Agenda item

Recommendations from Overview & Scrutiny Committee

At the meeting of the Overview & Scrutiny Committee held on 20th July, recommendations were made to Cabinet on the following two items:


1.    Agenda Item 11: Councillor Call for Action – the impact of second homes and holiday lets data report


2.    Agenda Item 12: Environment & Quality of Life Scrutiny Panel – Public Conveniences Review


(The recommendations are attached in full).


There were two sets of recommendations from the Overview & Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 20th July:


1.    Councillor Call for Action – the impact of second homes and holiday lets data report

The Chairman explained that there were six recommendations for Cabinet to consider.


Cllr W Fredericks suggested that it might be appropriate to wait until Professor Hilber had provided a presentation to members as that may provide additional information and context.


Cllr J Toye, said that as seconder of the Councillor Call for Action (CCfA), he felt that there were some very good recommendations regarding supporting the Regeneration and Levelling Up Bill, however, there could be some changes going forward that would need to be considered. Regarding consultation with town and parish councils, where there was a local tariff and 20% of houses which were second homes were not paying this, then it was being spread across a small number of houses. He said he supported Cllr Fredericks proposal to defer consideration of the recommendations until Professor Hilber had briefed members.


The Chairman referred to the recommendation regarding the doubling of council tax on second homes and said he did have some concerns as the majority of council tax collected went to the County Council.


2.    EQL Scrutiny Panel – Public Conveniences Review and Recommendations report

Cllr H Blathwayt, Chairman of the Scrutiny Panel, introduced this item and outlined the recommendations. He highlighted the urgent recommendation relating to the disposal of campervan and mobile home waste.


The Chairman began by saying that the Administration had made considerable investment in public conveniences in recent years. He referred to the urgent recommendation regarding options for the disposal of campervan waste and said that he had concerns about the Council meeting the cost of any such provision and that it should be borne by the users. He did acknowledge that there was an existing problem with such waste in certain areas of the District.


Cllr N Lloyd said that he was not sure that an independent audit would add anything to the recent work that had already been undertaken regarding a review of the Council’s public conveniences. He said that standardisation of facilities was difficult due to the size and location of existing buildings. He added that he was concerned about the disposal of campervan waste – particularly when they were emptied into public drains that ran onto the beach. He wondered whether the travellers’ sites could be used for the siting of waste disposal units. He felt more consideration should be given as to how to address the problem.


Cllr Blathwayt commented that the chemical used in the waste cartridges was harmful to biodiversity.


The Chief Executive said that he understood that eco toilets, such as the one at Weybourne, would not work effectively if chemicals were poured down them. He added that the main issue regarding the emptying of cassettes into public toilets was that they weren’t designed for bulk waste and often became blocked which required the closure of a facility whilst officers worked to clear the blockage. A small number were pouring waste into open water courses which was causing significant issues for some parishes. There was a direct cost to the Council in addressing these issues.

The Chairman said that he didn’t understand the reference to installation of disposal facilities at County Council run recycling centres and he wasn’t sure if this was feasible. He thought that campsites may be a better option. Cllr Blathwayt replied that it had been discussed by the Scrutiny Panel. He referred to the treatment and disposal of waste at boatyards, which was collected by the County Council to a suitable facility. It was hoped that any camping sites that facilitated disposal would take the same approach, although he acknowledged that private operators would be unlikely to allow individuals to access their sites purely for the disposal of waste and that was why it was recommended that the Council should consider providing disposal facilities.


Cllr R Kershaw, Portfolio Holder for Sustainable Growth, said that campsites had been approached about the possibility of allowing the disposal of campervan waste, even if paid for via a charge, but they were not receptive. He said that he did not feel that it was fair for motor home owners to burden local residents with the cost of disposing of their waste.


The Director for Communities explained that the Council had contacted caravan sites regarding the use of their disposal facilities and none were receptive – even on a paid basis. Regarding wild camping, this was free, so it was unlikely that they would be prepared to pay for disposal of their waste.


Cllr L Shires said that Walcott village had suffered very badly with some poor behaviour of a small number of motor home owners who had chosen to pour waste down the drain, which emptied onto the beach. She felt that it would be helpful to educate people of the consequences. Walcott village was continuing to undertake work to address the problems.


Cllr Shires then spoke about the wider recommendations relating to public conveniences. As Portfolio Holder for Organisational Resources, she said that she was pleased to inform members that the Property Services team had already undertaken work that would address several of the recommendations. This included a review of lighting, signage and energy efficiency. Regarding gender neutral, self-contained cubicles, she said that this was not something that was currently being considered. The ones that had been created were fully accessible. She concluded by saying that in future, all tenders would be assessed on the mitigation of the environmental impact, including carbon reduction, energy efficiency and water use.


The Chief Executive said, that regarding gender neutral toilet provision, at present the Councils 39 toilets were all male and female single sex toilets apart from some at Sheringham which served the East Promenade. Moving forwards, the Council was intending to install Changing Places facilities in all seven of the market towns. Where the authority was providing replacement facilities, male and female accessible provision was being looked at. In some cases, there would also be a family room, providing more space for baby changing. Two self-contained, gender neutral, lockable units for out of hours’ provision were also being considered.


