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9th January 2012
Minutes of the Meeting of Strabane District Council held in the Council Chamber, Council Offices, 47 Derry Road, Strabane on Monday 9 January 2012 at 7.30p.m.
Present: - In the Chair: Councillor B McMahon
Other Members: Councillors A Bresland, K Carlin, J Donnell, R Hamilton, D Hussey, D Kelly, P Kelly, T Kerrigan, J McCauley, K McGuire, M McHugh, E McMenamin, J O’Kane.
Total = 14
Interim Clerk & Chief Executive (CE)
Business Manager (BM)
Apologies: Councillors R McHugh and M McMackin.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Closure of Strabane Hearing Centre, Strabane Courthouse
On the proposal of Councillor McMenamin, seconded by Councillor Donnell, a Suspension of Standing Orders was granted.
Councillor McMenamin requested that a letter be sent to the Minister of Justice in relation to the closure of the above Centre, voicing the serious concerns of Members in relation to the potential loss of jobs, the inconvenience for local solicitors and members of the pubic having to travel to either the Derry or Omagh Centres.
Councillor Carlin concurred with Councillor McMenamin and stated that she would be bringing a Motion to Council at the next Full Council meeting in relation to same. She added that although she understood the need to cut costs in the present economic climate, the decision to close the above Centre, after previously closing the Custody Suite at Strabane Police Station, was ill thought out and was not cost effective.
Councillor Hussey concurred with above remarks and stated that it would also impact on the Council’s Licensing Officer and other Officers who would have to travel to Court in relation to various prosecutions. He felt more thought should have been given to the long term implications of the closure throughout the district. He also felt that simply writing to the Minister of Justice might not bring the desired result and that the Minister should be asked to attend a meeting at Council in relation to the closure.
Councillor Hussey declared an interest as a publican.
Councillor Donnell concurred with all previous remarks and stated that the Centre had been there for many years, throughout the turbulent ‘Troubles’ and it was a much needed public service.
Councillor Kerrigan concurred with all previous remarks and stated that services were easier to retain when in-situ, rather than trying to get them reinstated once they had been removed. He also felt that a meeting with the Minister could prove beneficial in the future.
It was agreed that a letter would be sent to the Minister of Justice in relation to the closure of the Srabane Hearing Centre.
The non-confidential section of the Minutes of the Meeting of the Council held on Monday 5 December 2011 were adopted as a true record of the meeting on the proposal of Councillor McCauley seconded by Councillor Hamilton and signed by the Chairman.
Matters Arising from Minutes
Page 2, Bonfires
Councillor D Kelly stated that a request for mundane information in relation to the above, which had previously been requested twice, had still not been provided after nine weeks.
The Chairman supported the view and queried the protocol in relation to responding to Members’ queries.
The CE stated that he would ensure that the information was provided and added that he would clarify the protocol and report back to Members.
Page 2, Translink
In response to Councillor Carlin, it was agreed to send a further letter to Translink in relation to the outstanding issues raised by Members, particularly the need for facilities for long journey travellers.
Page 3, NI Water
In response to Councillor Hussey, it was agreed that a letter would be sent to NI Water in relation to a sewerage pump at Castlegore Road, Castlederg which was overflowing onto a nearby sports ground.
Page 5, Snapshot
Members referred to the recent issue of the Snapshot magazine and requested that the following issues be investigated:
• Poor or no delivery of Snapshot in certain areas – possibility of recouping costs paid to the Royal Mail to be investigated.
• Events listed inside had taken place by the time Snapshot was received by residents.
• Councillor McMenamin’s e-mail details were incorrect and needed to be amended.
• All Party Constituency Office details should be included in the magazine.
• Public was advised that glass could be placed in the blue bin, which was incorrect and would have implications.
It was agreed that the above queries would be investigated by the CPO and Members advised accordingly.
Page 15, Recognition/Reception
In response to a query from Councillor Hamilton, the Chairman stated that the requested reception for Drumlegagh Primary School was being held at the end of January 2012.
The Minutes of the Meeting of the Special Council held on Wednesday 7 December 2011 was adopted as a true record of the meeting on the proposal of Councillor P Kelly seconded by Councillor Hussey subject to the following amendments:
Page 8, Councillor Donnell
4th bullet point – Add ‘by the developer’ at the end of the bullet point.
6th bullet point – Replace with ‘He said that Cavanlee Bridge should be widened and sightlines provided’.
7th bullet point – Add a further sentence at the end. ‘He stated that street lighting was needed’.
Penultimate bullet point – Delete third word ‘work’ and insert ‘street lighting’.
Page 9, Councillor D Kelly
3rd bullet point – Delete the word ‘between’ and insert ‘within’.
Penultimate paragraph – Delete the word ‘between’ and insert ‘within’.
