Looking for information about a council service?
30th May 2006
Minutes of the Special Meeting of Council held on Tuesday 30 May 2006 in the Council Chamber, Council Offices, 47 Derry Road, Strabane at 7.30 p.m.
Present: - In the Chair: Councillor B McMahon
Other Members: Councillors I Barr, A Bresland, J Donnell, J Emery, G Foley, D Hussey, T Kerrigan, C McGill, K McGuire, C McHugh, E McMenamin, J McNulty, J O’Kane
Total = 14
In Attendance: Chief Building Control Officer, Administrative Clerk, H Gallagher - Roads Service,L McEvoy - Roads Service, S Bradley, J Donnelly, G Lundy & E Mullen– Holy Cross Delegation
Apologies: Councillors D Breslin & T McBride, S Wood - Roads Service
The Chairman welcomed Members, staff and delegates to the meeting and invited the Roads Service representatives to commence their report.
Draft Sub-Regional Transport Plan (SRTP) 2015
L McEvoy, deputising for S Wood, indicated that he would provide an overview of the SRTP and explained that, in the absence of representatives from other bodies such as Public Transport, he would ensure that Councillors’ views were made known to the relevant organisations.
He informed members that the SRTP would be published on 31 March next year and advised that the consultation phase would continue until 23 June 06.
He explained that the purpose of the meeting was to facilitate Strabane District Council in making a written response to the Draft SRTP by the 23 June 06 and to provide a greater understanding of the SRTP process and outputs.
Purpose of SRTP (1) and SRTP (2)
L McEvoy explained that the main objective of SRTP (1) was to identify separate packages of measures for the period 2002 – 2015 by mode of transport. He said that there was a need for SRTP (2) because the Regional Transport Plan did not contain sufficient details of precisely what measures should be implemented in specific locations. He advised that planned measures, rather than adhoc opportunities, would provide greater benefit and enhanced efficiency.
He proceeded to give an overview of the different stages of the SRTP before inviting his colleague to outline the highway proposals for the Strabane District Council area.
Proposals for Strabane
H Gallagher referred to the ‘Walking Blueprint’ for Strabane and outlined proposals for walk measures such as:
1 A continuous pedestrian network.
2 Wider footways for buggies and mobility aids.
3 Additional crossing facilities.
4 Upgraded pedestrian network links from the town centre.
1 Networks of cycle routes.
2 Cycle parking.
1 Traffic management.
2 Reduction of bottlenecks.
3 Redirection of traffic from high pedestrian flow.
1 Convenient short stay parking close to town centre.
2 Longer stay parking located further from the town centre.
Public Transport Improvements
1 Bus stops and priority measures.
2 Further taxi ranks according to demand.
Proposals for Rural Settlements
Walk and Cycle
1 Footway links within settlements and between schools and residential areas.
2 Continuous pedestrian footways to link peripheral residential developments and community facilities to the urban centre, for which development funding may be sought.
3 Additional crossing facilities.
4 Traffic calming measures where demand occurs.
1 At least 2 principal bus stops in each settlement, equipped to modern standards for wheelchairs and buggies.
2 A shelter, adjacent crossing facilities, and service information at each stop.
3 Introduction of at least one service per week to link isolated communities in towns and villages.
4 Establishment of minimum service standards to take account of settlement size.
Proposals for Open Countryside
1 Continued identification of a range of improvement measures in the rural area.
2 Rural prioritisation procedures, which will take linkage to the transport network into consideration as an additional attribute.
1 Introduction of Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) for residents of open countryside areas and for mobility impaired residents of rural settlement.
2 Investigation of potential cost for provision of above levels of service through new DRT initiatives such as taxi-buses and social car schemes.
Additional or Cross-Cutting Measures
L McEvoy referred to the following possible additional measures:
1 Measures which could not be forecast in advance.
2 Walking, cycling, and traffic calming accessibility.
3 Concessionary fares and bus replacement requirements.
4 Structural maintenance of highways, including factors such as accident, remedial or routine maintenance; bridge strengthening; street lighting and network management.
