Committees

Minutes of Meeting of The Caithness Committee Held in Mowat Room, Town Hall, Wick on Monday 28th  November, 2005
 

Present:


Councillor David Flear (Convener of the Caithness Committee in the Chair)
Councillor William Fernie
Councillor Thomas Jackson
Councillor Alastair MacDonald Councillor Donald Mackay
Councillor Katrina MacNab
Councillor William Mowat
Councillor Roger Saxon
Councillor Graeme Smith


In Attendance:

 

Mr. Ian Hargrave, Area Manager
Mr. Richard Guest, Area Roads and Community Works Manager
Mr. Alf Gunn, Principal Environmental Health Officer
Mr. Graham Nichols, Area Education, Culture and Sport Manager
Mrs. Fiona Sinclair, Area Solicitor/Administrator

 

Caithness Committee


(Chairman – Councillor Flear, Area Convener)


 1. Apologies for Absence

 

Apologies for absence were intimated on behalf of Councillor John Green.


Education, Culture & Sport


(Portfolio Chairman – Councillor Saxon)


2. Integrated Inspection of Pre-School Centre

 

There was circulated report (CC/272/05) dated 7th October, 2005, by the Area Education, Culture and Sport Manager, appraising Members of the report on the Integrated Inspection by the Care Commission and HM Inspectorate of Education of Bower Busy Bees Pre-school Centre.

 

The Committee noted the recommendations  for improvement arising from the inspection and noted that an action plan will be drawn up by the Pre-School Centre and Education Authority indicating how the main findings of the report will be addressed.


3. Integrated Inspection of Canisbay Rainbow Nursery

 

There was circulated report (CC/273/05) dated 6th October, 2005, by the Area Education, Culture and Sport Manager, appraising Members of the report on the Integrated Inspection by the Care Commission and HM Inspectorate of Education of Canisbay Rainbow Nursery.

 

The Committee noted the recommendations and requirements for improvement arising from the inspection and noted that an action plan will be drawn up by the Canisbay Rainbow Nursery and Education Authority indicating how the main findings  of the report will be addressed.


4. Integrated Inspection of Lybster Primary School Nursery Class

 

There was circulated report (CC/274/05) dated 6th October, 2005, by the Area Education, Culture and Sport Manager, appraising Members of the report on the Integrated Inspection by the Care Commission and HM Inspectorate of Education of Lybster Primary School Nursery Class.

 

The Committee noted the recommendations  for improvement arising from the inspection and noted that an action plan will be drawn up by the Lybster Primary School Nursery Class  and Education Authority indicating how the main findings of the report will be addressed.


5. Inspection of Miller Academy Primary School, Thurso

 

There was circulated report (CC/275/05) dated 25th October, 2005, by the Area Education, Culture and Sport Manager, appraising Members of the report on the Inspection by HM Inspectorate of Education of Miller Academy School, Thurso.

 

Mr. Nichols explained that Miller Academy Primary School was inspected in June, 2005, as part of a national sample of  primary education.     He said that it was unfortunate that the inspection took place during the week of the Caithness Music Festival and at a time when the school was between Head Teachers.     The inspection covered key aspects of  the work of the school at all stages.     It evaluated pupils’ achievements, the effectiveness of the school, the environment for learning,  the school’s processes for self-evaluation and capacity for improvement.      There was a particular focus on attainment in English language and mathematics.     The report indicated the key strengths of  the school and assessed the school using various quality indicators.     The report concluded that the school and education authority, in liaison with H.M. Inspectors should take action to ensure improvement in pupils’ attainment in the following points:

  • Pupils’  attainment in English language and mathematics;
  • The curriculum and approaches to planning, assessment and recording to better meet pupils’ learning needs;
  • The quality of learning and teaching; and
  • The method used to monitor and evaluate the work of the school and track pupils’ progress.

Mr. Nichols further explained that many children from outwith the school catchment area attend Miller Academy as their parents have elected to send them there.     Following publication of the report no children had been withdrawn from the school.       Since the report had been received he had attended several meetings with staff from the school with a view to drawing up an action plan for improvement.