Matters Arising from Minutes
Page 7, Councillor Hussey
Councillor Hussey stated that he had not received any written responses to the various queries raised with Roads Service when they attended the Special Meeting on 7 December 2011.
The non-confidential section of the Minutes of the Economic Development Committee Meeting held on Monday 12 December 2011 was adopted as a true record of the meeting on the proposal of Councillor Bresland seconded by Councillor O’Kane, subject to the following amendment:
Page 1, In Attendance – delete ‘Kevin’ and insert ‘Kieran’.
Matters Arising from Minutes
Pages 1 - 6, Urban Regeneration
In response to a query from Councillor Hussey, the CE stated that he was undertaking a further round of discussions with the individual officers and a report would be brought back to Members in the foreseeable future in relation to associated issues and the best way forward.
The non-confidential section Minutes of the Culture, Arts & Leisure Committee held on Monday 12 December 2011 was adopted as a true record of the meeting on the proposal of Councillor O’Kane seconded by Councillor P Kelly.
Matters Arising from Minutes
Page 6, Planning Application, Strabane Playclub
In response to a query from Councillor Donnell, the CE stated there had been no response as yet in relation to the above.
The non-confidential section of the Minutes of the Corporate and Regulatory Services Committee held on Tuesday 13 December 2011 was adopted as a true record of the meeting on the proposal of Councillor O’Kane seconded by Councillor Bresland subject to the following amendments:
Page 3 - Insert an additional third paragraph as follows: ‘Councillor D Kelly said that the report referred to Strabane Council as an urban Council and that definition was used to justify the increase in the number of noise complaints.’
Page 7 – Final bullet point – Delete last sentence and replace with ‘‘He voiced annoyance that he had to spend £1,000 on a risk assessment.’
Page 9, second line, – Delete ‘problem’ and insert ‘non-problematic’.
Matters Arising from Minutes
Western Group Environmental Health Service
Councillor Hussey sought clarification of the Group’s CEHO’s remarks at the meeting in relation to an asbestos risk assessment being a requirement. He queried the regulation of same.
Burial Rights Grants
On the proposal of Councillor D Kelly, seconded by Councillor O’Kane, forms of grant in respect of the following were signed and sealed on behalf of Council: -
Sion Mills - 1 plot
2 Beechlawn Drive
Castlederg - 1 plot
5 Killymallagh Road
Donemana - 1 plot
22 Donagheady Road
Strabane - 2 plots
25 Primity Crescent
Newbuildings - 1 plot
26 Curleyhill Road
Strabane - 1 plot
128 Springhill Park
Strabane - 1 plot
9 Woodbury Heights
Ballymagorry - 1 plot
Approval to open Tenders
On the proposal of Councillor O’Kane, seconded by Councillor M McHugh, approval was given to open tenders for:-
• Improvement Works at Camus Playing Fields.
ePIC consultation on J/2011/0433/0
Correspondence from Planning Service had been distributed for Members attention in relation to the above application from Riverside Building and Development Ltd for mixed use cross border development at Lifford Road/Barnhill Road.
The CE advised Members that it was a major development which could be looked at from a number of aspects. He added that Council had the option of inputting its views at this stage or reserving its position until formally presented to Council in the Planning Schedule.
Councillor P Kelly stated that it was another major development that would take away trade from the Town Centre. He added that a retail impact study was urgently needed as development of the site could leave the centre of the town like a ghost town.
The CE stated that he understood for a development of that size, a retail impact assessment would be a requirement of the Planning Service. He added that he would have the matter raised with the Planning Service and have a copy of same forwarded to Council, if appropriate.
Councillor O’Kane stated that such a significant development should be supported as it would create much needed employment and boost the building /retail trade.
Councillor Donnell stated that whilst he was not against the development, he had concerns in relation to the flood plains which needed to be adequately addressed.
Councillor McGuire felt that perhaps a series of meetings, which should include the attendance of the Chief Building Control Officer (CBCO), should be undertaken in order to discuss the matter further.
The CE recommended that in order to progress the matter, the Senior Management Team (SMT) would look at the various impacts of the above development and bring a draft response to the epic consultation back to Council. He added that Council could subsequently make a corporate response when the application formally came to Council in the Planning Schedule. In the meantime, the Planning Office would be contacted to ascertain if they had a retail impact assessment which could be forwarded to Council.
The recommendations of the CE as outlined above, were agreed.
