Agenda and draft minutes

Agenda and draft minutes

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No. Item



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Members to declare any personal or prejudicial interests in any business identified to be considered at this meeting.

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No interests of a personal or prejudicial nature were declared at this juncture in relation to any of the business items under discussion.  Councillor Huw Hilditch-Roberts declared a personal interest during the discussion on business items 5, as the owner of businesses in two of the county’s towns.




Notice of items which, in the opinion of the Chair, should be considered at the meeting as a matter of urgency pursuant to Section 100B(4) of the Local Government Act 1972.

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No urgent matters had been raised with Chair ahead of the meeting.



To receive the minutes of the Partnerships Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 16 September 2021 (copy attached).


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The minutes of the Partnerships Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 16th September 2021 were submitted.


Matters arising –


Business item 4 ‘Denbighshire Voluntary Services Council (DVSC) – The Scrutiny Coordinator (SC) advised that information had been received from DVSC indicating that the refurbished Market Hall in Ruthin was expected to re-open during the first two weeks in December, date to be confirmed.  DVSC’s new website was in the process of being developed and was expected to be launched towards the end of the year.  The organisation was due to hold its Annual Meeting on 30th November 2021 and an invitation had been sent out to all stakeholders.


Business item 5 ‘Community Safety Partnership’ – Members were reminded that representatives from the Police were due to attend the November 2021 County Briefing session to discuss their work in tackling County Lines and other drug related crimes in Denbighshire.


Subject to the above it was:


RESOLVED that the minutes of the Partnerships Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 16 September 2021 be received and approved as a correct record.




To consider a report by the Head of Planning and Public Protection and the Head of Finance and Property to provide information regarding the current state of our town centres, the remedial action taken to date and future initiatives to redress the challenges businesses face (copy attached).


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The Lead Member for Finance, Performance and Strategic Assets, Councillor Julian Thompson-Hill, introduced the Post Covid Recovery in Town Centres and NNDR report (previously circulated).


The report detailed the number of vacant business premises in Town Centres and National Non-Domestic Rates (NNDR) initiatives.  The report also highlighted the challenges town centre businesses faced across the county and approaches being taken to address those.


Whilst the total number of Empty Properties within the Council’s area had increased from 267 properties (April 2020) to 294 properties (Sept 2021), the total amount of Business Rates properties had also increased from 4,361 properties (April 2020) to 4,455 properties (Sept 2021). The empty properties represented 6.7% of the overall 4,455 Business Rates properties.


There were different exemptions from empty property rates, such as within the 3 or 6-month initial empty period, Insolvency, below the chargeable Rateable Value threshold, listed buildings, land, telecommunication masts and prohibited by law. Appendix 1 of the report showed the breakdown of the empty properties and associated exemptions.


There were two key Welsh Government (WG) initiatives which provided support to certain classes of Businesses through relief schemes.  Those initiatives would reduce or even nullify the Business Rates liability.


The two schemes were:

·         The Small Business Rates Relief Scheme, which awarded up to 100% relief, for Businesses with a Rateable Value below £6,000 and were on a tapered reduction from £12,000 to £6,000 Rateable Value.

·         The Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Rates Relief Scheme, which provided a 100% reduction in Business Rates for qualifying Businesses in 2020/21 and 2021/22


There was a further option for Local Authorities to award a reduction in rates payable, utilising the powers granted under the Localism Act 2011. This would be through awarding a discretionary relief. However, the full cost of any award under this scheme would be paid by the Council.


A further issue with an award under the Localism Act was that other Businesses could claim that the Council had created an anti-competitive environment, in that it was subsidising some ratepayers, thus disadvantaging others.


Whilst relief schemes were available, there had still been shops closing both locally and nationally, which led to a number of properties then becoming empty.  There were four main reasons for this:

·         Whilst the Business Rates charge had been reduced property rents had not seen an equivalent reduction and, in many cases, there had been no rent reduction offered by landlords.

·         Some larger companies had moved individual shops into larger premises e.g. Carphone Warehouse, closed in Prestatyn Retail Park and Rhyl, and being subsumed into the larger premises at the Clwyd Retail Park in Rhyl.

·         Other shop units had closed too and had a presence in another shop, such as Argos in Sainsbury’s or Costa Coffee being part of a garage.

·         The switch to online shopping had been further accelerated by Covid19. Many businesses, particularly banks had closed many branches due to people utilising online services. Additionally, customers now utilised retail shops either as a pick up or drop off point far more, having ordered the goods via the internet.


Footfall data for towns had been included in Appendix 3. The data showed the clear negative impact Covid-19 had on town centres due to government guidance on trading and travel restrictions.


Economic and Business Development (EBD) had commissioned a business survey in order to gain an understanding of the challenges that businesses were facing as a result of Covid-19. The launch had been aligned with the conclusion of furlough to provide a greater insight.  A report of the findings would be available in early 2022.


The Transforming Towns (TT)Thematic programme gave Local  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

BREAK - 11:35 - 11.45

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To consider a report by the Traffic, Parking and Road Safety Manager, to provide a further update on the findings from the project (copy attached).


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A member of the public, Mr Stuart Davies, had requested to address the Committee and it was agreed he could speak following the members and officers.


Councillor Brian Jones, Lead Member for Waste, Transport and the Environment, introduced the Covid-19 Active Travel Plan report.  The report detailed the temporary active travel schemes that were implemented in a number of Denbighshire town centres in late 2020 and which had now all subsequently been removed.


The report was a further update on the findings from the project as a follow-up to a report that was presented to the Partnerships Scrutiny Committee in December 2020 and was included in Appendix A to the report.


The Traffic, Parking and Road Safety Manager gave a summary of the background to the original scheme.   Schemes had been developed for Denbigh, Llangollen, Rhyl and Ruthin town centres.  These had been awarded WG funding in June 2020, with the exception of Denbigh which was withdrawn.  The December 2020 report included in Appendix A provided more detail surrounding the grant and process followed.


Following initial delays due to contractor availability and material shortages, the schemes in Llangollen, Rhyl and Ruthin were implemented in November 2020.


Ruthin Scheme - The scheme in Ruthin encountered initial teething problems which were largely addressed by making slight amendments to the scheme. A number of businesses, which had been directly affected by the measures, complained about the loss of spaces for parking and loading outside their premises. Whilst some mitigation for those losses had been included within the overall scheme, this had not been considered to be enough by some business owners. In light of the concerns, meetings were held with Ruthin MAG which led to the Lead Member taking the decision to withdraw the scheme and this work took place in February 2021.


Llangollen Scheme – The scheme in Llangollen initially received little feedback following its introduction in early November 2020. However, from March 2021, a number of incidents began to occur involving pedestrians tripping over the bases of the temporary bollards that had been introduced. As these incidents continued, the bollards were replaced with narrow planter boxes which put a stop to the tripping incidents. The temporary scheme had also resulted in an increase in some large vehicles mounting the pavement in order to manoeuvre past obstructions caused by the opposing lane of traffic.


Despite the concerns, the Dee Valley MAG were keen to retain the temporary scheme on the basis that the additional pavement width that had been created was proving really useful for the heavy pedestrian footfall that was being experienced in Llangollen. The view had also been based on the feedback from a follow-up online consultation where although views on the temporary scheme were mixed, approximately 60% of respondents indicated that they felt that the scheme should remain either because they felt it was working well, or because they felt it was too early to draw any conclusions to the contrary. On-site observations by officers observed plenty of usage of the widened pavement area even outside peak periods such as weekends and school holidays.


Following the relaxation of the Welsh Government Covid restrictions in mid-August 2021 and the move to Alert Level 0, the Lead Member for Waste, Transport and the Environment took the decision to remove the temporary scheme following discussion with the local members.


Rhyl Scheme - Once implemented the Rhyl temporary scheme had generated little feedback from residents. However, concerns were raised by local businesses who stated that the loss of on-street parking had a detrimental impact on their businesses. Some of residents and local members  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.



To consider a report by the Scrutiny Coordinator (copy enclosed) seeking a review of the committee’s forward work programme and updating members on relevant issues.

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The Scrutiny Coordinator referred to the report (previously circulated) seeking members’ to review the Committee’s work programme and provided an update on relevant issues.


Members were reminded to use the Scrutiny Proposal Form if they had anything

they would like to be scrutinised.


Members felt that the pre-meeting business planning session held the day before the present meeting had been extremely useful and requested that a similar one be held ahead of the Committee’s next meeting.


It was therefore:


RESOLVED: - subject to the above comments –

(i)            to confirm the Committee’s forward work programme; and

(ii)          that a virtual pre-meeting briefing session be held ahead of the Committee’s next meeting.





To receive any updates from Committee representatives on various Council Boards and Groups

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