In summary, reference was made to the purpose, context and overview of SRTP.
Councillor D Hussey and Councillor K McGuire joined the meeting at 7.50 pm and 7.52 pm respectively.
The Chairman thanked L McEvoy and H Gallagher for a most interesting and comprehensive presentation and invited the Members to state their views.
Councillors’ Views and Comments
Each Councillor in attendance welcomed the Roads Service representatives and thanked them for making their presentation to Council.
Discussion ensued and the following issues were raised:
1 The need for a safe pedestrian bridge.
2 Resolution of parking problems caused by cars being parked in small residential estates by non-residents.
3 Concern over the large volume of Taxis.
In response, H Gallagher fully supported the need for a safe pedestrian bridge but drew attention to the high costs this would entail. On the issue of on-street parking charges, he acknowledged that this move might initially be unwelcome but pointed out that charges would be set at only 30 pence per hour. He stressed that, as the roads and streets are public property, no person has the right to claim the space outside his or her door as a personal parking space. He referred to the proven need for a substantial number of taxis, as 34% of households did not have access to a car.
In response to a comment on bottleneck issues in Strabane, with particular reference to Bridge Street, H Gallagher advised that an extra bridge would allow a one-way system to operate, which would alleviate the problem.
Additional Points Raised:
1 The importance of maintaining the L’Derry/Coleraine rail link.
2 The need for a footpath at Newtownstewart bypass.
3 Safer school routes and enhanced safety for children.
4 Bottleneck problems in Castlederg.
5 Consideration of the needs of rural communities.
6 Roads maintenance, with particular reference to the Strabane to Artigarvan road.
7 Road crossing problems at McAnea’s corner.
8 Additional traffic light requirements in general.
9 Suggestion of multi-storey car park in Strabane town centre.
10 Importance of giving serious consideration to traffic problems in Castlederg.
11 Condition of footbridge in Ballymagorry.
12 Possible cantilever attachment for pedestrian use at Strabane Bridge.
13 Traffic congestion at shop in Sion Mills.
14 Traffic congestion at the entrance to Northbrook.
In response to the road crossing difficulties at the junction of William Street, John Street, the High Street and the Diamond in Castlederg, known locally as McAnea’s corner, H Gallagher verified that he would look into the issue, as there was a strategic problem with that particular location. He said that he would try to ascertain ownership of the Ballymagorry footbridge and emphasised his commitment to the provision of pedestrian facilities throughout the district.
Concern was expressed that the above issues should be given serious attention by MPs and MLAs. H Gallagher assured Members that all points raised would be noted for further consideration.
Before leaving the Chamber, L McEvoy and H Gallagher were thanked by Members for their honesty in responding to the issues put before them.
The Chairman welcomed the Holy Cross delegation, comprising S Bradley, J Donnelly, G Lundy and E Mullen, and invited them to proceed with their presentation.
Holy Cross Presentation
S Bradley thanked Council for giving him the opportunity to clarify the situation regarding the delay in the Holy Cross building project. He expressed his appreciation for the support given to the project by the Councillors, the Convent Grammar and Our Lady of Mercy schools. He explained that the new school was a major project, which would cost approximately 29 million pounds and would cater for over 1400 pupils within a vibrant educational community.
Referring to the estimated ‘completion of project’ date of autumn, 2007, he said that he fully understood the concerns of some sectors over a possible delay in the completion date. He pointed out that it was a complicated project and indicated that final tract negotiations were considerably advanced.
Cleaning and Catering Duties
S Bradley explained that when the project had been initiated, it was on the understanding that cleaning and catering contracts were to be provided by the private sector. The Government, however, in 2005 and 2006 had implemented new criteria in relation to both of these contracts. These criteria stipulated that cleaning and catering contracts were to be funded by the Public Sector.