 

Following discussion, in which individual Members of the Committee expressed confidence in the school and its staff, the Committee noted the main points arising from the inspection, and noted that an action plan will be drawn up by the relevant officers to address the main points in the report, and to prepare the school for the next inspection.   

    

Caithness Committee


(Chairman – Councillor Flear, Convener)


6. Confirmation of Minutes

 

There was circulated for confirmation Minutes of Caithness Committee held on 31st October, 2005, Special Caithness Committee held on 4th November, 2005 and Special Caithness Committee held on 14th November, 2005.

 

The minutes were held as read and were approved.
 
7. Approval of Minutes

 

There was circulated for approval Minutes of the Planning, Development, Europe and Tourism Committee held on 14th November, 2005.

 

The minutes were held as read and were approved.

 

8. Sir John’s Square, Thurso

 

The Area Manager reported that the Committee had previously asked to be given regular reports on the position regarding the vacant building in Sir John’s Square, Thurso. He reported that the solicitor who is dealing with the matter on behalf of the Council has been asked to provide a report to an early meeting of the Area Committee, and that it is felt that it would be inappropriate to make further comment on this matter at the present time. 

 

The Committee noted the position.

 

9. Community Safety Action Team

 

There was circulated report (CC/276/05) dated 21st November, 2005, by the Caithness Area Manager advising Members of recent activity within the Community Safety Action Team.

 

The Committee noted the relationship between the Community Safety Action Team and the wider community planning agenda which is under the remit of  Caithness Partnership,  and noted that improved communication channels are being established between the Caithness Partnership and the Community Safety Action Team.

 

Councillor Smith advised that, along with some fellow Councillors, he had recently visited Wick Police Station to view the Wick CCTV system.      Those who had attended were extremely impressed by the clarity of the pictures viewed through the system.     The Committee noted that the system will soon be fully operational and available for use for evidential purposes.     The Committee noted the position and noted the terms of  the report.

 

10. Nuclear Decommissioning – Visit to Cumbria

 

There was circulated report (CC/277/05) dated 21st November, 2005, by the Caithness Area Manager providing a summary of a visit to Cumbria recently undertaken by Councillor MacDonald, Councillor Jackson, Mr Hargrave,  the Chief  Executive of  CASE, the Principal of   Thurso College and two representatives of  U.K.A.E.A., Dounreay. 

 

Mr. Hargrave explained that the visit took place on the invitation of a deputation from Cumbria County Council who had visited Caithness earlier in 2005.    During the three day visit the deputation had heard about efforts to try to encourage economic regeneration in the area, had visited local businesses and training establishments, and had held meetings with local Council Members.   

 

The Committee agreed that the visit was thoroughly worthwhile, each area having much to learn from the other.    The Committee agreed that the working relationship which has been established with Cumbria County Council and its partners should be developed and strengthened.
 
Housing & Social Work


(Portfolio Chairman – Councillor Fernie)


11. Application to Lease Ground at Bon Accord Street, Wick

 

There was circulated report (CC/278/05) dated 11th November, 2005, by the Area Housing Manager, on an application to lease an area of ground in Bon Accord Street, Wick.

 

The Committee agreed to lease the ground to the applicant subject to appropriate conditions, including  a requirement on the part of the tenant to construct a dropped kerb and resurface the area with tarmacadam.

 

12. Application to Purchase Ground Adjacent to 13 Macrae Street, Wick

 

There was circulated report (CC/279/05) dated 11th November, 2005, by the Area Housing Manager, inviting the Committee to consider selling an area of ground adjacent to 13 Macrae Street, Wick, on terms to be negotiated by the Council’s Property and Architectural Service.

 

The Committee agreed that further enquiries be made of the applicant, in order to find out whether the existing access to the property will be blocked up, and whether the applicant intends to take any steps to improve the appearance of the external wall at the property.


13. Application to Purchase Ground at School Place, Forss

 

There was circulated report (CC/280/05) dated 11th November, 2005, by the Area Housing Manager, inviting the Committee to consider selling an area of ground at School Place, Forss, on terms to be negotiated by the Council’s Property & Architectural Service.

 

The Committee agreed to offer the ground for sale to the applicant, subject to appropriate conditions being imposed.

 

Transport, Environmental and Community Services


(Portfolio Vice Chairman – Councillor Mowat)


14. Tree Maintenance

 

There was circulated report (CC/281/05) dated 15th November, 2005, by the Area Roads and Community Works Manager, outlining the need to introduce a regime of planned tree maintenance to reduce the risk of injury from falling trees or branches and to plan for the replacement of trees which are nearing the end of their life.

 

Mr. Guest circulated a supplementary sheet reporting on an arboricultural hazard assessment of Sir John’s Square, Thurso, by the Scottish Arboricultural Service.    

 

In the Committee report Mr. Guest explained that a qualified tree surgeon had  carried out an assessment of  the condition of a number of  trees growing on land to which the pubic has access and which is maintained by the Council’s Ground Maintenance Team.      The Assessor had recommended remedial work, and the Assessor’s report was summarised in the Committee report.      Mr. Guest referred to the public concern regarding the trees behind Thurso Town Hall and Sir John’s Square.     These trees had been the subject of a number of  articles and letters in the local press.

 

Councillor  Mackay produced a Petition which he said had been signed by five hundred people regarding the trees in Sir John’s Square.  

 

After discussion the  Committee agreed (1) to the removal of dead and dangerous trees and branches phased over the next 2 to 3 years in the areas detailed in the report, (2) to new planting in Sir John Square in the location suggested by the Community Council and removal of old trees not covered by recommendation 1, in 5 to 10 years, (3) to additional new planting provided grant aid can be obtained from SNH, and (4) to the removal of trees adjacent to the south side of Rosebank bowling green, Wick and replacement with shrubs.       With regard to Sir John’s Square, Thurso, the Committee agreed to defer consideration of  the replanting suggestions for the perimeter of  the Square meantime,  and that, in the interior of the Square, up to four trees with spreading canopies be planted in each terrace (depending on the ultimate height of the tree chosen), as suggested in Option 2 in the Supplementary Paper circulated by Mr. Guest.

 

15. Play Areas – Proposed Replacements

 

There was circulated report (CC/282/05) dated 15th November, 2005, by the Area Roads and Community Works Manager, listing the play units removed but not yet replaced, proposing replacements to match budget, and also  proposing the sites suitable for ‘redevelopment’, to utilize the expected £800k additional funding (Highland wide).

 

The Committee approved the proposed redevelopment of  the play areas at Oldfield Terrace, Thurso,  King George V Park, Wick, and Durran.     The Committee further agreed to the replacement of pieces of equipment which had already been removed as detailed  in Appendix A of the report, and agreed that the Area Roads and Community Works Manager liaise with any community groups who approached him with funding suggestions for redevelopment of  play areas throughout Caithness.


16. River Thurso Flood Study

 

There was circulated report (CC/283/05) dated 17th November, 2005, by the Area Roads and Community Works Manager, advising the Committee of the current state of progress on the River Thurso Flood Study.

 

The Committee noted the contents of the report and agreed to support the continuation of the studies leading to the preparation of a Flood Prevention Scheme Order.


17. Winter Maintenance 2005-2006

 

There was circulated report (CC/284/05) dated 14th November, 2005, by the Area Roads and Community Works Manager, submitting for approval  proposals for road and footpath gritting for 2005-2006.

 

The Committee approved the suggested gritting priorities for the current year subject to an assurance from the Area Roads and Community Works Manager that the footpaths in the larger villages in the landward areas will be added to the list of route priorities.  Mr Guest also agreed to consider the addition of the approach road to the Black Stairs in Wick to the list of route priorities.

 

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