Shropshire Council website

This is the website of Shropshire Council

Contact information



0345 678 9000

Postal Address

Shropshire Council
Abbey Foregate

Agenda and minutes

Venue: Shrewsbury Room, Shirehall, Abbey Foregate, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, SY2 6ND. View directions

Contact: Amanda Holyoak  Committee Officer

No. Item


Apologies for absence and substitutions


Apologies were received from Councillors Keith Roberts and Leslie Winwood.

Councillor Roy Aldcroft substituted for Councillor Winwood.



Disclosable Pecuniary Interests

Members are reminded that they must not participate in the discussion or voting on any matter in which they have a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest and should leave the room prior to the commencement of the debate.


None were declared.



Minutes of the meeting held on 10th June 2019 pdf icon PDF 65 KB

To consider the Minutes of the Communities Overview Committee meeting held on 10th June 2019.


The Minutes of the meeting held on 10 June 2019 were confirmed as a correct record.



Public Question Time

To receive any public questions or petitions from the public, notice of which has been given in accordance with Procedure Rule 14.  The deadline for this meeting is 2.00pm on Thursday 12th September 2019.


There were no public questions.



Member Question Time

To receive any questions of which members of the Council have given notice.  Deadline for notification for this meeting is 2.00pm on Wednesday 11th September 2019.


A Member Question was received from Councillor Andy Boddington in relation to Long Term Empty Properties (copy attached to the signed Minutes).  It was agreed to take this question when Empty Homes was discussed (Item 15 on the Agenda)



Public Rights of Way pdf icon PDF 13 MB

To receive a presentation on the service’s future obligations to effectively maintain public rights of way.  [Report to follow]



The Chairman welcomed Richard Knight, Countryside Maintenance Manager, Shona Butter, Rights of Way Mapping and Enforcement Manager, Peter Carr, P3 Volunteer and Pete Banford, South Shropshire Lead Programme Manager, Outdoor Partnerships to the meeting.  She reminded the Committee that it previously considered this item at its meeting in March 2019 when the Rights of Way Mapping and Enforcement Manager and the Interim Head of Culture and Leisure had given an overview of how the service managed and maintained the Public Rights of Way network whilst highlighting the pressures and challenges for the service.

The Committee received a presentation (copy of slides attached to the signed Minutes) which covered the following areas:

·  What are we responsible for?

·  The existing network

·  Bridges and surfaces on PROW (Public Rights of Way)

·  Contracting examples

·  Staffing Pressures

·  Parish Paths Partnership

Members heard that Shropshire had a very large network of public rights of way with over 5,600km, making it the third largest in the Country. However, funds were short and it was a struggle to maintain this network.  It was therefore hoped to produce a paper to go to Full Council seeking assistance. 

Looking at their responsibility for bridges and surfaces, the Countryside Maintenance Manager highlighted a number of examples of different types of bridges that required work including cast iron, listed bridges, railway bridges, stone arches etc, along with a number of structures that required inspection by an engineer.  The Countryside Maintenance Manager then gave some examples of surface repairs including along Byways Open to All traffic and bridle paths.  Responsibility for the maintenance of some of these bridges and surfaces was shared with the landowner.  It was confirmed that there were approximately 50 large structures on the network that required inspection with upwards of £1/2m urgent work required.  A capital bid was being made in order to deal with the top 30 of these.

In response to a query, the Countryside Maintenance Manager explained the difficulties in attempting to close Byways Open to All traffic to vehicles as there was a legal right for vehicular access but obviously not to deliberately cause damage.  It is in the remit of the police to enforce illegal vehicular usage on closed Byways (but there are not the resources to do so). There was a legal duty on the team to maintain all rights of way.

The Committee were informed that the Outdoor Partnerships team were always looking for commercial opportunities and had an income target of £85,000.  Examples were given of how income was generated, for example grounds maintenance for schools and Parish Council’s etc. 

In response to a query officers explained that there were 10 members of staff in the team, 2.5 of which worked full time on contracting whilst the rest dealt with the statutory rights of way work.

The Rights of Way Mapping and Enforcement Manager informed the Committee of the current staffing pressures within the mapping and enforcement team withtwo of their most experienced officers  ...  view the full minutes text for item 14.