G Lundy advised Peter Hain, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, had suggested that an exemption could be made and this was duly applied for. Members were advised that this was the 4th change in Ministerial policy on the delivery of services since 2001 and that Trustees and the Catholic Council for Maintained Schools (CCMS) had always been fully in line. S Bradley expressed the view that a change in tender arrangements in the final stages was poor procurement practice, particularly since the costs were increasing each month and the prompt delivery of the project would cut down the level of these additional costs.
G Lundy referred to the exemption application and informed Members that representations had been made to the Secretary of State and to Maria Eagle, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office. However, notification had been received on Friday 26 May 06 that the Holy Cross project would have to adhere to the new arrangements, along with a recommendation that building should resume as soon as possible in order to minimise further costs. It was noted that, as soon as the cleaning and services issues were resolved, the project would move into full completion.
Councillor I Barr expressed the hope that any problems would be resolved as soon as possible and thanked S Bradley and G Lundy for clarification of what had been a rather confusing issue. He voiced the opinion that additional costs lay with those who had originally negotiated the contract. He stated that, in principal, he would not be happy to support privatisation of services. He stressed that Government should be responsible for additional costs, particularly if it were the case that Civil Servants had initially negotiated the contract.
G Lundy assured Members that cleaning and catering services would remain within the public sector and indicated that it was the constant policy changing which had caused so many problems. He stated that the Department of Education would meet any increased costs.
He further advised that the new Minister, whilst rejecting the exemption application, had made a commitment to finalise and assured Members that a close watch would be kept on proceedings. He said that the next step was to negotiate with the preferred bidder regarding changes to the contract and indicated that, provided no further changes in policy arose, it should be possible to move forward and get the final signature.
Each Councillor in attendance welcomed and thanked the Holy Cross delegation for their clarification of these issues.
Councillor O’Kane voiced his concern about the fact that there had been 3 different Ministers since commencement of the project and queried the problem with obtaining final signature. He pointed out that Peter Hain had originally refused to sign the contract and now, Maria Eagle had also refused to sign. As an elected representative, Councillor O’Kane felt that he had a duty to the public to give a satisfactory explanation of the reasons for the delay.
Councillor D Hussey said that he disagreed with Councillor O’Kane on the issue of responsibility, as he felt that it lay solely with the CCMS. He stressed that his primary concern was the impact that the delay would have on the controlled sector and stated that he had already expressed his views publicly on this issue.
Councillor D Hussey referred to several issues, namely:
1 The increased costs of £100,000 a month.
2 The effect that this delay would have on the controlled sector.
3 The identity of the stakeholders.
4 The position of the unions.
5 The terms of the Public/Private Build (PPB).
G Lundy said that he welcomed the comments made by all the Councillors and informed Members that the Western Education Library Board (WELB) would carry out the catering and cleaning services. He advised that maintenance would be carried out by the private sector. He said that the key stakeholders were WELB and CCMS, with the Board itself having an input. It was noted that unions were generally not in favour of private finance initiatives. He informed Members that, parallel to this, the change in policy also applied to 2 Derry schools and said that it might be possible to assist each other in resolving the issues. He advised that, as a result of the cleaning and catering issues, negotiations would have to take place with the private sector bidder.
S Bradley pointed out that the rationalisation process had begun in 2001 and that Holy Cross was the first project to endure this process. He informed Members that 30 other schools were also having to renegotiate and said that he found it difficult to comprehend why the rules were changed 4 times on a PPF project, particularly at the present stage after 18 months of construction.
Councillor McMenamin congratulated the delegation on their progress to date and said that, in his opinion, the cleaning and catering issues should not have prevented building progress. He pointed out that Civil Servants advise the Permanent Secretary and it is they who actually make these decisions. He indicated that he was awaiting a response to a question which had been put to Peter Hain the previous week.
Councillor C McGill asked if there was any indication of the date when the actual signing might take place. G Lundy advised that it was not possible to specify a fixed time but was confident that the process would not be overly long, as the amount of work outstanding was not too significant. He stated that WELB have to follow stated procedure in seeking approval and expressed the hope that he would have more information within 2-3 weeks. He anticipated that it would take approximately 20 months for the completion of the building.
