Agenda item

Public questions

This report sets out the public questions received for this meeting. 


Question A – James Chespy, of Gillingham, asked the Leader of the Council, Councillor Maple, the following:

“For the last 20 years we have seen an erasure of hope in the Medway towns and one saw it etched on the faces of some of our local population. Now that the people have entrusted the Labour and Co-operative Group with the governance of the local Council, I would ask the new Leader of the Council to commit to restoring hope to our towns and to our people.”

Councillor Maple thanked Mr Chespy for the question. He said that before 4 May 2023, he had sought to be given the opportunity to serve the people of Medway. Since then, the new administration had been getting on with the job, including being clear that tough decisions would need to be taken.

The new administration brought honest hope, for residents it would be a case of what they see is what they get with hard working councillors dedicated day-in-day-out to delivering on five key pledges. These would be delivered by 2027 along with much more. This would be delivered against the backdrop of the economic situation, both locally and nationally, which had been inherited and which put the Council in a financially difficult position.


Councillor Maple said that he and all the Councillors of Medway wanted the best for the local community. The new administration had been given a mandate to lead, whether that be delivering its pledges, fighting for the resources required or standing up for Medway to central Government.


Question B – Carl Dunks, of Rainham, submitted the following to the Deputy Leader of the Council, Councillor Murray:

“Can there be a medical unit in Rainham (ME8) to help people with challenging behaviours such as Tourette’s, autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?”

Note: As Mr Dunks was not present, the Mayor stated he would receive a written response to his question in accordance with Council Rule 8.6.


Question C – Vivienne Parker, of Chatham, asked thePortfolio Holder for Climate Change and Strategic Regeneration, Councillor Curry, the following:


“I have had complaints that some roads on Davis Estate have not been cleaned and that local people are having to do their own cleaning. Can the Council confirm that street cleaning is still taking place on the estate?”

Councillor Curry thanked Ms Parker for the question. He confirmed that the roads on the Davis Estate were cleaned regularly. The Council was not aware of local people undertaking their own cleansing and, therefore, he urged residents to report any issues directly to the Council to allow them to be investigated and necessary action taken. Medway Norse, the Council’s street cleansing Contractor, cleaned roads around the Davis Estate with the Shirley Avenue area and the parade of shops, receiving high intensity cleaning and daily attention.


Councillor Curry said that tackling litter was something that Medway was particularly focused on. There were successful volunteer schemes, such as the Great British Spring Clean, that had been run for several years, with more planned for the future. Ms Parker was encouraged to contact the Council again in the future should specific action be needed.


Question D – Alan Wells, of Chatham, submitted the following to the Portfolio Holder for Climate Change and Strategic Regeneration, Councillor Curry:

“Flash floods and flooding are projected to rise considerably by 2050 because of increased intensity of rainfall during winter and summer. Sea levels are also predicted to rise by 10-30cm, which will compound coastal flooding and negatively impact coastal infrastructure.

In relation to the recently published Isle of Grain Policy Unit: Thames Estuary (TE2100) by the Environmental Agency to manage flood risk and adapt to rising sea levels, land on some parts of the Peninsula is within flood zone 3 which has a high probability of flooding. Flood defences have been built to protect and reduce flooding, but do not completely stop the chance of flooding because they can be overtopped or fail.

TE2100 calls on the Council to produce Riverside strategies either as a standalone document or part of a Local Plan, created with local communities, and in place by 2030. Visions for the riverside show how flood defence upgrades can deliver social value and multiple benefits.

In some places in the outer estuary, they will need to be in place earlier. This is because planning for defence raising will need to start before 2030. Riverside strategies enable opportunities to upgrade flood defences through planned developments. Decisions taken in the 2020s will determine the quality of public space along the river for generations.

Environment Agency Director of Flood Risk Strategy and National Adaptation, Julie Foley said “What we already know in the Thames Estuary is that climate change is happening: sea level is rising faster than we were expecting, assets are deteriorating faster than we were expecting and some of the key dates that we originally thought we needed for bringing forward investments and raising flood defences are coming forward.”

Ensuring the Peninsula’s communities, growth, and infrastructure is resilient to climate change, and to future sea level rise, the Council needs to ensure that TE2100 requirements will be embedded into the Local Plan.

The Environment Agency published TE2100 recently. Setting out flood risk along the Thames Estuary, including between the Isle of Grain and Cliffe. To protect the Isle of Grain and this part of the Peninsula against future sea level rise.

