Questions from Members of the Council to the Chairmen of Committees
Question to the Chairman of the Strategic Planning, Sustainability and Transportation Committee from Councillor Harper
Councillor Harper asked the following question of the Chairman of the Strategic Planning, Sustainability and Transportation Committee:
I understand that the Government has allocated a sum of pounds for electric car charging points at blocks of flats and in Council owned car parks. Can the Chairman of Strategic Planning, Sustainability and Transportation Committee inform the meeting what active ongoing measures the authority is doing to install electric car charging points throughout the Borough and to promote electric cars and transport to reduce air pollution and move towards carbon neutral transport?
The Chairman of the Strategic Planning, Sustainability and Transportation Committee replied that:
We as a Council through, probably, the Strategic Planning, Sustainability and Transportation Committee will tap into any pot of money that exists so that we can encourage the additional installation of electric car charging infrastructure to promote electric vehicle use.
I can report that there are some measures that we have undertaken already and intend to undertake. For example, the Maidstone Integrated Transport Strategy promotes electric vehicle use. It is a core part of the Strategy. In particular, Action H6 seeks the installation of additional electric charging points and the promotion of electric car use.
The Strategy also includes a target to double the number of electric charging points in Maidstone by 2021 and to double again by 2031.
When I first started talking about electric vehicles in this Chamber, I was met with cynicism and scepticism, but I am really encouraged tonight that this question demonstrates cross-party support to accelerate the process. Action H6 is a very positive measure, but we need to go further.
Our recently adopted Local Plan has embedded policies and proposals that are intended to promote electric vehicle use. In particular, Policy DM6 on Air Quality supports the Maidstone Integrated Transport Strategy by facilitating the installation of charging points. Policy DM23 also seeks to ensure that new developments incorporate electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
As recently as December 2017, the Strategic Planning, Sustainability and Transportation Committee adopted the Council’s Low Emission Strategy, and one of the actions in the Strategy relates to the introduction of Air Quality Planning Guidance which includes provision for the incorporation of electric vehicle charging points in new builds. I was pleased to champion that piece of work and that it was unanimously supported by everyone.
These are examples of some of the measures we are taking that will tangibly improve the air quality of our residents.
We need to be aware that this is the technology of here and now, but it is changing and we should not restrict our thinking to, for example, the idea of fixed electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Let’s be really ambitious and make Maidstone a pioneer and leader in this area.
I am pleased to tell you that through the Quality Bus Partnership, working with one of the bus companies, an electric bus will be trialled very soon – another exciting example of new technology.
This is a very exciting time; there is much more we can do. Let’s not rest until Maidstone is the exemplar in encouraging and promoting electric vehicle usage and improving air quality.
Question to the Chairman of the Communities, Housing and Environment Committee from Councillor J Sams
Councillor J Sams asked the following question of the Chairman of the Communities, Housing and Environment Committee:
60,000 homes in England have remained vacant for at least 2 years and 11,000 homes across the country have remained uninhabited for a decade or more.
Councils have the opportunity to make use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders which allow Local Authorities to bring unoccupied properties into use as housing.
Whilst this 2004 Housing Act legislation was aimed at properties that have been empty for 6 months or more we can show you properties in Harrietsham that have been empty for over 10 years.
In light of the housing shortage in Maidstone what steps will this Council take to use this legislation for the benefit of local residents?
The Chairman of the Communities, Housing and Environment Committee replied that:
The Housing and Health team works hard with the owners of empty properties to bring them back into use. However returning empty properties back into use is often not straightforward. This is because the reasons properties are left empty for long periods of time are often complex and difficult to resolve. Empty Dwelling Management Orders were introduced in 2006. In reality they are difficult to obtain. During the period 2006-2011 only 43 EDMOs were issued nationally.
Our Council Tax records show that there are currently 116 properties in the Borough classified as empty and unfurnished for over two years. However there may be further properties that are not being lived in but are not classified as empty on our system for the purpose of Council Tax.
The Housing and Health team has liaised with the owners of eight long term empty properties in Harrietsham. None of these properties would be suitable for consideration of an Empty Dwelling Management Order for a variety of reasons, including being subject to probate, being part of commercial premises, being about to be demolished or currently being marketed for sale. If there are other properties we are not aware of please do contact the Housing and Health team and we can investigate further.