11th June 2020 Extraordinary Town Council Minutes

Minutes of the meeting held on Thursday 11th June 2020 at 7pm by video conferencing

Present: Cllr Mike Facey (Chair) and Cllrs Sue Barber, Andy Brewer, Dawn Carey, Helen Groves, Bill Hancock, Andy Hodge, Chris Allen, Peter Clayton, Phil Harvey, Sue Harvey, Rich Gardiner White, Janet Keen, Alan Matthews, Mike Murphy, Louise Parkin, Nick Tolley, Colette Winfield with Sam Winter, Town Clerk and Lorna Williams, Deputy Clerk.

1 member of the public and 1 member of the press were in attendance

78/20/TC         Apologies

None.

79/20/TC         Declarations of Interest in items on this agenda & dispensations granted

None.

80/20/TC         To comment on and consider whether to Corporately support the draft manifesto of the Somerset Climate Action Network that will ask principal authorities to, ‘Remove barriers and lead joint funding bids to plan and develop effective cycling and walking infrastructure in all Somerset towns and key rural locations’.

                        The meeting acknowledged the importance of considering how to make use of Govt. funding to create safe cycle and pedestrian routes. It noted that the Council’s Corporate Plan and Neighbourhood plan include statements to improve cycling and health & wellbeing.

The meeting heard a number of concerns regarding perceived requirements for some adult cyclists to be better regulated in terms of speed, safety and insurance. It also heard comments stating that the motorist should not be disadvantaged by any improvements made to benefit cyclists. However, the meeting acknowledged that the current health concerns have allowed people to further take up or resume walking and cycling and that improvements to the cycling and walking infrastructure would encourage better health and fitness.

It was agreed that taking cycling off the highway and onto repurposed, dedicated paths was a good idea for the individual and environment and that the existing budget allocations for roads–v-cycleways appears too heavily weighted in favour of roads and might need to be rebalanced.

It was proposed by Cllr Harvey and seconded by Cllr Allen that this Council cannot support the manifesto policy request 1 – Reverse prioritisation, which puts predicting and providing for cars first, with pedestrians and cyclists equal third; or item 2 – Stop all investment based on ‘predict and provide’, because these two requests were considered to be anti-car, but that the Council will broadly agree with policy requests 3 to 6 (inclusive).

It was resolved to support the proposal and that the Clerk will submit a response to reflect this view.

81/20/TC         To consider whether to appoint street wardens to ensure fluid traffic management & pedestrian safety/support in relation COVID 19 related street safety initiatives, and agree any terms (subsequent to discussions by the Town Improvements’ working group)

                        The Chairman invited the Somerset County Council officer representative present to join in with the discussion on this item. The meeting heard that the officer had been employed by SCC to undertake and monitor, 24/7, the road closures for both Bridgwater and Burnham-on-Sea.

In discussion of the item, the Chairman permitted the meeting to explore wider issues relating to the street safety social distancing measures proposed.

The meeting raised and considered questions regarding the access and management of residential and delivery vehicles under the new road closure.  Concerns were raised that a road closure might adversely affect businesses due to that loss of disabled parking in a town with a higher than average elderly population. Discussions were held as to how these matters might be addressed through street wardens and a Chapter 8 trained marshal, along with the provisions of variations to parking orders to permit dedicated loading bays or disabled parking bays.

The Chairman emphasised that the road changes were not fixed and if the closure proves unacceptable they can be changed, altered and withdrawn in line with safety and Govt. announced changes. The Chairman stated that the Town Council continues to welcome comments from those affected, including residents and businesses, and will continue to consult with representatives.

It was heard that some traders did not feel they had been adequately consulted and concerns were expressed regarding social distancing within shops. It was noted that the Govt. had issued clear guidance to business owners on how to achieve safety standards before they open and that the Chamber of Trade and SDC were also offering advice to businesses. It was clarified that the Town Council had proposed the road closure suggestions to the Highways Authority with the intention to protect people, and at that point, a media release went out, and was added to the Town Council website, seeking comments.

It was clarified that Highbridge was not subject to any road closure and signage had been put in place to assist social distancing.

Some councillors stated that they had individually been involved in seeking comments, as well as assisting with enquiries from businesses on safety measures and PPE. However, it was noted that this was a rapidly changing situation. Both Chambers of Trade had been included in talks.

The Chairman invited the Chairman of the Burnham Chamber of Trade to join the discussion.

The meeting heard that the Burnham Chamber has held further meetings, including one with 32 traders and representatives from District, County and the Town Council to explore the issues. Concerns had been raised regarding the impact the closure might have on trade, including through the loss of disabled parking, but the Chamber acknowledged that safety was paramount and agreed that this could only be achieved through temporary pedestrianisation, and therefore the speed of implementation of the change was important.

The meeting discussed the timeframe of the closure, which the Town Council had suggested should apply between 1000hrs and 1600hrs. It heard that SCC was minded to apply the closure for 24hrs to ensure a clarity for pedestrians on grounds of safety.

It was agreed that the Town Council’s opposition to 24hr closure will be reiterated to SCC before the traffic order is signed.

                        The Chairman returned the meeting to discussion of the agenda item.

                        The meeting heard that street wardens would be employed and provided by a specialist company under an agency agreement. That company would remain the employer and undertake all associated HR and payroll requirements.

                        It was resolved that 2 full time street wardens should be contracted, subject to the Chairman and Town Clerk agreeing satisfactory terms to end the agreement at lawful short notice, without excessive detriment to the Council.

82/20/TC         To consider whether to appoint a person to manage COVID 19 related street safety road closures on a daily basis in Burnham-on-Sea, and agree any terms (subsequent to discussions by the Town Improvements’ working group)

                        It was resolved that a Chapter 8 trained street marshal should be employed by the Town Council on a temporary full time contract for the purposes of assisting with road closures andin providing support to keep safe those using the town centre, as well as providing feedback to the Town Council. 

83/20/TC         The next scheduled meeting of the Town Council is 22nd June 2020

The Chairman closed the meeting at 2041hrs.

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