The report calls upon Medway Council to set out plans to manage the flood risk and adapt to rising sea levels, by 2030. This covers flood risk, waste water management and infrastructure investment.

Given the need to address much of that call to action in this Council term, in developing plans for future riversides, will the Council commit to engaging Peninsula communities affected by flood risk and rising sea levels in Medway?”

Note: As Mr Wells was not present, the Mayor stated that he would receive a written response to his question in accordance with Council Rule 8.6.

Question E - Ben Rist, of Rainham, asked theLeader of the Council,Councillor Maple, the following:


“Considering the cost-of-living crisis, banning Uber in Medway will put residents at risk of losing jobs and also be detrimental to people’s welfare when it is impossible at times to book a local taxi. Given these issues that we are facing, are you still committed to taking choice away from residents who rely on Uber by continuing to try to ban the service?”


Councillor Maple thanked Mr Rist for the question. He said that he was not opposed to competition within the taxi industry and that there were good companies locally, all of whom were legally compliant. He explained that if Uber wanted to be legally compliant in Medway, they could achieve this very quickly but that they had chosen not to.


Councillor Maple said he was concerned that residents of Medway using Uber would not be covered by insurance. He urged residents to use taxis licenced by Medway’s Licensing team, which undertook important work on a daily basis to ensure that Medway licensed taxis were safe and legally compliant. The Council did not have that same assurance for companies operating in Medway who relied on a licence issue elsewhere.


Councillor Maple concluded that until Uber made themselves legally compliant to operate in Medway, he did not want them operating locally.


Question F - Alan Collins-Rosell, of Gillingham, asked thePortfolio Holder for Housing and Property, Councillor Khan, the following:


“Building homes is rarely popular, particularly for those who live close to proposed developments, such as in Rainham and on the Hoo peninsula. Opposing individual developments is a campaign tactic used by all parties to win votes, but often it comes with little or no alternatives to where housing should be built.


Like many local authorities across the country, Medway is in the grip of a housing crisis. People in my generation are often unable to afford to buy without generous handouts or inheritance from family members, while those in private rented accommodation are expected to pay unbelievably high rents, leaving renters, particularly those living on their own or with young families with little spare cash to save for the future or spend on leisure activities in the local economy. Meanwhile, social housing is in very short supply, leaving unacceptably long waiting lists for people who are unable to buy or rent privately.


Given the urgency, what will the new administration be doing to ensure enough housing, particularly genuinely affordable and social housing, is built in Medway to ensure there is a sufficient supply of housing for the future?”

Councillor Khan thanked Mr Collins-Rosell for the question. She agreed that there was a national housing crisis caused by the under delivery of homes for decades and that this included significant under provision of affordable and social housing. This crisis also affected Medway with the consequence being a lack of homes and the cost of both buying and renting homes.


The Council was committed to tackling the housing crisis and providing the right homes in the right places.  As part of that, it would be moving forward at pace on a Local Plan for the area, which would seek to deliver on housing and employment growth needs in a way that would protect the natural and historic value of the area and deliver the necessary infrastructure to support that growth sustainably. This included a commitment to deliver affordable homes and social housing, both as part of larger developments and standalone. Work was taking place to ensure that housing provision would be delivered through a range of initiatives.


The Council, through its Housing Revenue Account, was continuing to purchase and develop homes, increasing the amount of stock that the Council owned. Through Medway Development Company, new opportunities were being brought forward, significantly contributing to the regeneration of Chatham, increasing the supply of homes across all tenures and delivering affordable housing. A significant amount of work was taking place with housing association partners, to bring forward sites for new homes.


Medway needed to ensure that new homes coming forward also delivered in relation to climate change and energy efficiency, enabling future residents to benefit from high quality homes in well landscaped settings with open space and lower energy bills.


Councillor Khan said that while it would not be possible to fix the housing crisis in Medway immediately, she could give reassurance that there was commitment to doing this.


Question G - Jon Castle, of Chatham, asked thePortfolio Holder for Climate Change and Strategic Regeneration, Councillor Curry, the following:


“In specific areas of Medway building at large volume is not currently sustainable.


The Hoo Peninsula currently has insufficient GPs to service the population sustainably. There is also insufficient sewage capacity to support large housing development.


There are councils that have committed themselves not to build houses in conditions that are unsustainable, such as those stated above. Does the Council agree with me that large scale development on the Hoo Peninsula is not sustainable without significant investment in infrastructure and services?”