Cllr A Fitch-Tillett said that she wanted to clarify that surface water drainage was the responsibility of Norfolk County Council. The valve that released drains onto the beach was only activated when they were very full, so it was a serious concern if this was happening and NCC Highways should be consulted on what could be done. With reference to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), she said that she would raise the issue of camper van waste at the next meeting of the Visitor Pressures Working Group of the Norfolk Coast Partnership.


Cllr J Toye said that as a motor home owner, he wanted to clarify that the waste tanks lasted for several days. He acknowledged that the dumping of such waste was unacceptable but the Council needed to ensure that there was a clear evidence base if was to take a course of action.


Cllr H Blathwayt spoke about the lobby areas for single sex toilets. He said that lobby areas were a wasted space which required maintenance whereas a cubicle opening onto a well -lit road could avoid the need for lobby areas. He added that individual cubicles could be single sex if preferred. There was also the possibility of automatic opening and closing – operated from a central point. This would save a considerable amount of money. Cllr Shires thanked him for his comments. She sought clarification on whether the cubicles that he referred to would have basins within them. She also asked about the positioning of cubicles and whether they would open directly onto the pavement of car parks and how it would work for cubicles that were currently positioned against an internal wall. Cllr Blathwayt replied that it had been suggested that a cost analysis was undertaken in relation to this. He added that it was envisaged that each cubicle would be self-contained and include the basin.


The Director for Communities commented that the possibility of automatic locking had been looked into and further work could be undertaken to ascertain the capital cost of introducing this. He added that there were some concerns that people may choose to remain locked in a cubicle overnight and that there would be no way of checking this.


Cllr V Gay said that communal lobby areas were a very useful and valuable facility for many people.


Cllr L Shires suggested that the Council’s Property Services team could meet with the Scrutiny Panel and explain the actions and ongoing work that they were undertaking which would address many of the issues that had been included in the recommendations. The Chairman agreed that this was a good approach.


The Chairman said that more work was needed regarding the disposal of mobile home and camper van waste. The Chief Executive suggested that further work could be undertaken for consideration by cabinet in early 2023 in advance of the summer season. 


It was proposed by Cllr T Adams, seconded by Cllr L Shires and




Councillor Call for Action – the impact of second homes and holiday lets data report


1. That the recommendations be deferred until a later meeting to allow further discussion on the impact of possible restrictions.



Environment & Quality of Life Scrutiny Panel – Public Conveniences Review



1. That urgent recommendations 1 and 2 are accepted subject to further work, investigations and consultation on the impacts of wild camping, used to inform any potential future actions to be taken in advance of summer 2023.


2. That recommendation 3 to undertake an independent audit is not approved, but an internal review be undertaken.


Subject to further discussion between the Scrutiny Panel and officers from Property Services, Estates and Environmental Health to provide context and explanation:


3. That a review of the outcomes of any review alongside current structural surveys is undertaken during winter 2022-23 to develop an action plan for the facilities in 2023-24 and annually thereafter, actioned by Property Services, Estates and the Environmental Health (Cleansing).


 4. That a cleansing ‘standard’ is established, embedded and reported on to ensure cross facility standards are maintained across the District.


5. That consideration be given to extend and enable out of hours accessibility of disabled toilets in major tourism locations, through security improvements.


6. That a standard design ‘type’ be adopted that is flexible enough to fit most locations where new build may be an option. The use of single self-contained WC cubicles would eliminate wasted lobby areas, address equality and diversity needs and allow partial closures during quieter months or maintenance works.


7. That a simple customer feedback system is created and promoted to obtain and maintain ongoing feedback to support and evidence need for future changes or address any issues.


8. That the Strategy is reviewed and updated at least every 4 years, and that an annual review of the service provision and customer feedback is undertaken by Property Services and cleansing providers, and considered by the Overview & Scrutiny Committee or Scrutiny Panel.


9. That the decision making matrix be used and refined to determine future need.


10. That location suitability be assessed as part of the PC review.


11. That design and cost-benefit analysis of self-contained cubicle facilities are undertaken for all new public conveniences or major refurbishments (where possible) to offer single sex and gender neutral facilities in line with current legislation.


12. That all opportunities are regularly explored to improve the financial sustainability and continuation of public conveniences across the District such as service costs and maintenance, to include new technology, advertisement and commercial opportunities.


13. That when a new build or major refurbishment is required that the decision matrix is used to determine if the facility is of an appropriate size (ie numbers of cubicles) and in a desirable location (see audit/review results).


14. That any major refurbishments or new builds include costings for green/renewable technology to reduce environmental impact (energy efficiency, water use, carbon reduction) and cost efficiencies so that Members can select the most appropriate course of action for each location


15. That any major refurbishments or new builds include costings for green/renewable technology to reduce environmental impact and cost efficiencies.


Supporting documents: