SPC 1 - Minutes
Minutes of Meeting of Strategic Policy Committee 1 – Housing & Corporate - held on Tuesday 15th December, 2020 at 10.30 am in The Council Chamber, County Hall, Riverside, Sligo
- Councillor Arthur Gibbons (Chair)
- Councillor Gino O’Boyle
- Councillor Declan Bree
MEMBERS ATTENDING VIRTUALLY:
- Ms Melinda Swann, (PPN Environment)
- Pippa Black, (PPN Social Inclusion)
- Pat Fallon, (Trade Union Pillar)
- Mr Alan McMenamin, (PPN Community & Voluntary)
- Councillor Tom Fox
OFFICIALS IN ATTENDANCE:
- Mr John Moran, A/Director of Services
- Mr Joe Murphy, Senior Executive Officer
- Mr Jimmy O’Brien, I.S Project Leader
- Mr Sean Martin, Senior Architect
- Ms Pauline Lavelle, Staff Officer
- Ms Mary Farrell, Assistant Staff Officer
Apologies were received from Councillor Martin Baker
The Chair, Councillor Arthur Gibbons, welcomed all present.
Councillor Bree, through the Chair, sought clarification on whether, in line with Standing Orders for SPC Meetings, this Meeting could proceed as there was less than the quorum of Members physically present at the Meeting, with other Members in virtual attendance. He stated that the reason that the Department and the Councils have agreed to have meetings virtually is to ensure that social distancing is maintained but he felt that there was adequate space in the Council Chamber for all SPC1 members to physically attend. Mr J Moran, A/Director of Services in reply said that there had been a change to regulations regarding attending council meetings and that standing orders had not yet been amended but would have to be checked. It was agreed to allow the Meeting to proceed. Councillor Bree asked that the matter be brought to the attention of the Procedures Committee. J Moran replied that this matter could be discussed at the next meeting of the Procedures Comittee.
J Moran, A/Director of Services and Covid Compliance Officer, then set out the procedures to be followed at the meeting. He informed the meeting of the updated safety processes that were required in order to hold the meeting under the Standard Operating Guidance. This had previously been circulated to all members and the details were noted.
1. MINUTES OF MEETING OF SPC 1 HELD ON 12TH OCTOBER 2020:
Proposed by Councillor G. O’Boyle
Seconded by Councillor A. Gibbons
“To confirm the Minutes of the Meeting of the Strategic Policy Committee 1 – Housing & Corporate - held on 12 October 2020”.
2. MATTERS ARISING FROM MINUTES:
P. Black sought clarification on what mechanisms Sligo County Council have in place to acquire one bed units in new developments.
S. Martin, Senior Architect advised that in new council social housing developments the mechanism for the apportionment of one bed units is based on the Housing Section’s “Assessments of Needs” data. The Assessment of Needs is based on applications where 3 localities of choice can be requested based on a first, second and third preference. He said that there is a concentration of one bed need in Sligo Town and some rural centres; consideration must also be given to provision of one bed units as part of the Housing First programme in supporting homelessness.
In response to a query from Councillor O’Boyle on this matter, S. Martin advised that the Council are currently considering provision of one bed units in the Cranmore and Maugheraboy areas. He said that there were a total of 30 units proposed for Geldof Drive and Cranmore comprising 16 one bed units and 14 two bed units and that there were 12 one bed units proposed for Maugheraboy and that the development at Knappagh Road would be providing 8 one bed apartments. S Martin also informed the meeting that a number of the one bed units being proposed were ground floor and a number of them were first floor where a stair lift could be incorporated at a later stage if ever required. He also said that the ground floor units being proposed would have wheelchair access.
3. POLICY ON PURCHASE OF PRIVATE HOUSES IN EXISTING LOCAL AUTHORITY ESTATES:
J Murphy, Senior Executive Officer, presented a report which had been circulated to the Members in advance of the meeting which outlined the criteria to be adhered to by the Local Authority when considering purchasing of houses for LA stock, which purchases are funded by the SHIP (Social Housing Investment Programme) budget.
J Murphy stated that under this policy, which was in place since October 2013 and appeared to have replaced a similar type policy which was in place since 2005, the Council does not purchase houses in existing social or social/affordable schemes except in circumstances where purchase of houses in such schemes is regarded as necessary to meet another policy/project or particular need.
He also stated that it is considered that this approach allows an opportunity for existing social and social/affordable schemes to operate in a Sustainable Community manner and to reach a level of stability and maturity and that it also facilitated a mix of residential tenure within an area, thereby helping to promote social integration and facilitating the creation of vibrant, sustainable communities.
J Murphy also advised that there was not much demand for acquisition of houses within Local Authority schemes and informed the Members that this policy had served Sligo County Council well and that the Council would not be advocating any changes to it.
4. UPDATE ON HOUSING PROJECTS:
S Martin, Senior Architect, gave an update on matters such as funding for Housing projects, the issue of bio diversity, etc as had been discussed and agreed at last SPC1 meeting on 12th October 2020. He confirmed that funding for Social Housing projects is made available from DHPLG and not the Department of Environment, as the main focus of the funding is on providing housing units.
S Martin advised that whilst mindful of the need to integrate bio diversity into our housing developments, Sligo County Council is guided by the objectives in the County Development Plan around the provision of wetlands, hedgerows, flood plains etc. Sligo County Council is also guided by our Biodiversity Action Plan 2011/2015 and Climate Adaptation Strategy 2019.
S Martin outlined that County Sligo has a rich environment with designated Natural Heritage Areas (NHA’s), Special Areas of Conservation (SAC’s) and Special Protection Areas (SPA’s).
S Martin also advised that 10% of a social housing site development area is retained as open and amenity space for urban brownfield sites and 15% retained for green field sites in accordance with the Sligo County Development Plan. Consideration is also being given to urban planting schedules in developments in Sligo and this is guided by bio diversity objectives in the Development Plan. The Council has recently taken on a planting schedule in the recently refurbished Glenview estate, with particular focus on choice of plants, considerations for wildlife, repair of hedgerows,etc.
S Martin stated that in line with the County Development Plan, when deciding on schemes for development, Sligo County Council identifies local areas of natural conservation and supports the management of landscape features which are of major importance for wild fauna and flora under the EU Habitats Directive.
Areas such as the Drumcliffe/Sligo Bay and Lough Gill Special Areas of Conservation (SAC’s) and any proposed housing schemes in these areas would need to be thoroughly screened and evaluated to determine the effects of such schemes on the natural flora and fauna, etc in the area, and which would form part of the planning process evaluation of the development..
S Martin also stated that identification of important elements of the county’s ecological network commenced under the County Habitat Mapping Programme. This ongoing work is also listed as an action of the County Sligo Heritage Plan and Sligo County Biodiversity Action Plan.
S Martin concluded by stating that any funding received from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government focused mainly on bricks and mortar rather than major landscaping projects etc., but they would in principle, support the selective planting that would support biodiversity.
M Swann asked if funding could be made available for small improvements to housing estates such as Cartron Estate for the provision of green roofs on porches, creating raised beds to collect water from houses, urban drainage systems, etc.
S Martin advised that he was not aware of such funding being available through the Council’s Housing Office but that it may be available through the Heritage Office.
A McMenamin asked if the provision of communal areas in estates could be considered to include landscaped areas that could be maintained in the longer term as with some national schemes.
S Martin advised that funding for such projects would be difficult to obtain from the DHPLG who are focused on the construction of new dwellings and that there is now an opportunity to nurture existing green areas on a biodiversity basis within communities and Sligo is currently well served by open spaces such as, Doorly Park, Cleveragh Regional Park, Mitchell Curley and Forthill Parks.
The Chair, Councillor Gibbons, thanked S Martin for the detailed report.
5. DATE FOR NEXT MEETING:
The Chair, Councillor Gibbons suggested that the next SPC1 meeting be held in March 2021 on a date to be decided, around the date of the March Ordinary Council meeting. This was agreed and when the date was decided, it would be circulated to the members.
6. ANY OTHER BUSINESS:
The Chair, Councillor Gibbons asked the Members if there were any items they wished to have added to the Agenda for the next SPC1 meeting.
Following a query from Councillor O’Boyle on the issue of a RÁS and HAP transfer list, J Murphy advised that it was a matter for each Council to decide and that Sligo County Council currently does not have a RÁS transfer list. It was agreed to include this matter as an item on the Agenda for the next SPC1 meeting.
On the issue of the Vacant Homes Action Plan, Councillor Bree requested that, at future SPC1 meetings, a report would be made available to the Members giving updates on the current position with regards to the Plan. He expressed concern at the low numbers of vacant houses in the Sligo and environs area.
It then was proposed by Councillor Bree
Seconded by Councillor O’Boyle
‘That the committee be provided with a report on the Council’s Vacant Homes Action Plan and further that the report provide information identifying the empty dwellings in Sligo town and its environs, the method used to identify the dwellings and the action taken to have them put back in use’.
Councillor Bree also asked that the members be given an update at each SPC1 meeting on the delivery of dwellings by the Council for the Housing Capital Programme under Rebuilding Ireland to see how close Sligo County Council is to meeting the targets which are currently not being met.
The Chair, Councillor Gibbons, thanked the Members and all staff for their work and efforts in fulfilling the role of the SPC1 Committee during the year. He wished everyone a safe and happy Christmas and New Year. This sentiment was echoed by all present.
The business of the meeting concluded at 11.10 am.
Meeting Date 15/12/2020