Notice of Motion
The following Motion was proposed in the name of Councillor Hussey and seconded by Councillor Donnell:
“This Council supports the Gurkha Campaign for Pension Parity and agrees to sign the e-petition as follows:
Gurkha veterans who retired before 1 July 1997 must be paid pensions in parity to that of the British and the Commonwealth soldiers. Gurkhas must be financially compensated for the loss of pay allowances and the third grade food and accommodation provided during their service before 1 July 1997. This is also to compensate for the mental and physical trauma they went through for not having been allowed to live with their families for several years due to the third class policy that was deliberately made for the Brigade of Gurkhas. Gurkhas who have served for over four years must be eligible for preserved pensions at the age of sixty years just like their British/ Commonwealth counterparts. The Gurkha widows must be treated equally like the British/Commonwealth widows in terms of pensions and other facilities.”
Councillor Hussey referred to the above and stated that he wished to withdraw the reference to signing the e-petition paragraph as he understood that Council, as a corporate body, could not sign the petition; it could only be individual signatures of Members. He still wished however to speak on the thrust of the motion.
Councillor Hussey said that the Motion was an issue of justice for an ethnic minority which was part of the British Forces for over 200 years. He added that the Gurkhas were poorly paid, receiving only one-third of the pay of other serving soldiers and the same related to their pension benefits. He felt that it was a moral issue that needed to be addressed as Gurkhas formed a sizeable part of the UK population. He advised Members that it was only following a recent media campaign by the actress Joanna Lumley that deceased Gurkhas were allowed to be buried here. He asked for their support in this important matter.
Councillor M McHugh stated that it was an equality issue and should be addressed through the Minister of Defence as it did not relate to Council business. He added that he would not support a motion with reference to British soldiers.
Councillor McMenamin said that although it was a moral/human rights issue, it was not within the remit of Council. He felt it could set a precedent by supporting the Motion.
Councillor P Kelly stated that although he sympathised with the Gurkhas, it was a matter for the Ministry of Defence and not Council. He agreed with Councillor McMenamin that it could lead to debate on other Motions which were not within the remit of Council.
Councillor Hussey said that he had felt justified in bringing the Motion and respected Members’ opinions; however he sought Members’ support on the moral issue.
A vote was taken as follows:
The Motion fell.
Proposed Changes to Council Meetings Procedures
A report on proposed changes to the starting times of meetings and on procedures for presentations to Council had been distributed for Members’ attention.
The BM advised Members of the four options available as outlined in her report and confirmed that the Planning Officer (PO) had confirmed that she had no issue in attending planning pre-meetings at an earlier time.
Members' views were as follows:
Councillor Kerrigan stated that he was in favour of Option 3 ie. a 7.00pm start as he felt that holding receptions on a different night might lead to very little representation.
Councillor Carlin stated that she had some issues in relation to child minding and felt that the views of female Members had not been fully considered.
Councillor O’Kane felt that the timing of meetings should not be changed and agreed with Councillor Carlin in relation to child minding issues for female Members.
Councillor Hamilton felt that the timing of meeting should not be changed but was willing to consider Option 3 on a trial basis.
Councillor Hussey stated that he also had childcare responsibilities but proposed Option 3 be considered on a trial period until May 2012.
It was agreed with 12 votes for, 1 against and 1 abstention that Council meetings would commence at 7.00pm on a trial basis from February 2012 with the arrangement to be reviewed in May 2012.
International Centre for Local & Regional Development ‘Planning for a New Future’ – 19 and 20 January 2012, Dundalk at an estimate cost of £209.20.
Costings and conference programme had previously been distributed for Member’s attention.
It was agreed that All Party representation and the Independent Members could attend the above Conference.
Any Other Business
In line with policy the following reception was agreed, as proposed by Councillor Donnell and seconded by Councillor Hamilton:-
• Mr Dessie Murphy who retired from the ambulance service after 32 years service.
Export Clever™ Project - St. Louis Trip
Councillor Kerrigan referred to a forthcoming trip to St. Louis associated with the above project and requested the following:
• Use of a room within Council on 17 January 2012 to facilitate a pre-departure meeting with the Consultant and Officer.
• Catering facilities.
• Corporate gifts to distribute to their hosts in St. Louis.
Councillor Kerrigan’s requests as outlined above, were agreed.
Roads Service/Rivers Agency/Flooding
Referring to the flooding throughout the district in October 2011, various Members stated that they had still not received any responses to subsequent queries forwarded to the above organisations.
It was agreed that follow up letters would be sent to the Roads Service and Rivers Agency.
Finance & Staff Committee Meeting
The CE advised Members that the above meeting which had been scheduled for 23 January 2012 had now been rescheduled until 2pm on 24 January 2012 in order to accommodate PCSP training to Members taking place on 23 January. He also advised Members that their allowances would not be paid until 25 January 2012.
On the proposal of Councillor D Kelly seconded by Councillor McMenamin the meeting went “into Committee”.
The meeting concluded at 9.30pm.
DATED this 9th day of JANUARY 2012
Interim Clerk & Chief Executive
DATED this 13th day of FEBRUARY 2012
Chairman of the Council