Agenda item

Call-in of Delegated Decision Ref. 2021/01 - Community Orchard Scheme

Minutes:

Cabinet members had considered a report which confirmed that during the late 2020/21 planting season the Council piloted 7 orchards to test out elements of a scheme which was proposed for extension by a further 23 locations, with planting taking place in November / December 2021. A budget of £10,000 had been earmarked from within the existing Community Planning budget.

 

The decision made was:-

 

That the Community Orchards Scheme be approved.

 

Following this decision, Call-in requests had been received from Councillors K Hoptroff, M Gledhill, B Cawley, L Swindlehurst, P Taylor, D Price, N Yates and C Atkins.

 

The Call-in request confirmed the following principles of decision making which they believed had not been adhered to:-

 

·       Taking due regard of all relevant considerations and disregarding irrelevant considerations (“The policy is designated “community orchards”. There is no evidence that communities in which the initial orchards were placed have been consulted in their positioning. The manual in establishing orchards “Community Orchard Handbook (2008) lays out clearly the process in the establishment of orchards and the involvement of the community in clear steps including communicating objectives, timescales for tasks such as outreach, publicity, organising volunteers, planting and above all maintenance. There is no evidence that any work has been done in securing these objectives outlined in 7.9 of the cabinet paper”.);

·       Taken on the basis of due consideration (“The decision to move forward via a cabinet delegated decision (CDD) has also prevented councillors from discussing this report. This mechanism is usually reserved for matters of urgency”.);

·       A presumption in favour of openness (“Unfortunately in the pilot schemes a hallmark of the policy as operated since the start of the year has been the opposite of openness. Ward Councillors have not been informed of the siting of the orchards and have been presented with a fait accompli”.);

·       Clarity of aims and desired outcomes (“How will this approach lead to the desired outcome communicated in the July 2019 SMDC declaration on making the area carbon neutral by 2010? There is a lack of clearness or sense of purpose of where the planting of community orchards fits within the strategy”.).

 

Members debated in detail the points contained in the delegated report and in the call-in, with key points being:-

 

·       The scheme centred around carbon offsetting rather than carbon reduction;

·       The scheme had been discussed previously both at SMDC meetings and at Parish Assembly. Parish Councils had also contributed to discussions, proposing sites. Also discussed with Haregate Community Centre;

·       Each orchard would contain between 15 – 40 fruit and nut trees, together with a variety of other trees and bushes;

·       Important to ensure that future maintenance of the orchards continues ‘when’ the initial volunteer impetus falters;

·       Engaged with Keele University to ensure that the Climate Change benefits of the scheme were quantifiable;

·       Orchard development was educational for children and encouraged healthy eating;

·       Details of the ongoing costs related to the scheme were needed.

 

The matter was then put to a vote, indicated by a show of hands:-

 

In favour of the Call-in:

3 votes

 

Against the Call-in:

7 votes

 

Abstentions

None

 

In accordance with the procedure for consideration of Call-ins, Cabinet would be asked to note or take account of concerns as it saw fit without holding up the implementation of the decision.

Supporting documents: