The Panel is asked to note the progress in implementing the outcomes from the Transformation Review of Parks and Countryside in Bracknell Forest.
Andrew Hunter, Director: Place, Planning & Regeneration presented the report which set out how the department intended to make £400,000 worth of transformation savings and how projects had progressed through the transformation programme which the Council had agreed.
This project was discussed at the March 2018 Gateway Review and recommendations in paragraph 6.3 in the report were agreed at the May 2018 Executive meeting. Key areas included income generation, minimisation of land management costs; service efficiencies, and increased opportunities to work with volunteers.
Implementation of the Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspaces (SANGs) project meant developers had access to open spaces to mitigate their developments and had achieved an income of £266,000 for the Council during this particular review.
Future projects included development of a play area café and water sports facilities at Horseshoe Lake which would generate an income and provide additional recreation facilities for Bracknell Forest. The business case for this project would be presented to members at the next Executive meeting in February 2019.
As a result of discussions the following comments and questions were made:
· It was discussed whether the current car park at Horseshoe Lake would accommodate an increase in vehicles. Members were assured this would be part of the project scope and options being considered included a similar set up to Dinton Pastures which operated a formal car park and an overflow car park during peak times. Members also queried if provision would be made for parking bicycles and it was confirmed this would be the case. Members asked if S106 funding could be used to fund a footpath to allow local residents to access the park on foot. Andrew Hunter stated they were still looking at the business case and began the work on a planning application.
· Members asked about the number and consistency of charges for mobile catering units and were informed it depended on timings/needs of each commercial entity.
· Members questioned the proposal to licence commercial dog-walkers in the Borough. Andrew Hunter informed members they had reviewed how other local authorities had implemented similar schemes, such as Swindon Borough Council and that it was not focused on income generation rather protection of public spaces. An informal consultation with commercial dog-walkers had been carried out to assess viability, such as what they would be prepared to pay for a licence. Although the scheme would be voluntary it would look to ensure licenced dog-walkers had the correct insurance and certificates, etc. It was queried how the Council would identify commercial dog-walkers versus residents walking their own dogs and they were informed this could be done easily by checking advertisements, social networking sites, knowledge of Rangers, etc. Members noted the Gateway Review was a forum for reviewing options, not a decision-making body, and felt the need to scrutinise this project further so requested further information including the benefits and challenges, such as cost of implementation. Members were also keen to understand how a potential scheme would be regulated. One possibility suggested was for commercial dog-walkers to wear a lanyard to enable easy identification. Members asked if the scheme would require more staff and were informed rangers and the pre-existing volunteer network would assist with enforcement. Cllr Iain McCracken, Executive Member for Culture, Resources and Public Protection, assured members the proposal had not been implemented and a paper outlining the pros and cons of the project would be available at a future Executive meeting for members to discuss.
· Members were interested in the programme of activities BFC ran last year and questioned if they would be run again if they had proved successful, such as the open air cinema at Lily Hill Park, and what the impact on rangers who clear up the parks had been. It was noted there was an intention to run successful events again and that rangers were clear on what people could bring and how they would deal with litter following an event. No issues to date.
· Members discussed the internal re-design of staff within environmental services and parks and countryside teams. Andrew Hunter informed members the intention was to bring teams together more and ensure unity between how issues were dealt with and they were already collectively managing the whole estate as one entity, such as regarding maintenance of land and parks.
· Members asked how the Council intended to achieve their aim of becoming more attractive to film companies as illustrated in paragraph 7.5 and were informed a Pan Berkshire website was going to be launched in February identifying all sites which could be used for filming. In the past it had been found film companies were not directed swiftly enough to the correct person so they went elsewhere. An example of a request received recently was to film railway station. The Council stated they did not own the station but they could film Station Green opposite which generated £350 income for the Council.
· The timescale for implementation of the majority of projects contained in the Parks and Countryside Progress Report was three to six months.
· Andrew Hunter to consider the preparation of a paper outlining pros/cons of licensing commercial dog-walkers (following consultation) and Cllr Iain McCracken to take the paper to Executive.