Councillor Curry thanked Mr Castle for the question. He said that the UK, South East and Medway were experiencing a housing crisis and the Council needed to respond positively to meet its housing needs. Housing needed to be delivered in a sustainable way, with the necessary infrastructure to create high quality and healthy places to support the growing community.


Medway had a government target for Medway of 28,500 homes to be built by 2040 but currently had no Local Plan, which had not been delivered by the previous administration. Significant work was taking place to ensure that a Local Plan could be delivered by 2025.


The loss of £170m of Housing Infrastructure Funding had made the situation more difficult, this had not been helped by the MP for the area and opposition Councillors suggesting this was a good thing.


Councillor Curry highlighted the Sans Pareil roundabout, where funding would have been used to alleviate traffic jams in the area. He concluded that the Council was working hard to deliver a Local Plan and the supporting infrastructure.


Question H - Andrew Millsom, of Rochester, asked theLeader of the Council, Councillor Maple, the following:

“The Council withdrew their objection to the appeal by Trenport for a development in Cliffe, shortly after the May local elections. Medway Council said the following in a statement: “The Council has carefully considered its position following the evidence heard in the first week of the inquiry and has decided that it is necessary to withdraw its reasons for refusal.”

An interpretation is that the Council has undermined its own case and subsequently withdrawn its objections. This indicates weak preparation and a failure to back the Medway Council's Planning Committee and the residents' group who are also objecting.

A second interpretation is that the passing of a neighbourhood plan by Cliffe and Cliffe Woods Parish Council via the referendum in May has changed the circumstances fundamentally.

A third option is that the new incoming Labour Medway Council administration instructed the Council officers to withdraw.

In the context of the Council having failed over two decades to implement a Local Plan, thus creating conditions for applications to be challenged robustly, can the Council place on record which interpretation, or combination of the above, led to the decision to withdraw its objections, or was there some other overriding factor?”

Councillor Maple thanked Mr Millsom for the question. He said that Trenport had indicated to Medway Council before the planning inquiry that they would not apply for full costs. Following cross-examination of the Council’s witness and the hearing of the case on 18 May 2023, the Council had been advised that should it not withdraw its case, full costs would have been applied for. The Council had to make its decision ahead of the enquiry resuming on 23 May 2023. Had it continued its appeal, the costs to the Council would have been significant.


Question I -Stuart Bourne, of Rainham, asked thePortfolio Holder for Climate Change and Strategic Regeneration, Councillor Curry, the following:


“I am pleased that the Council is continuing its programme to plant more trees around Medway. I was also impressed that council officers managed to secure funding for 300 extra trees, especially as the funding included money to water the trees for the first couple of years.


However, we have seen another record breaking period of heat and very little rain in June, and I have seen many trees suffering from lack of water. In fact, if it wasn’t for myself and other teams of volunteers in Rainham and Gillingham, many of these trees would have died.


Can the Portfolio Holder confirm that Medway Norse has used this extra funding and increased its capacity to water trees around Medway so that no tree is missed?”

Councillor Curry thanked Mr Bourne for the question. He said that the Council had been previously successful in bids for the Urban Tree Challenge Fund and the Local Authority Treescapes Fund, which had resulted in the planting of over 300 trees during the last few years. 


Medway Council and Medway Norse recognised the importance of watering and there were sufficient resources planned for standard watering. Watering was taking place at night to increase the available time, but trees would often show signs of drought stress in significant periods of hot weather.


Councillor Curry agreed that tree planting was essential for the future in both urban and rural environments. Trees provided shading and helped to cool town centres, supported a variety of wildlife and were aesthetically pleasing. The Council’s Tree Strategy was being refreshed as a matter of urgency.


Question J - Bryan Fowler, of Chatham, asked thePortfolio Holder for Climate Change and Strategic Regeneration, Councillor Curry, the following:


“Our historic Paddock in Chatham has been much changed using legislation which enables Permitted Development Rights for work to go ahead without the need for Planning Application protocols.


Will you please update us on the future annual maintenance charges of the water feature, including budgetary allowances for water and electricity costs?”

Councillor Curry thanked Mr Fowler for the question. He said that he had examined the ongoing maintenance costs associated with the water feature, including the water and electricity costs and had found them to be unsustainable. The Water Feature had therefore been removed from the scope of the Paddock public realm project.


A new, attractive and more sustainable scheme had been developed by Council officers and Councillor Curry was grateful for the work to achieve this.