Councillor C McGill said that she could appreciate the difficulties that Holy Cross was experiencing. She referred to Councillor D Hussey’s previously expressed concerns on the implications for controlled schools and, in relation to this issue, asked Mr Lundy for his views on possible benefits to schools such as St. Joseph’s and St. Eugene’s.
G Lundy said that, unfortunately, he was not free to comment on any possible implications for any other schools.
The Chairman, on behalf of all Members, thanked the Holy Cross delegation for a very informative presentation, which had greatly clarified the situation.***
It was unanimously agreed that any Councillor and any Officer who wished to attend the Transportation Conference at Mellon Country Inn on Monday 19 June at 9.30am should do so.
Confederation of European Councillors Conference
It was agreed upon a proposal by Councillor J Emery, seconded by Councillor T Kerrigan, that Councillor E McMenamin should attend the above conference at Ferrycarig Hotel in Wexford on Friday 23 June from 8.30 am.
Strabane Ethnic Community Association
Councillors noted that a Health & Awareness night organised by the Strabane Ethnic Community Association would be held on Thursday 8 June at 7.30 pm in Fir Trees Hotel.
Councillor J O’Kane requested tickets for the Golden Gloves International Boxing Tournament in St. Patrick’s Hall on Wednesday 31 May at 8.30 pm.
PPS14-Sustainable Development in the Countryside
With reference to a letter from the CE of Omagh District Council (ODC) in relation to a Judicial Review, it was agreed upon a proposal by Councillor I Barr, seconded by Councillor D Hussey, that Strabane District Council should request a copy of the legal opinion on this matter from the CE of ODC.
Meeting with Mike Thompson
The majority of Councillors agreed to attend above meeting with Mike Thompson, Director of Planning & Transportation Division, to provide an overview of the PPS14 on Friday 2 June at 10 am in the A & I room. It was requested that Jim Foster, Consultant, be also asked to attend. Apologies were forwarded from Councillor E McMenamin & Councillor D Hussey.
Meeting with Michael Murray
The majority of Councillors agreed to attend the above meeting with Michael Murray of Queen’s University, Belfast, to agree the West Rural Regional Council’s Response to the PPS14 Consultation on Monday 5 June at 2.30 pm in the A & I room. It was requested that Jim Foster, Consultant, be also asked to attend.
Request for Use of Council Chamber
Approval for use of Council Chamber was granted for the North West Regional Waste Management Sub-Committee meeting on Wednesday 13 December 2006 from 10 am to 1.00 pm.
Request for Use of Strabane Library
Approval for use of Strabane Library was granted to the Head of Culture, Arts & Leisure (HCAL) for the Community Planning RPA Work Stream on Thursday 8 June 06.
It was agreed upon a proposal by Councillor D Hussey, seconded by Councillor E McMenamin, that an initial enquiry should be made to RNID with regard to deaf awareness training for Strabane District Council staff and Councillors.
Letter to WHSSB
It was agreed upon a proposal by Councillor J O’Kane, seconded by Councillor A Bresland, that a letter be sent to the WHSSB to request the immediate re-opening of Sion Mills Health Centre.
The meeting concluded at 10.45 p.m.
DATED this 30th day of MAY 2006
Clerk & Chief Executive
DATED this 13th day of JUNE 2006
Chairman of the Council
The following does not form part of the Minutes recorded above but is included hereon in the interests of clarity:
At a meeting of Strabane District Council held on the day of 13 June 2006 the Minutes of the above Meeting were adopted as a true record on the proposal of Councillor McGuire, seconded by Councillor Bresland, subject to the following amendment: -
* Insert: “15 The need for a pedestrian crossing in Ballymagorry.”
**Insert: “16 The need for improvements on border roads.”
***Insert new paragraph: “Councillor McNulty left the meeting at this point (approximately 10.00 p.m.)”