here); an example of  successful collaborative working between the Universities, First  Bus and the local authority.
  • A Quality Bus Partnership between the authority and First Bus, involves regular meetings to discuss service changes, improvements to the network and joint bids for funding, one of which, to Welsh government, will now bring Real Time Information at certain bus shelters in the network (eventually to be  transmitted to passengers phones, once the kit is in place) and  improved communication between the control centre and the traffic lights at various junctions, to  give buses priority and thus improve punctuality.
  • The authority wants through ticketing so that passengers pay only once however many operator’s buses they use on their Logically, this would involve bringing other operators  into the Partnership, such as SWT and NAT.

 

Energy

The council has been consulting on the possibility of setting up its own energy company.  Following in the footsteps of Nottingham (highly successful) and Bristol (having some problems: lessons to be learned) we hope to be the first council in Wales to remove the profit motive from energy provision by supplying fuel to local households.  The consultation has closed but an online article has more information, Google: Swansea Council Energy Company.

 

Social Care Co-operatives

Care is another area where the profit motive has created problems.  Low pay leads to low morale, poor working conditions and poor quality service.  Welsh government is encouraging new models of service delivery to be explored, particularly co-operatives.  Relevant cabinet members are supportive and interested; it is likely that policy development in this area might be explored.  Anyone with relevant experience or interest is welcome to contact Mary.

 

 

Equalities

Cuts to the Access to Services Team mean that the Council is having to work differently to ensure that our services are open to all and that equality of access and opportunity is prioritized.  Equalities Champions from within different service areas are being trained.  The Disability Liaison Group is very active and benefits from a large number of committed participants.  Working groups may be established to look at some key issues, like how the Council undertakes consultations.  Anyone interested in these issues is welcome to contact Mary to share thoughts or get more involved.

 

Parking

The idea of making the whole Uplands area “Residents Only or Pay & Display” is being floated.  We have put some posts on Facebook to canvass general public opinion on the idea, which has been very mixed.  Some are very supportive; others declare it ridiculous.  It is difficult to see how else we can overcome the problem of all-day commuters and long-term student parkers (who often don’t move their cars for many months) causing great inconvenience to other residents.  The university sells parking permits to staff but doesn’t provide sufficient space.  We believe this is tolerated by those who’ve paid for nothing while free parking exists in Brynmill; perhaps ending this will nudge them to hold their employer to account.  As usual, thoughts and comments from branch members are very welcome in this discussion.

 

Scout Hut

This valuable meeting space and community facility on Bryn Road is badly in need of renovations, which we are happy to be supporting with our community budget.

 

Welfare Reform

The Auditor General for Wales predicted some years ago that the Tory government’s welfare reform programme would have a disproportionately damaging effect on Wales compared to other parts of the UK.  The impacts of benefit cuts and Universal Credit are now being felt by our communities, with growing numbers of people falling into rent arrears and struggling to make ends meet.  Revised predictions are for a worse impact than originally calculated.  One of Mary’s priorities for this municipal year is for an action plan to be drawn up, using the data we have to target the worst affected households with bespoke support.  Officers have been striving to get this in place for some time and it is hoped that more political pressure will resolve some of the internal problems with getting this in place.  In Mary’s WLGA role she has requested a meeting of relevant senior council officers and members from all Welsh councils to share learning and good practice about welfare reform and develop messages which can be passed to Welsh Government to raise with Westminster. This is planned for 21st September.