To receive questions from members of the public who may wish to ask a general question of the Mayor, Cabinet Member or the Chairman of a Committee in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 12.
1. Mr. Adeel Hussain asked: In August last year, the Advertiser stated that the ‘ridiculous Westgate Cycling Route was being scrapped’ after Westgate businesses and residents challenged the Council’s ill thought through and damaging cycling proposals. Can Rotherham Council give us an honest answer, is the Westgate Cycling Route going to be imposed on local businesses and people? Yes or No.
Councillor Beck explained that the Council did hear loud and clear the responses to the consultation and what had been said. He confirmed that the Westgate Scheme would not be taken forward as proposed, however, the Council was considering options that would ensure that the aim of improving access to the Town Centre for cyclists could still be met. The new proposed scheme would be drastically different from that proposed in 2022. All of the banned turns that were proposed as part of the Scheme would be scrapped and there were plans to enhance the parking offer for businesses on Westgate and their customers. The Council had listened and heard and as such, hoped to bring forward plans for the new Scheme very soon. It was hoped that the new Scheme would incorporate all of the views that had been submitted previously. Further, it was hoped that by building more residential units in the Town Centre there would be more custom for the businesses on Sheffield Road and Westgate.
In his supplementary, Mr. Hussain stated that, apparently, local businesses and residents were consulted but Mr. Hussain explained that he and others knew nothing about it until Councillor Yasseen mentioned it. Councillor Yasseen held a meeting about it and it was clear there was only one option and no opportunity for residents to direct the route of the Scheme. It therefore felt like a pointless consultation. The community, not the Council, organised a campaign and nearly 800 residents completed a cycling survey which, in 2 weeks, showed that most were against the Scheme. There were sacrificial elements so that the Council could claim that they had listened to residents. Mr. Hussain asked that if a different Scheme was being proposed, why was the Council not consulting on that and allowing the local community to comment on the revised Scheme?
Councillor Beck explained that a drop-in session had been held in Riverside House prior to Christmas specifically for businesses on Westgate and a further one was scheduled for Friday, 20th January, at 2.30 p.m. in Riverside House. Letters had been sent out to businesses regarding that. Councillor Beck stated that the Council were trying to engage with the local business community, and this was evidenced by the 780 letters that were sent out as part of the original consultation. It was incumbent on the Council to take a balanced view, taking into account the impact on local businesses. Councillor Beck believed the new Scheme would be a positive thing as there would be much more parking for customers of the businesses to use and there would be hundreds more people living in the area due to the Council funded housing developments. This had to be balanced against the need for the Council to create safe spaces for cyclists and pedestrians to access the Town Centre and it was believed that the new plans, once brought forward, would do those things.
2. Mr. Arshad Ahmed asked: As stated in the November Council Meeting, as part of the contract with Dignity there is a requirement that Dignity should provide a 35 year plan for the burials in Rotherham. Can you confirm when this will be provided?
Councillor Alam explained that the Council regularly meet with Dignity about the Contract Management. As part of those meetings, Dignity have agreed to provide the 35 Year Plan this year.
In his supplementary, Mr. Ahmed stated that within the 5 year plan, Dignity needed to confirm that they will deliver that by the end of March 2023. Mr. Ahmed asked for an honest conversation as to why Dignity was saying one thing and the Council was not abiding by it.
Councillor Alam explained that when the contract was signed in 2008 there was an obligation on Dignity to provide the Council with a 35 year plan for the burials going forward but the Council had now asked Dignity to urgently review that and provide it within this financial year. If this did not happen there would be financial penalties.