Empty Homes pdf icon PDF 1 MB

To receive a presentation and report on work being undertaken to minimise the number of empty homes in Shropshire.  [Report to follow]



Additional documents:


The Committee received the report of Karen Collier, Regulatory Services Operations Manager – copy attached to the signed Minutes – which provided an overview of the Empty Homes work carried out by Regulatory Services including the legal powers available and a summary of the previous Scrutiny review of the function.

In response to the Member Question raised by Councillor Boddington, the Regulatory Services Operations Manager explained that the discrepancy between the Council’s and the Government’s long term empty property statistics was due to the Government’s figures including properties which have been classed as “exempt” and the Council’s figures did not include them. Exempt properties do not pay council tax because the property is empty for a specific reason such as probate, the owner is in hospital or residential care.

The Regulatory Services Operations Manager informed the Committee that there were approximately 1800 empty properties within Shropshire, each with their own history and reasons for becoming empty eg financial/sentimental reasons.  There were two aspects to empty properties; firstly, that they attract anti-social behaviour and secondly, they become a wasted resource.

She informed the Committee that empty properties were dealt with based on risk using a wide range of legal powers and she gave examples of some of the common problems associated with empty properties and the powers available to deal with them, for example:

·  Unauthorised access (discretionary power)

·  Nuisance to neighbouring property (statutory duty to investigate)

·  Rats/mice, rubbish/overgrown garden (statutory)

·  Anti-Social Behaviour (discretionary powers)

Other Council Services also had powers including Council Tax (who can charge 100% premium); Building Control can act if it is a dangerous structure; Planning can act if the amenity of an area is affected; and finally, conservation have powers to preserve listed buildings.

She confirmed that they do try to trace owners to encourage them to take action to bring the property back into use by providing advice and information in the first instance before escalating to enforcement action, however, it was not illegal to have an empty property.  In certain high risk cases, the Council has the option to carry out works in default to remedy risks in accordance with legal powers and look to recover the costs, sometimes via a charge on the property. 

The Regulatory Services Operations Manager then went on to highlight the escalated enforcement action that Shropshire Council could take whereby the most problematic properties could be returned back into use, and these included enforced sales, Compulsory Purchase Orders and Empty Dwelling Management Orders (see paragraphs 7.0, 8.0 and 9.0 of the report).

Turning to future challenges, the Regulatory Services Operations Manager drew Members’ attention to the recommendations set out in the report and explained how the existing empty homes capital budget could be used to fund a fixed-term full-time officer as part of their approach to use all options and powers available to them to return empty properties into use.

In response to a query, the Regulatory Services Operations Manager explained why the process appeared so slow and the difficulties  ...  view the full minutes text for item 15.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 79 KB

To consider the Committee’s work programme 2019/20.  [Report attached]

Additional documents:


The Committee received the report of the Statutory Scrutiny Officer - copy attached to the signed Minutes – which set out Overview and Scrutiny’s proposed future work programme for the year ahead.

The Overview and Scrutiny Officer provided an update on existing work programme topics, as follows:

·  Community Transport to be considered at the November meeting including feedback from the Task and Finish Group.

The Overview and Scrutiny Officer explained that a Work Programme Planning Session was being held in order to take stock and strategically ensure that the Overview and Scrutiny Committees covered the important and identified priorities.  Following on from this, he would write the priorities up into a single report and once this had been to Scrutiny Chairs, individual work programmes would be developed for each Scrutiny Committee.

In relation to a suggested topic, the Overview and Scrutiny Officer reminded the Committee that it had considered Welfare Reform through a Task and Finish Group, they could however ask the Director of Human Resources for an update on the strategy that was recommended by the Committee.

Other topics suggested included Rural Exception Sites and Fuel Poverty.  The Overview and Scrutiny Officer reported that these issues had been considered by other Scrutiny Committees.  The Committee felt that Housing matters would sit more comfortably within this Committee and it was agreed for the Chairman to discuss this with the Chairman of the People Overview Committee.



Date/Time of next meeting

The Committee is next scheduled to meet on 25th November 2019 at 2.00pm.


It was confirmed that the next meeting would be held at 2pm on Monday 25 November 2019.



Print this page

Back to top