Question K - Alan Stockey, of Rainham, asked thePortfolio Holder for Climate Change and Strategic Regeneration, Councillor Curry, the following:


“Earlier this year, the Council committed to complete a piece of work by the end of May 2023, which would clarify its assessed (Scope 1 ,2 and 3) carbon emission footprint from its original, highly tentative, 1.4% of the Medway total emissions.


This piece of critical assessment work is needed to better target its emission reduction priorities and determine where best to apply the Council's considerable influence. The commitment was made in this chamber and again by Councillor Doe at the final Member’s Advisory Group on Climate Change but has not yet been completed. What does this administration plan to do now to confirm its footprint and priorities?”

Councillor Curry thanked Mr Stockey for the question. He said that improving understanding of the Council’s Scope 3 emissions remained a priority workstream and the need for this data to inform and direct future activities was recognised.


Due to staffing changes, it had not been possible to progress the work and how it could be commissioned was being explored through a variety of mechanisms. It was anticipated that this could be progressed over the next six months to provide the additional clarification of the carbon emissions footprint.


Councillor Curry said that a new reporting structure was being established for climate action, which would engage directly with the community, allowing for clearer and more transparent scrutiny of the Council’s work. This would also enable more effective support and engagement with community groups, businesses and individuals to enable everyone to play a part in the essential work to address the serious impact of climate change.


Question L - Melanie Stockey, of Rainham, asked thePortfolio Holder for Climate Change and Strategic Regeneration, Councillor Curry, the following:


“Over the past month, the Council has launched three consultations / surveys concerning traffic and highways, school streets, and most recently, Red Routes. There is an evident lack of coordination across the relevant departments responsible for: Active Travel; Transport; Public Health, Environmental Protection and linkage back to Climate Change objectives.


This lack of collaboration is concerning and costly at a time when budgets are highly constrained and the Adult Social Care budget continues to be influenced by health conditions clearly associated with Medway’s air pollution. The lack of reference in these surveys to ongoing initiatives e.g. Rainham Anti-idling Project, and reducing the number of highly polluting Euro 3 buses from our streets and school transit corridors, further illustrate the lack of coordination.


What is the Council doing to ensure that the respective teams are working together to achieve maximum benefit and impact?”

Councillor Curry thanked Mrs Stockey for the question. He said that the Council had several existing and emerging strategies in place to address transport, health and environmental issues, and he agreed it was very important for these activities to be coordinated and communicated across departments.

The proposals for School Streets and Red Routes aligned with the Council’s transport objectives for road safety and healthier, active lifestyles. They also supported the transport and travel actions set out in the Council’s Climate Change Action Plan, which aimed to reduce emissions from road transport and meet air quality objectives.


The initiative would contribute to implementation of the Council's Environmental Strategy, the Sustainable School Travel Strategy, the Air Quality Action Plan, Local Transport Plan and emerging Walking and Cycling Infrastructure Plan.


Mrs Stockey’s comments about the recent consultation surveys for School Streets and Red Routes had been noted and the Council would continue to ensure that all its projects and initiatives were strategically coordinated and that there would be clear communication around achievements and how projects supported climate change objectives.


Medway Council was now establishing a more community focused structure to consider how to address climate action. This included a revision of the Active Travel group, which would now incorporate plans for improvements to public transport, particularly bus services. Full engagement was taking place across the Council with Highways teams, Health and Wellbeing teams and the Climate Action team and the points made by Ms Stockey would form a key part of the agenda going forward.


Question M - Kate Belmonte, on behalf of Medway Green Party, submitted the following to theLeader of the Council, Councillor Maple:


“Medway Green Party would like to congratulate the Labour team for their recent successes in May's Local Elections. The Green Party received a total of 7741 votes, making us the third largest political party in Medway, but because of the First Past the Post voting system operated by Medway Council we were unable to secure a seat. On the Hoo Peninsula just 7192 votes secured 4 councillors.


We support the motion passed at the 2022 Labour Party Conference, specifically the terminology which described First Past the Post does “long-term damage to the health of our democracy”, and which committed the Labour Party to introducing Proportional Representation. The Green Party also notes that alternative electoral systems have been adopted in other electoral bodies nationally, from London to the devolved bodies. Medway Greens also note that the Labour Portfolio Holder for Housing, Naushabah Khan, sits on the National Policy Forum for the Labour Party.


Will Medway Labour Group commit to exploring, with the aim of introducing, alternative electoral systems for our Unitary Authority, so that every vote cast in Medway matters?”

Note: As Ms Belmonte was not present, the Mayor stated that she would receive a written response to her question in accordance with Council Rule 8.6.

Supporting documents: