Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru

Yn ôl i Chwilio

Y Pwyllgor Deisebau

Petitions Committee

27/11/2018

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

David J Rowlands AC Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Janet Finch-Saunders AC
Leanne Wood AC
Mike Hedges AC
Neil McEvoy AC

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Gareth O'Shea Cyfarwyddwr Gweithredol y De, Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru
Executive Director for Operations South Wales, Natural Resources Wales
Gavin Jones Rheolwr Prosiect, Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru
Project Manager, Natural Resources Wales
John Hogg Pennaeth Gweithrediadau, Canol De Cymru, Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru
Head of Operations, South Central Wales, Natural Resources Wales
Tim England Noddwr Prosiect, Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru
Project Sponsor, Natural Resources Wales

Swyddogion Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru a oedd yn bresennol

National Assembly for Wales Officials in Attendance

Alex Hadley Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Graeme Francis Clerc
Clerk
Kath Thomas Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Lorna Scurlock Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Sam Mason Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:03.

The meeting began at 09:03.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datganiadau o fuddiant
1. Introduction, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Good morning. Bore da. Welcome to the Petitions Committee. We have no apologies this morning, but Leanne, because of other commitments, will be running just a little late, but she will be with us later on.

2. Deisebau newydd
2. New petitions

If we can open with the two new petitions that are before us this morning. The first is 'Create water fountains in the centre of cities and towns to eliminate plastic waste'. This petition was submitted by Tereza Tothova, having collected 149 signatures. We've had an initial response to the petition, which was received from the Minister for Environment on 6 November. I think the Government says that it is already making arrangements for over 600 refill points accessible to members of the public. These are points where businesses have accepted the fact that they will allow people to come in and fill their receptacles, and it's a voluntary scheme but they actually display it in their windows that they will accept that. So, the argument is, from the Welsh Government, that there are adequate facilities already there. They also make the point that, actually, looking after any fountains that they may put in place could be quite an expensive item. Do we have any comments at all?

09:05

Three comments and a suggestion. The first comment is: it's the direction we're currently moving in, and I think that the petitioners are being helpful in that they're pushing the Government further along in the direction the Government wants to move in, and everybody else wants to move in as well. And the third point is that it really is a good idea. This is a good idea for all sorts of reasons, not least of which is ending the plastic bottle problem we have serious problems with.

My suggestion is we wait for the petitioners to come back on their views on what the Minister has said.

Fine, okay. So, the action we will take is the committee should await the views of the petitioner on the response received from the Minister for Environment before deciding whether to take any further action on the petition.

The second new petition is 'Protect the Gwent Levels and stop the proposed M4 motorway'. This petition was submitted by CALM—the Campaign Against the Levels Motorway—having collected 12,270 signatures on an alternative e-petition website. The text of the petition is:

'Please drop plans to construct the M4 motorway across the beautiful Gwent Levels and invest in public transport instead.'

We've had a response from the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport on 7 November and a research briefing has been given to the committee members. Do any of you have any comments with regard to this?

Well, I think there's a big debate yet ahead of everybody about the M4 and everything. It's a bit of a difficult one, really. We've had lots of discussions over that and—.

We can certainly send this to the Cabinet Secretary because we received it, but we can also keep it in mind when we get to the debate—the debates, sorry; we're going to have a series of debates. The most important one will be on the financing of it. Whatever happens before then, it's the money that counts, so that people can decide anything they like before then, but if the money isn't available, it won't happen. If the money is available, it will happen. So, I think we need to pass this on and just keep a watching brief over it.

Yes, fine. I will make a note now that, obviously, the petitioner has previously considered a petition, which is a poll that is in direct opposition to this petition, which was 'Support the M4 Relief Road Black Route'. So, I think we may consider the two petitions together. Are you in agreement with that?

I think we're going to have to. I think that with some of these contentious issues, you have two petitions in opposition. I think there have been three or four occasions when we've had those and we just have to treat them together.

Fine. So the committee will agree to keep a watching brief on the petition in light of the comprehensive scrutiny given to this issue by the public inquiry, and the commitment by the Welsh Government to hold a full debate in the Assembly on this matter prior to the decision having been reached. Are we all happy with that? Did you want to make any comments on that, Graeme?

No, just to note, really, for the record that because the petition has more than 5,000 signatures, the committee should consider whether it wants to request its own debate on that. But I think, given Members' comments, in their contributions, that the Government has committed to holding a debate anyway, that would likely happen before any debate that this committee requested.

And, no doubt, this petition can be mentioned during that debate as well, to fully acknowledge that we've received it and that we are taking full note of it.

3. Y wybodaeth ddiweddaraf am ddeisebau blaenorol
3. Updates to previous petitions

Item 3 is updates to previous petitions. The first of these is 'To Make Mental Health Services More Accessible'. This petition was submitted by Laura Williams and was first considered by the committee in February 2017, having collected 73 signatures. The committee last considered the petition on 9 October and agreed to write to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services. The Cabinet Secretary makes the following main point in his response about crisis support: annual funding of £7 million has been in place since 2015-16 to improve crisis provision.

09:10

On this one, I'd like to say that they do say that one person can make a difference, and we know from when we took evidence from her that she was experiencing many of the problems that we as AMs experience when we have people coming to us, and this inability always to be able to access fast and good quality mental health treatment or services. I think the topic is worthy of moving forward in the new year sometime, maybe towards a debate. That would almost be a bit of precedent, but one person going out there and getting enough signatures to make it here, so I think it's a subject that's—.

I'd like that we would write a report about it on the evidence received.

Okay. The Cabinet Secretary does point out that 84 per cent of local primary mental health support services assessments were undertaken within 28 days and 82 per cent of therapeutic interventions started within 28 days of referral. But there are no specific figures for crisis.

We've moved on to item 3, and we are just discussing some previous petitions that were before us, Leanne. We are now on to page 8 of the report, and it's 'Recognition of Parental Alienation'. This petition was submitted by Families Need Fathers Both Parents Matter Cymru, and was first considered in May 2017, having collected 2,058 signatures.

There are some points for discussion, in that the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service Cymru has informed the committee that work is ongoing to develop practice guidance in this area to enhance existing tools, guidance and research when alienating behaviours may feature. They are working with CAFCASS England to develop the approach, and they expect to offer a range of training opportunities to practitioners over the coming months, before the new guidance is launched at the end of March 2019.

Neil, I'm sure you'd like to say something.

Yes. I declare an interest as a, I suppose, former service user of—they're only called Both Parents Matter now because there are so many mothers involved with the charity with the same kind of issues, really. I declare an interest as well because the petitioner, on a temporary basis, is carrying out some work for me in the office. I'd like to propose that we write to the petitioner and maybe seek his view. I think that would be reasonable.

If I could just ask a question from a legal perspective about the declaration of interest regarding this lobbying organisation. I've sat on this committee now for just two meetings and there are two petitions from the same organisation, and they're being headed up by a member of staff of someone on this committee. I'm just wondering whether or not there's a legal problem with that, and, if not a legal problem, whether there's an ethical problem with that.

Yes. Paul Apreda only started to work for me not so long—months ago, the reason being that I get so many cases to do with access to children, be it from mothers, be it from fathers. So, I'm using his expertise to make my life a lot easier, to be honest. There is no ethical problem. It's not a lobbying organisation; it's a charity that does tremendous work and, at the most serious level, stops people killing themselves. So, I think, Leanne, you really should consider using your words more carefully.

In terms of the admissibility of petitions, the only restriction on—. Well, to put in a petition, you need to have a base in Wales—that's one restriction; and the other one is that Assembly Members themselves cannot petition. That's the limitation.

09:15

Okay. So, this organisation could potentially put a petition in every fortnight, then.

We currently have two, you're right, with this organisation as the lead petitioners. Although this petition, they originated, the one discussed last week regarding domestic violence services, they took over from someone who, I believe, volunteers for that organisation. They now are the lead petitioners of two petitions. No, there's nothing to stop people putting in multiple petitions. Obviously, it's up to the committee how they treat those petitions once they arrive.

I think that we write back to the petitioners and ask them their views, contact CAFCASS and ask for a copy of the practice guidance, when it's provided. I think that Leanne raises an important point and one, the next time we come to review petitions, we need to examine, because she's right, somebody could put in a petition a week on something very similar, and with the same people signing it, it could come in every meeting. So, I think we perhaps need to, the next time we review petitions—which we tend to do once a year, don't we, at some stage, how we work—I think that's something perhaps we need to put down as something to look at. There are two things that happen here—to go slightly off it: one is that we have petitions for and against certain things, and that tends to be neutralised; but also, we do have some people who are serial petitioners, and before we set the petition level at 50, we had somebody who was giving us a petition with great regularity.

If I can also clarify, Chair, I should have mentioned that there is a limitation on the subject matter of petitions, in the sense that the committee can only consider one petition on a given issue at any time, and once that petition is closed, the committee can't receive a similar petition for 12 months after that point. So, no individual can repeatedly petition on exactly the same or a very similar issue.

I wonder, Chair, if we can also write to Women's Aid and others who work in the domestic abuse sector to seek their views on this because my understanding from the wording of this petition is that it could seriously undermine some of the work that those organisations do, particularly where there's a question of domestic abuse and where women and children need to be brought into safety under refuge circumstances.

We have had extensive comments from Women's Aid with regard to this petition. Yes. Okay.

They're fully aware of what's being asked here. In all fairness, they've more or less said that they are now opening it up for it to be more accessible to men and their whole services. But the argument here—

That's not the question under this petition, though, is it? This is about describing parental alienation as a form of abuse, where, if that happens—and I'll just take you through a scenario now, if I may, because I used to work within Women's Aid. Sometimes a family will come into a refuge and they won't be safe from the perpetrator—there may be networks of people and so on—so they may need to go to an area where they're not known. Under those circumstances, the child may not have access to the abusive parent. Well, Women's Aid, under that circumstance, then, could be found guilty of child abuse under this new definition of parental alienation. That's why I think seeking their views on this is really important because it could, potentially, affect the way that they work and compromise their ability to keep people safe.

Just as a matter of fact, it's not a new definition: this dates back to 1983 with the family courts in the UK. I would agree with Leanne: I think it is essential that we approach such organisations. I know we've written to them, so, maybe I would suggest that we bring them in to give evidence. I think that would be eminently logical.

We haven't got to the stage where we've decided to bring them in for evidence yet, have we?

The committee's previously taken evidence from petitioners, a psychologist who works with the petitioners,FootnoteLink and from the Minister on this, and as the Chair has referred to, received a range of written correspondence from a number of organisations. So, we could revisit that and see whether any of those organisations wish to provide further comments.

Very briefly, I think we may be getting ahead of ourselves there, but the issues that Leanne raises are absolutely fundamental and it is absolutely correct to raise those issues; they really need to be explored. We've sat here and listened to the definition of child abuse, as stated by experts working in the field. There's the definition now, in England, where alienation is seen as child abuse, and it's been recognised by the courts since 1983. So, I think, what Leanne is raising is absolutely fundamental and it needs to be looked at.

09:20

I fully agree with you, because the thing is, this is a very, very important subject that we're dealing with here that affects many, many people, and can have devastating effects on families, et cetera. So, I think we ought to be really looking at this. One of the possible actions we're talking about here is that the committee could write back to CAFCASS Cymru to request that a copy of the practice guidance is provided to committee when it is in its final form, and to outline the training and development opportunities that have been provided to CAFCASS Cymru practitioners that cover alienating behaviours at that time. Do you want to go a little bit further than that?

I'd like to also ask Women's Aid, the Dyn project and Safer Wales for their views on the change of definition, as proposed in the petition.

There is no change in definition. We're looking at a legal definition established in 1983. But I think we should write to the petitioner as well. Just to be clear, Leanne, there is no change in definition; it's been a legal fact since 1983. But I think we should write to the petitioner to seek their views.

We'll move on to the next petition, which is 'Ensure access to the cystic fibrosis medicine, Orkambi, as a matter of urgency'. This petition was submitted by Rhian Barrance and was first considered by the committee in January 2018, having collected 5,717 signatures. The committee last considered the petition on 9 October when Members agreed to write to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services. We had a response from the Cabinet Secretary for social services on 7 November. The Cabinet Secretary has welcomed the Cystic Fibrosis Trust's offer to carry out a pilot project using the UK CF register. He acknowledges that this could help to understand real-world outcomes of the treatment.

I think one of the sticking points has been with regard to the company, Vertex, where they have been approaching both the health services in Wales and in the United Kingdom with a portfolio of drugs, rather than singling out Orkambi as a particular drug. So, this has caused some hold-up in the responses from both UK health services and those in Wales. Do we have any—?

It's a big issue, this, isn't it, really? It's been going on in this committee for some time now, and we know about the stalemate situation between the Government and the company. So, I don't know. I'm a bit worried about this one, because I've got constituents who desperately require it. I know that it's very selective, but it's just gone on and on and I've not been too happy with the responses from the Welsh Government.

I have a very simple view on medicines: let the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence decide. I don't feel in any way equipped or knowledgeable enough to make decisions on whether one drug should or should not be made available, or on its efficacy. I think, 'NICE deal with it'. NICE knows more about it than I do. People may criticise their decisions, but at least their decisions are made by people with knowledge, understanding and experience. People always talk about these new drugs that are going to solve all problems. I think the best thing we can do is wait for the Westminster investigation and NICE's evidence. If NICE says it's useable, I will be 100 per cent in favour of using it; if NICE says it isn't, I will say, 'Well, they know more about it than I do.' So, us picking drugs to support, with what I would say is my more than limited knowledge of drugs, is somewhere between dangerous and foolhardy.

09:25

I think, Mike, you make a valid point there, but I think the concern I have is, apparently, this particular company have had lots of talks with Government about—there's a cocktail, like a range of drugs, to address all aspects—

That's right. There's a whole portfolio of drugs rather than a single one.

Yes, yes. And talks were ongoing, then buying this stopped. I think it's bigger than just the drug Orkambi now, in this instance. I think we were being told one thing as a committee, then, when we were asking the Cabinet Secretary, finding out another. So, I still feel that we ought to bring the Cabinet Secretary in. It worries me when a Cabinet Secretary may not know what Government officials—. How they're working with—. Because there has been—. I've spoken to all sides in this argument and just due process and how things—you know, lobbying and all that comes into it. I really do believe that we should call the Cabinet Secretary in and get him to explain, really, the process of how we arrive where we—

Should we do that before Westminster's Health and Social Care Select Committee finish their inquiry into it?

I'm concerned about the children in Wales here and anyone else who has cystic fibrosis. It's a horrendous issue, and the sooner the right drug—we talk about prevention and intervention, and I'm not talking just purely on Orkambi now, but this company do produce, and they are able to supply, certain medications that would help the numbers who are affected by some form of cystic fibrosis. We talk up, don't we, prevention and intervention. Here we have a drug that has been—there is a theory out there that it's very effective—it's very expensive, I appreciate that, but the processes to date, Leanne, since we've been on this committee—. We've been told one thing, the company have been told another, and there's something not quite right within the department on this. 

If I can add, in relation to the Cabinet Secretary, the committee has previously invited him in to give evidence and received the answer that he doesn't feel he can add anything to the written evidence that the committee has received. The reason, I understand, for that, as you've suggested, is that the drugs company Vertex were pursuing what they call a portfolio approach, where they wanted the Government to commit to making available a range of medicines, some of which are at different stages of development. What we've been told is that that approach has been rejected by all parts of the UK; it's not simply the Welsh Government. That approach is not the way that drugs are approved for use in the NHS, and the Cabinet Secretary has told us on a number of occasions that they've asked the company to provide a formal submission for Orkambi, with details of its cost-effectiveness—its cost and its effectiveness—for that to be considered. As we understand it, that's not happening, though the drugs company did contact us shortly after these papers were published on Thursday to say that they had restarted discussions with the All Wales Medicines Strategy Group and would provide an update to the committee when they'd concluded.

All right. Well, that puts a slightly different emphasis on it, then, so there's some kind of movement, however slow it is. 

Yes, it has been very, very slow in moving forward. Neil, did you—?

As in the papers, could we urge them to make a submission, in that case?

It seems that that is the way this deadlock will be broken. 

I think they're having to do it now more on an individual basis, aren't they, as opposed to—. Yes, okay.

And my understanding is that's what the health affairs select committee are looking at at Westminster as well. Obviously, similar concerns were raised with them about the availability of this drug in England, and they have written to NICE, to NHS England and to the drugs company asking for them to submit evidence by, I think, the end of this week. 

I've got nothing; I'm not going to wade in this one. It sounds like a minefield to me, to be honest. 

Yes, we've had a lot of evidence, actually, previously to it. So, are we in agreement, or do we have an agreement, that the committee could await the action taken by Westminster's Health and Social Care Select Committee in relation to a possible inquiry into the availability of Orkambi, and the submissions? We await the submissions that the drugs company are making. 

So, we'll write to the drugs company.

Yes. We'll write to ask for those. Okay. 

Right. We move on to the next petition, which is 'End the unfairness and discrimination in the financial support for victims of the contaminated blood scandals who were infected in Wales'. The petition was submitted by the Contaminated Whole Blood UK Group and was first considered in September 2018, having collected 159 signatures. The committee last considered the petition on 25 September and agreed to write back to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services to share the examples provided by the petitioners and ask for an indication of the timescales for determining scheme benefits for 2018-19. A response was received from the Cabinet Secretary on 7 November. He recognises that beneficiaries in Wales should not be significantly financially worse off than those anywhere else in the UK. Do committee members have any comments?

09:30

Just write back and ask for an indication of the likely timescale. 

Yes. Possible actions, then: the committee could write back to the Cabinet Secretary to repeat the request for an indication of the likely timescales for determining and communicating scheme benefits for the Welsh infected blood support scheme and to ask that he provides the committee with a breakdown of the financial support for beneficiaries once the scheme benefits have been determined. Are we all in agreement with that?

Okay. The next petition is 'Pembrokeshire says NO!! To the closure of Withybush A&E!' This petition was submitted by Myles Bamford-Lewis and was first considered in July 2018, having collected 40,045 signatures. That is the right figure, Leanne. It's the largest petition figure that we've ever considered. 

The background: the committee last considered the petition on 25 September and agreed to consider the petition again following the imminent debate on this petition at the meeting of Hywel Dda Local Health Board on 26 September. A Plenary debate on the petition was held on 26 September. Further correspondence was received from Hywel Dda university health board on 29 October. We have been—. The clerking team has sought the petitioner’s comments following the debate and the outcome of Hywel Dda’s board meeting, but no response has been received— 

It's poor, isn't it?

So, the points for discussion: the health board has apologised to the committee for the confusion over when the additional board meeting about service reconfiguration was due to take place. At the board meeting on 26 October, the health board approved recommendations that would mean Withybush and Glangwili hospitals being re-purposed as community hospitals and a new hospital built near the Pembrokeshire/Carmarthenshire border. So, in view of those developments, the committee could could write to Hywel Dda university health board to request an update on its plans in relation to service changes at Withybush hospital, including timescales and future public engagement with local people. Yes, Leanne.

I've got some familiarity with this issue, having just done public meetings in the area, really, and there is a very strong sense of feeling about this, and I can understand why there are 40,000 signatures on the petition, because that strength of feeling is palpable there. 

The main concern, I would say, is that, if this decision is implemented and Withybush and Glangwili are what they call re-purposed, but, effectively, have their accident and emergency departments and other services withdrawn, while a new hospital is going to be built on the Pebrokeshire and Carmarthenshire border, which is welcome, because I think that there is an issue with where the services are located, the problem is what happens between services closing in one hospital and services coming on board in the new hospital. People are concerned that there will be a gap and that will be fatal for some people. And so if the petitioner—and there are campaign groups as well involved in this—were to be satisfied that we'd pursue that issue and to ensure that those services are accessible—

Yes, for everyone, regardless of when the new hospital is built, then it may be we can see some useful action on this petition. But a decision has been taken now, hasn't it, so it may be that the original petition is a bit out of date now. 

09:35

Yes, I think you're absolutely right. The timescales with regard to building a new hospital and when they actually take these facilities away from the two existing hospitals is crucial, actually, isn't it, to the provision of services to that area. They've already made the point that, if they take away those A&E departments, the time factors involved in people accessing those in travelling through country roads, et cetera, can be quite considerable, so—. Yes, Mike. 

Two very quick points: I think that we need to write back and say we expect continuity of service for the areas. I think that's the minimum we can expect. And, secondly, the view I hold, which is probably in a minority of one in the whole of the Assembly, is that I don't think that you can manage health in an area like Hywel Dda. Somebody living in Llanelli doesn't get up in the morning and say, 'I wonder which hospital I'll go to? Oh, I know, I'll pop down Withybush'. In areas where you've got very large rural areas and very poor roads—trying to manage health over an area like that is impossible. It's not that Hywel Dda are bad, or the chief executive and chair are bad. They're trying to do something—same as in Betsi Cadwaladr—which cannot be done.

Yes, fine. So, you're happy? Okay. 

The next petition under consideration is 'Don't Fill Landfill!' The petition was submitted by Claire Perrin, and was first considered in October 2017, having collected 172 signatures. I think the petition was really asking that the bags that are provided by Cardiff council should be very specific about what items should be put inside those bags, and that the labelling on each of those bags should be clear. Cardiff council has offered to meet the petitioner to take forward her proposals about communication with residents in relation to the recycling. I don't know whether we have any evidence as to whether the petitioner has met Cardiff council.  

No, we don't know whether that meeting has taken place, Chair, and we haven't been able to receive a further update from the petitioner. 

Can I suggest we close the petition? We've actually achieved something. Often, our achievement is getting people to talk to each other, and, if Cardiff council have offered to talk to the petitioner, there's nothing further we can achieve.  

Or that they receive a satisfactory explanation as to why it's not being done, or what the situation is ongoing. So, I think—. In view of this, the committee could consider closing the petition at this point, given the time that has elapsed since the last contact with the petitioner, and the previous offer made by Cardiff council to progress this matter locally. Are we happy to do that? Okay, fine.

The next petition is 'Compulsory scanning of domestic pets for microchips by councils'. The petition was submitted by #CatsMatter Campaign, and was first considered by committee in October 2017, having collected 910 signatures. In our investigations, we found that there were only two local authorities who weren't routinely carrying out the scans on cats, and this is really about cats that are deceased, so that the owners of those cats would know exactly what's happened to their pets if they came into contact with their local authorities. Now, Carmarthenshire County Council, who were one of those local authorities, are seeking to confirm agreements with vets covering the depots so that dead pets recovered can be scanned for microchips, and they hope to begin scanning cats in the next month.

The other local authority has also agreed that this will be done, so it appears that the requests of the petitioners, following our inquiries with local authorities, seem to have managed to get all authorities now capable and able to do the scanning. So, the committee could close the petition in light of the satisfaction of the petitioners and the progress made in encouraging local authorities in Wales to adopt policies of scanning for microchips. 

09:40

Yes. We can close the petition. It's actually succeeded in its aim. All authorities in Wales now scan. 

Yes. Fine. 

Okay. We move on to 'Our natural world is being poisoned by single use plastics...it’s time to introduce a tax!' The petition was submitted by Friends of Barry Beaches and was first considered by the committee in March 2018, having collected 102 signatures. The committee last considered the petition on 25 September and agreed to write to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance to request an update on UK-wide discussions about the development of a potential tax on single-use plastics when appropriate. A response was received from the Cabinet Secretary on 6 November. The Chancellor of the Exchequer used the budget on 29 October to announce that the UK Government intends to introduce a tax on the production and import of plastic packaging from April 2022. And our Cabinet Secretary for Finance will be assessing the detail of the UK Government's approach following the UK budget. He states that the Welsh Government remains

'committed to tackling unnecessary plastic use'

and associated pollution. 

We will make a note now that we've had a number of petitions with regard to plastics being used, particularly single-use plastics, and we have, in the past, actually put some of those petitions together. Is that right? Yes. 

So, the possible actions are: the committee could agree to keeping a watching brief on the development of the proposal for taxes in this area, including the UK Government's forthcoming resources and waste strategy, or the committee could allocate time next year to explore some of the petition's raised issues related to single-use plastics in more detail through evidence sessions. 

I think that there will be a tax on single-use plastics, whether it's done by the Westminster Government, or whether it's done by the Welsh Government. I think the finance Minister has made quite clear his support for this tax, and it was one of the taxes we considered when we were looking to bring in a Wales-specific tax, but because Westminster was doing exactly the same, looking at exactly the same things, then it wasn't possible to take that forward at that time because Westminster was likely to do it on a British basis. I think we ought to keep a watching brief. I think we should also send this petition on to the Finance Committee. 

I just wondered if there may be other solutions to look at, not just a tax. I'm not against a tax. I think the plastic bag levy has been very successful and effective. But it may be that there are other measures that we could introduce as well, and taking evidence from people would potentially air some of those solutions. But that would mean then that we'd have to deviate from the wording of the petition because it specifically asks for a levy. Are we able to do that?

It does, yes, that's right. The fact is that we've obviously talked about deposit returns on single-use bottles. We've actually had a debate in the Assembly with regard to that. But, do you feel it's worthwhile the committee keeping this matter open, and do we keep it open by perhaps having some of the petitioners in to discuss these matters?

I think we really need to know what's happening, either at Westminster level or here. And we can just keep a watching eye, send it to the Finance Committee, keep the petition alive, and let's see what happens. I think that if Westminster decides not to go forward with it, then we may well want to take this forward and talk to the finance Secretary, whoever that may be, when we come around to dealing with this, on how important it is and will they then look to bring in tax raising on single-use plastics.

Okay. So, would it be possible for us perhaps to write to the other petitioners with regard to this who have made those same sort of comments with regard to plastic use, and explain to them what we're doing—that we're keeping a watching brief and we will return to it once we have the evidence from the UK Government's forthcoming resource and waste strategy? Are we happy to do that?

Fine.

The next petition is 'Green Energy for the Wellbeing of Future Generations in Wales'. The petition was submitted by the Welsh Anti Nuclear Alliance, and was first considered by the committee in October 2018, having collected 1,316 signatures.

The committee considered the petition for the first time, and agreed to write to the petitioners to explain that, because the UK Government has responsibility for the development of the Wylfa Newydd nuclear power station, there is little practical scrutiny the committee can bring to bear on this aspect of the petition. This is because it does appear that part of the petition, or even perhaps the whole thrust of the petition, is with regard to not having nuclear power as an alternative energy source.

A response was received from the petitioners on 16 November. The petitioners have suggested a number of areas in which they believe the Welsh Government could support the development of renewable technologies. These include potential policies aimed at individuals, local communities, the public sector, Welsh Government, and working with the UK Government. So, our possible actions: the committee could provide the petitioners' further comments to the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs, and ask for her response to the points raised and possible actions.

09:45

I think it would be worth seeking a response from the Cabinet Secretary. I think this is an issue that is massive for the Welsh economy and the environment. It's received very little debate and discussion here in the Assembly, and, given that we've just had the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report saying that the next 12 years are crucial in terms of climate change, and that there's an assumption that nuclear power is good in terms of helping us with climate change, when that is a contested position, given as well we've got the questions around waste and the lack of sustainability on that, then I think it would be useful for us to explore some of those issues. So, if the committee could write to the Minister—to the Cabinet Secretary—to specifically respond to the issues in the petition, but also ask for a debate on this question in Government time—. Not all of the aspects are devolved, but there are issues—for example, impacts on housing, communities, the Welsh language on Ynys Môn, and so on—that haven't had sufficient airing, in my view. And, through this petition, we could help and enable that airing to take place.

I agree. I think we should write to the Cabinet Secretary. I just want to state that it's a myth that nuclear energy is somehow good for the environment, and has a low carbon footprint. It actually doesn't. I think it's important to remember that.

Fine. Are you happy with that? Okay.

We move on to the next petition, which is 'Reduce the speed limit on the A487 in Penparcau'. The petition was submitted by Rhian Lewis, and was first considered in July 2018, having collected 262 signatures. I will mention, Leanne, that we've had quite a number of petitions with regard to limiting speeds in different locations, right across Wales. And I think the responses we've had from the Cabinet Secretary are that they are looking into it on a Wales-wide basis, and they will be prioritising certain schemes as time goes on. Is that right? Is there anything you'd like to add to that?

That's right, yes. Through the Assembly's petitions process, the committee can only consider matters that the Welsh Government is responsible for. So, in relation to roads and speed limits, that means trunk roads.

So, nothing that local authorities are responsible for in terms of roads then.

No. So, I think this was the fourth petition the committee received about speed limits on different parts of the trunk road network, usually A roads. And, as the Chair has said, the Government has told us in a number of items of correspondence that there's a speed limit review going on—it's reviewing all sites of concern; it's pledged to take petitions and the comments received from petitioners and other local communities into account during that. The committee has previously pressed for timescales and for details of exactly when different sites were going to be assessed, but apparently it's not possible to provide that—it takes place over three years. But there we are.

So, in light of the fact that we've already closed three petitions with regard to these speed limits, the committee could close this petition, given the commitment by the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport. In doing so, the Chair could write to the petitioner to explain the reasons for this and to clarify that the Petitions Committee cannot itself directly make the change requested. Are we happy with that?

09:50

Yes, okay.

The next petition is 'Improve rail services for Chepstow'. The petition was submitted by Richard Lemon and was considered by the committee for the first time in October 2018, having collected 260 signatures. The committee considered the petition for the first time on 9 October, when members agreed to write back to the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport to ask for further details of future plans in relation to Chepstow station. We have to take into account why

'The planned increase in Wales and Border Franchise services stopping at Chepstow cannot be achieved until December 2022'.

A response was received from the Cabinet Secretary on 6 November, and the petitioners have also provided further comments.

In his previous letter, the Cabinet Secretary told the committee that there will be a consistent one train per hour between Cheltenham and Cardiff by December 2020, an increase to the current frequency. And the petitioner has asked why new or displaced rolling stock is not available until 2022. In view of the fact that the Cabinet Secretary has, in Plenary, on several occasions, given reasons why the rolling stock cannot be made available any earlier, from the point of view of ordering to procurement, I'm not sure that we can take this any further. There is a whole review, obviously, under the new franchise that's taking place, but also there are other companies involved, which are English-run franchises that operate out of Chepstow as well.

And so, our possible action, if the committee accepts the information provided by the Cabinet Secretary about the lead times involved in acquiring new rolling stock, is to close the petition on the basis that an improved frequency of service will be delivered once this is available and that it does not appear possible to accelerate this process. Yes, Leanne.

Have the claims by the Cabinet Secretary regarding new rolling stock been fully tested?

I wouldn't have thought so, except that he has been questioned at length in the Plenary session, by Members of your own party in particular.

I'm not satisfied by the answers that I've heard, really. And the apology from the company last week for taking 37 trains in for maintenance—I mean, where was the Minister in the run-up to the changeover in ensuring that some of those trains were repaired before they needed to be in this position? It just seems like a bit of a mess, to be honest with you. I was late coming to committee this morning again because these trains were late. This is just going to get worse if we've got to wait until 2022. And unless the Cabinet Secretary can intervene and borrow, beg, steal, provide additional rolling stock, then the trains situation in Wales is going to continue to be unacceptable, and someone is going to get hurt.

I agree mainly with Leanne, but I don't think the stealing bit probably should be in there.

The passengers on the train this morning will say 'by hook or by crook' for getting the extra rolling stock. I can tell you that.

I think there are two issues. One is—and I tend to agree with the Cabinet Secretary—if we've got a serious problem with providing trains on routes we're running at the moment, to open up new ones before they've got more rolling stock would only make matters worse. I think the second thing, the second point, really, is something not in this petition, but it is that something needs to be done about ensuring that the rail service that is meant to be running in Wales is running efficiently. But, on the—

The petition is—what we have to think, Mike, is: is this under the remit of this particular petition?

And the petition is about Chepstow. I think that we need to get what we've currently got working well before taking trains off when there's a shortage now in order to run more from Chepstow. We've got a commitment to Chepstow in 2022—

So, is there a line of action you feel we ought to take with regard to this?

Well, I don't think we should accept the information provided by the Cabinet Secretary until we've tested the claims that there is absolutely nothing they can do about providing additional rolling stock.

Okay. So, how do we go about testing those claims with regard to—?

09:55

Is that what you're suggesting? Okay, fine. You're happy with that. 

4. Ymateb Llywodraeth Cymru i Adroddiad y Pwyllgor
4. The Welsh Government's Response to a Committee Report

The next petition is, 'Resurfacing of the A40 Raglan-Abergavenny Road'. The petition was submitted by Sara Jones and was first considered by the committee in September 2016, having collected 22 signatures. The committee agreed its draft report on the petition on 25 September, and the report was laid in the Table Office on 31 October 2018. The Welsh Government's response was received on 13 November. The committee's report made one recommendation. We consider the case has been made for the need for mitigation works along the stretch of the A40 covered by the petition. Those mitigation works are outlined by the Government, in that they want to put some bunding up along the motorway at specific points to reduce the noise from the traffic. There is one other item here, which I think shows some move by the Government with regard to this, and that is that they are trialling certain sections of the motorway by tarmacking those sections, and they will be analysing the results. That's a slightly different approach, in that we were told in our inquiries that the condition of the motorway was not suitable for doing this sort of repair work, but obviously they are now trialling it. Do you have any comments at all? 

I mean, what the petitioners are asking for is a full resurfacing of the road. They think that spending the money on these bunding fences, et cetera, is really a waste of money, given that the road probably only has a lifespan of something like five years. That's the estimated lifespan left for this road surface, or that this road surface has. They're suggesting that it would be much more cost-effective if they covered the whole road in the first instance.

It would be, and it would be better as well, because you could put up noise mitigation measures, but I know, living near the M4, they can get damaged, either by weather or hooligans. 

I wonder whether, rather than closing the petition at this particular point, we wait for their observations with regard to these trial patches of motorway and see exactly how that works. Are we happy to keep a watching brief until then? Yes.

The only thing I'd comment on that, Chair, is that usually once a petition has reached the stage that the committee has produced a report on it and made its own recommendations—obviously, the Government's response is a matter for the Government in terms of what it wants to say and how it justifies the response it gives to the committee's recommendations—it's perhaps difficult to see what further action the committee would be able to take at this stage. Once a petition has got to this point, and not many petitions do get to the point of having a report and a final position and a formal response from the Government, it may be that, however long we wait, there is little further really that the committee could do.

Okay, I would say there's obviously an opportunity at some future date, if they're not satisfied, for them to put a differently worded petition in to us and we would consider it under that. 

Of course, that's always an option.

So, at this point then, are we happy to close the petition? Fine, thank you.

5. Papur i’w nodi
5. Paper to Note

The next petition is, 'Calling on the Welsh Government to Ban The Use of Wild Animals in Circuses in Wales'. The petition was submitted by Linda Evelyn Joyce Jones and was first considered by the committee in January 2018, having collected a total of 6,398 signatures. 

10:00

So, all we're asking with regard to this is to note the Cabinet Secretary's response. Are we happy to do that?

6. Sesiwn Dystiolaeth - P-05-801 Rhaid achub y coed a'r tir yng Ngerddi Melin y Rhath a Nant y Rhath cyn iddi fynd yn rhy hwyr
6. Evidence Session - P-05-801 Save the trees and ground in Roath Mill and Roath Brook Gardens before it's too late

The next item on the agenda is item 6, which is the evidence session on 'Save the trees and ground in Roath Mill and Roath Brook Gardens before it's too late.'

Bore da, good morning and welcome to this evidence session of the Petitions Committee with regard to the developments at Roath park lake. So, gentlemen, I wonder if you'd like to introduce yourselves before we start the actual evidence session itself.

Morning, all. My name is Gavin Jones. I'm project executive for the Natural Resources Wales Roath flood scheme.

Good morning, everyone. Gareth O'Shea. I'm exec director for operations across south Wales at Natural Resources Wales.

Bore da, bawb. Good morning, everyone. My name is John Hogg. I'm head of operations for south Wales central for Natural Resources Wales.

Good morning. I'm Tim England. I'm the area flood risk manager with Natural Resources Wales. I'm also the project sponsor for the Roath scheme.

Thank you. The purpose of the session is to explore in more detail the background and current status of work to mitigate flood risk in Roath mill and Roath brook gardens. As you will be aware, the committee took evidence from the petitioners, the Friends of Roath Brook, on 13 November, and have since received an options analysis produced on the group's behalf by Professor Chris Binnie.

Members will have a number of questions that they would like to ask, so that it gives you an opportunity to explain your situation with regard to why you've taken the actions that you have in regard to Roath park and the flood mitigation measures. So, if I can open, could you give a brief background? This may just be one of you rather than all of you, but, if any member would like to make other comments, you're obviously quite open to do so. So, give a brief background and overview of the Roath flood scheme to date, including any recent progress in works.

Thank you, Chair. If it's okay, I'll just give a brief overview and, perhaps, Gavin will give a quick background on the scheme—Gavin, yes?

Thank you for the opportunity to give evidence today at the committee. I'll keep the introduction brief. I just wanted to say that this in important issue for us who have been involved in the project and for Natural Resources Wales. We wanted to bring all those who had been involved in the project along to try and answer your questions as a committee as best we can today.

We know this is a difficult and emotive issue, and we recognise that people are concerned about the impact of the scheme on the environment and particularly trees, and we're committed to finding a way forward. Historically, we're used to dealing in areas that have previously flooded or have had significant near misses. However, with climate change predictions and a move to a more flood risk management approach, it means we sometimes work in areas where flooding is not so pronounced. And based on evidence of forecast risk, this is the case for part of the Roath scheme here. We recognise there is flood risk in other communities across Wales also, and we're addressing this with our flood risk management programme with Welsh Government.

Roath was and still is a priority scheme for us, and this element of the scheme remains a risk we believe is not acceptable based on the likelihood and the impact, and we feel it is only right that we leave the whole area with the same level of protection for the scheme. We're obviously aware that some people are opposed to the preferred option, but our evidence determined that this was the most sustainable solution. But we're happy to consider new evidence if there's new evidence available. But, just to reiterate, this is an important issue for us. We're listening and we are committed to finding a way forward.

10:05

Well, thank you for those opening comments. I will be asking the other members of the committee to question you with regard to certain aspects of this. So, Mike, could you—?

Yes. We've been told that phase 1 and phase 2 are now complete, and the view we've been told is that phase 3 should be treated as, effectively, a new scheme. We've also been told that people living there in phase 3 do not want it to go ahead. So, why is phase 3 not treated as a stand-alone project? You've talked about flooding, and I can guarantee one thing: the next time we have heavy rain, the Towy will flood and Carmarthen will be flooded. Surely areas that continually flood should have higher priority than somewhere that may flood at some time in the future, where the residents don't want it.

Okay. Several aspects to that. If I just open up, perhaps Gavin and Tim will come in on the broader issues. As I said in the opening introduction, we've always wanted to treat the whole area of Roath and put it to the same standard of protection. We recognise there are people that don't want the scheme in that area, but we've always wanted to treat it as one scheme. Tim, are you okay to give a background on why Roath was a priority scheme for us?

Yes, by all means. The reason Roath is a priority for us is that we've had a number of near misses there. To explain, the Roath scheme is at risk from two sources of flooding. The downstream elements of Waterloo gardens—so that's phase 1 and 2, as you would know them—are at risk of fluvial flooding and they are also at risk of tidal flooding. The upstream section, for phase 3, as it's known, is at risk of fluvial flooding. In the recent history of the area, we've had two fluvial events—2007 and 2009—which caused localised flooding. That didn't cause flooding from the Roath brook gardens and the Roath mill gardens, but it did cause localised flooding downstream.

Chair, can I just interject there? We're here to discuss Roath brook, not the other parts of it. The flooding wasn't at Roath brook. So, if we could focus on that, I would be grateful.

  •  

Yes, okay. But the scheme is a community scheme. It's looking at flooding from the Roath brook, so that's the whole of the Roath brook from Roath mill gardens all the way down through to Waterloo gardens, so it's being developed as one scheme.

With respect, though, the whole point of this is that what a lot of us are saying is that it shouldn't be considered as one scheme. So, what we're looking at is the issue of the third part—phase 3. So, I think your remarks, really, rather than, I suppose, go into much wider detail, which is not necessary—. As a committee member, I'd like you to focus on the brook only, really. So, there haven't been any floods there.

If I could come in, our evidence suggested that we needed to deal with the flood risk in that community. We're aware of the flood risk in broader communities. Carmarthen may flood again. Other areas may flood again. We don't know. It depends where the rain actually falls. We know, during the Carmarthen event, we had a significant amount of rainfall. It broke records in several areas for the levels reached by the river. Gavin can give you some detail; I think it's a quarter of the rain fell in south-east Wales during that event. But it depends. In answer to your question, we used to follow the floods around and build schemes after places had flooded. We don't think that's the right way forward. It's not the way Welsh Government want us to move forward. We need to target our resources at the areas where we believe the greatest risk is, and I come back to the point that we were delivering the scheme in Roath and we felt it would be wrong to leave an area of Roath at a standard of protection we were uncomfortable with.

This leads to the next bit I was going to raise. One of the things you can do—and I'm talking about the Tawe around Swansea—is you actually flood parcels of land. Outside Ynysforgan, there's a parcel of land that gets flooded and then it unfloods—if there's such a word as 'unfloods'. The water goes back into the river and everybody is happy, and the days of flooding in Beaufort, the days of flooding in Ynystawe, where people were actually leaving their house by boat, are long gone. But you found somewhere to flood into. Why can't you use Roath lake in exactly the same way and flood that, and if Roath lake gets a bit bigger inside Roath park, Roath lake gets a bit bigger inside Roath park?

10:10

I'll come to you now, Gavin. You're absolutely right—different solutions apply in different places, and where we can find a different solution for storage we would prefer to do that. A natural flood solution is better. Gavin will explain why we took the options we did at Roath.

Thank you. You're completely correct: the lower Swansea Valley scheme is an excellent example of what we deem a successful flood scheme, and I think it demonstrates our ability to look at all manner of options, appraise them and choose the best one for that scenario. So, as well as setting back an embankment and creating an area to store floodwater in the floodplain at Swansea, we also removed a bridge and raised it over Beaufort Road, and that then lowered upstream water levels. All of those options were still combined with walls, though, because we still had to contain the river. So, we looked at the best options; we came up with the best combination.

We've done likewise at Roath. For Roath park lake, we have considered it. There are many ways we could try to use it. Unfortunately, it's not as sustainable, in our opinion, as other options. So, we've considered whether we could impound more water, whether we could lower it permanently or whether we could adjust the water level, the top water level of the lake, in advance of a flood, but there are several reasons why we don't prefer that option. The main one is that the best option would probably be to have a tilting weir to adjust the water level in advance of a flood occurring. But it's a small catchment—it's about 13 sq km—and flood forecasting in real time is very difficult on that catchment. It's a steep, flashy, urbanised river, so the lead-in time for flood, for rainfall modelling et cetera, is reduced, despite improved radar and the best technology with the Met Office. The radar for the area is limited—it's only a 2 km grid and given that the area is about 4 km sq by 4 km sq, it doesn't particularly cover Cardiff and Roath that well. So, unfortunately, we just deem that there's too much risk associated with that option.

As well, then, we have to consider the impact to that area. So, as well as the impact to Roath brook gardens and the other gardens, what are the impacts of the other options and their areas? So, up at Llanishen reservoir there would be impacts; up at Roath park lake there are impacts to its amenity use and the habitat and the ecology around there and the trees et cetera. It's also a listed structure, a Victorian dam, and there would be hurdles to overcome with that. So, we have considered it through our appraisal, but, on balance, we deem that the option we've gone forward with is the most sustainable.

Can you tell me when the assessment was done, when that was considered?

The initial study started in 2011 and went through the appraisal process mainly in 2012, to produce a business case in mid 2013.

Okay. So, was the Met supercomputer factored in to those considerations?

Not at the time, because we couldn't foresee it. So, we factored in the forecasting ability we had at the time, and we have since then reviewed it, so we've liaised with our flood forecasting team who've liaised with the Met Office to see how forecasting has been updated, and although there have been improvements, obviously, since Boscastle in 2009 as well as improved forecasting, we've fed that in but the forecasting, although improved, is still not adequate in our view.

Okay. Can I just check who gave the briefing to me and others, I think it was in January this year?

With the Minister, that was Gareth, me and Diane McCrea.

I feel particularly misled, because we were told that there were no other alternatives, and that's what the Minister was told. She was new in post; she seemed to accept that. And clearly, looking at all this, there are alternatives, but there are just different views on it. So, I just wanted to lay that out there and express the disappointment, really, that I feel at being misled. My question is: is there an up-to-date communities-at-risk register?

Can I just pick up on the first point, Neil? Apologies if you were misled; we never intended to mislead anyone during that meeting. I never intend to mislead anyone through the working day, actually. But I'm pretty confident that, in that meeting, we would have had the discussion that we've just started on now that there were other options available to us; we just believe this is the most sustainable solution at Roath. So, we didn't say that there weren't other options available and that we haven't considered them. What we said was that we believe that this is the most sustainable way forward, and we wanted to proceed on that basis.

In 30 years of politics, it's the only meeting I ever attended to be told, 'There is no alternative.' That was said, but we may disagree on that, so let's leave that where it is.

Is there an up-to-date communities-at-risk register?

10:15

Tim, do you want to talk about the communities—?

We have a community-at-risk register. We do update it as and when we get more information about flood risk or as and when we deliver the interventions such as flood schemes or flood warning services. So, it is updated.

Good. So, how much further down is the Roath brook scheme now on the register after the works to phases 1 and 2?

It has not changed since the development of phases 1 and 2, and there's no plan to change it until the planned scheme, which is phases 1, 2 and 3, has been delivered.

Okay. So, have the changes been fed into the league table, if you like?

The changes in terms of phases 1 and 2?

No, not yet. They won't be fed in until the scheme is completed.

I think on that point, as well, it's important to recognise that the communities-at-risk register is a tool used at the outset with projects to identify where we should investigate flood risk further. It's quite a coarse, high-level tool. The project itself is justified on its own business case.

What I can deduce from that, then, is that there doesn't seem to be any real up-to-date register in that case, because you've not included the changes. Is that what you meant by the 'dark art' of the community register and assessing schemes for where they should be?

Tim, if I could just say—

Yes. Tim has actually come out and apologised—

Yes. Tim came out and apologised—it was just that he used the wrong phrase. Gavin has explained to you that it's a tool we use to direct us to areas at risk of flooding. We don't, in that communities-at-risk register, split communities up, we just use it to target, and then whether we proceed is decided on a business case.

On the comment of 'dark art', yes, on hindsight, it was a clumsy comment. What I meant was that it was a complex analysis.

Okay. I won't be much longer, Chair, but I think, in terms of our confidence in you and the public's confidence in you, on 5 December 2017, we were told that there were 65 properties at risk in two streets. On the seventeenth, that went to 65 in four streets. On 8 January, 60 in two streets again. The latest, on 18 August, was 70 properties in seven streets. But the reality is that all those properties are at what is called 'medium risk'—correct?

Okay, fine. If we look at the data from storm Callum—if we look at Glynneath, there were four homes flooded, 17 at high risk. There is a review being done post storm Callum. In Lampeter and Llanbydder, 51 homes and 11 businesses were flooded, 21 homes at high risk. In Pontrhydfendigaid, one business was flooded and two homes at high risk, with no work done there in the last 15 years and no works planned, but there are two homes there at high risk. In Llandysul, 55 homes and six businesses flooded, 10 homes at high risk—no works done, no works planned. And yet, you have a number of homes here at medium risk and you want to spend £0.5 million and ignore those dangers that I've just highlighted. Why is that?

Gavin will talk to you about it, but we need to set it in the context of the discussion we had. We went into an area with high risk of flooding, and we wanted to leave the community with the same level of protection. So, we're targeting to go into the whole area, the whole community, but Gavin will—. Do you want to add to what I've said?

Yes, certainly. The project identified Roath as a high-risk area, hence its position relatively high on the CAR, and then the business case supported that and confirmed the high risk in greater detail—the number of properties and the impact of that flood risk. With regard to storm Callum, you're correct, there are impacts there, and we're looking at how we can work with those communities going forward, and reviewing the data we've got. But, obviously, storm Callum occurred in a certain area with a certain likelihood; it's not transferrable to transpose that onto Roath, per se, because in storm Callum, there was less rainfall and hence river flow in Roath.

With regard to areas at flood risk and those numbers of properties at high risk, Mr McEvoy, you're completely correct and it is something we are considering. Certain areas we've looked at: we've done work in Glynneath previously and delivered a scheme there. But individual properties, then, will be looked at, or sections of the community will be looked at, and any works justified, or not, by a business case. So, we will look at what the options are, what the best option would be, what the cost of that option and risk of it would be versus the benefits. And if it justifies a scheme, we will progress with that scheme. If it's not justified, unfortunately we'll have to look for other measures that maybe we could proceed with.

10:20

Well, we don't feel it's appropriate. We've got a scheme there that's just—[Inaudible.]—on its business case, and for equality of that community, to manage flood risk for now and into the future, we still believe that it's a reasonable priority and should be progressed. 

But what we have said is that—and I tried to say it in the opening statement—if new evidence becomes available, we're happy to consider that. 

Okay, Neil, if we can move on to specific points that are in the questions, we would appreciate that.  

Yes. What discussions have you had with Dŵr Cymru regarding the use of Lisvane and Llanishen? Can I just flag up, though, maybe we can ask for the—? What you said about the forecasting technology, I'd like to see that evidenced, so maybe we can be in touch after that. Just the next question, then, from me, is on the Lisvane and Llanishen reservoirs. What discussions have you had with Dŵr Cymru on those?  

I can take that. So, during the appraisal six years ago, we met with various stakeholders, including Cadw, Cardiff Council and Welsh Water, about the flood scheme and options contained within. At the time, Welsh Water didn't operate Llanishen reservoir, so we discussed it internally within the team. It was owned by Western Power Distribution and was proposed for either housing development at the time, or potentially a landfill site. We considered if we could utilise it in some fashion as an old reservoir. It was deemed again that it wasn't a preferred option. It's quite far up in the catchment, hence it does reduce flood risk to each garden by varying amounts, but it doesn't particularly remove all the defences. So, works would still be required in the gardens, and there would still be an impact there. So, we'd be looking at a combined solution. So, that solution was then discounted in the appraisal, and we've got our current preferred option.  

Moving forward, as the ownership changed, we were aware of this and we did consider it, but it didn't change our position in itself. So, it actually bought the reservoir and then leased it to Welsh Water to operate on their behalf, so it's going to supply Celsa with water, down into Cardiff Bay. Welsh Water operate it and also improve amenity usage in collaboration with Cardiff Council. In those considerations amongst ourselves, as I say, it didn't really change our decision; we still felt we had the best option.

More recently, then, whilst listening to and talking with the campaign group, they've promoted further engagements. So, again, we've more recently spoken with Welsh Water, and I believe, Chair, that in your letter you asked if we could arrange a meeting with Welsh Water and Cardiff Council, the campaign group and us. So, since your letter last week, I've written to those organisations to try to arrange that meeting. So, that is in hand. Hopefully, we'll have that meeting, and that can inform and help move us forward in this project.

We've had these discussions. Our view hasn't changed, as it's still not a preferred option. Welsh Water would support that view, that they don't see scope to use it to mitigate flood risk. There are various reasons for that. It's not an online reservoir, so it's offline, so the Roath brook flows around it, so it would have to pass through Roath park lake—pass the brook into the reservoir. That could be done in one or two ways: by putting it straight in and re-amending the brook, but the levels don't suit so there would have to be some adjustment. That could then affect its amenity use that's proposed going forward, as well as a source of a listed structure. Alternatively, we could try and pump flood water from the brook into the reservoir, but there are issues with that in cost issues, risk of operation going forward, plus we'd still need residual flood defences down in Roath brook gardens. 

Good morning. Has any consideration been given to individual flood resilience measures for the 70 properties affected by phase 3 of the scheme?  

Yes, the initial options appraisal did look at various solutions, including individual property protection. IPP is not a resilient solution, in our view. It relies on having a flood warning service to ensure that all the arrangements for IPP are put in place, and we see that as a high-risk solution, which is why we prefer to put in a permanent flood defence. 

Could I add—? There are other measures that are more passive. You get flood doors, which is actually a front door that—

So, there's something going forward. So, obviously, it will reassure the owners of those properties. And are they aware of it?  

They're aware of what you're doing—you're keeping them fully briefed. 

Yes, so we've undertaken a consultation. On IPP or other measures, through the national flood forum there's an online tool that you can use to estimate a cost, so, typically it's between £5,000 and £10,000 per property, so that would obviously be £350,000 to £700,000 for all 70 properties that we're looking for in phase 3. You've got to consider the whole-life cost of these options. They typically last about 20 years, so you'd have to replace them every 20 years. So, over the 100-year appraisal period, there would be four or five replacements. Our scheme is kind of a one-off spend and then it's just a bit more maintenance and inspection of it. And, also, there are lower ground floors, basements and—

10:25

I'm sorry to interrupt. My question really relates to if I lived in one of those properties, and there's a great number affected, I'd be very worried. And whilst we as politicians sit around here and—. I'm a layperson on this, but, really now, there could be a message from this committee for any one of those 70 properties. I'd like to see some assurances that you have a scheme in mind, that the residents are fully briefed and aware of it, and that they themselves are not perhaps very worried and not knowing how to address their concerns. 

You're absolutely right, and through our engagement with the community and with the campaign group, we issued letters and a survey to the 70 affected properties. 

Just over half of the properties responded. So, again, we're trying to reach further the remaining 32 properties, I believe it is. And, again, we've had a mixed bag. Some people believe our flood risk and others don't—they think we've got it wrong. So, it's quite difficult to engage with people because not all 70 have the same opinion or understanding. But you're completely correct, and whatever we do in this project going forward, we want to protect people to an acceptable level of risk, and we think we've got a good scheme for that. But however we go forward, we need to do something, I think, collectively, as a responsible organisation. In a social world—

All I would ask really is that you take the people with you. We're not talking properties here; we're talking people's lives. 

Absolutely. And your point is taken on board. Beside the cost, what we need to be confident in, in individual property protection, is that it can be deployed and it does its job. We're worried we can't warn, we can't inform people, and if the defences are not put in, or if they're not put in on an adjacent property, then they won't do the job. But your point is not lost on taking people. 

Bore da. I'd like to just ask you about the trees. It seems to me, as a new member of this committee, and to this inquiry, that the trees are a central question to all of this. So, I wonder if you can tell us if the options appraisal adequately considered the value of the trees that have been identified for felling as part of this project.

Do you want to start and then John can come in?

I believe it does. So, we identified numerous constraints with each option. Obviously, in the parks, there are many: the trees, the amenity value they bring, the health benefits, the ecology benefits, as well as the wider parks and how they're used, and their conservation status as well. So, we undertook surveys of all the trees, categorised them in accordance with British standards to identify their quality, and that has then informed the optioneering process, so which option we chose, and then, also, more importantly, influenced heavily the design.

So, initially, the design was for walls around the park perimeter, and that would have led to quite significant tree loss, and those trees lost would have been higher value. We've shaped the design through consultation and through the planning process as well—that was consultation with Cadw, Cardiff council and, also, the Design Commission for Wales—to internalise the defences, retain as many trees as possible, retain higher value trees, and remove, where we've had to remove, unfortunately, lower value trees. John, do you want to come in?

Thank you, Leanne. We have considered the trees, not in a monetary value as the campaign group have done, but in a qualitative way, as Gavin has said. They are important, and I think one of the joys for me is that when we've sat down with the campaign group, we've seen at first hand how important they are. And that's been a process of taking them with us, if you like, or certainly, an engagement in the relationship. They are important, and I think in the scheme we put forward, we've been very cognisant of how we want to create a park in the future that future generations will value, as they do now. That's entailed different planting, different textures to the trees, barks, leaf foliage, how you make a stimulating park for people's well-being in the future. That's a very, very important part of our consideration in moving forward. So, the value is there. It's significant. And it's not just the park: we've planted 200 whips—I know they're small, but the fact is, we're building something here for the future, and that's extremely important. Our approach isn't about the here and now; it's about 50 years, 100 years hence. And the things we're doing today will have that impact. And that's been very upfront in our thinking, in working with Cadw, in working with the council, and our own tree experts on 'What are we creating here?' because we're not in the business of destroying the environment; we're about creating something. And the whole approach of Roath—just to go on, Chair—is really about multiple benefits. You can see it as a flood scheme—it is a flood scheme—but what we're doing here is creating a park. And the fact is that's wider than the park with whips, it's about—[Interruption.]

10:30

Well, I don't think that's appropriate, Neil, whilst the gentleman is responding.

With respect, Chair, I know the area, and to say you're creating a park is frankly outrageous. Please don't insult my intelligence.

I think, in designing the way forward and taking the community with us, that's an important part, and I think, for me, the value has been in sitting down with the campaign group. A telling point for me was at one of the first meetings when it was said to us, 'Actually, I wish we'd had these meetings 12 months ago', because I think, at that point, you start to get to the nitty-gritty and talking about what you're trying to create.

Have you spoken to the campaign group specifically about the quality of the trees that you were replacing the older ones with? The campaign group, when they gave evidence to us two weeks ago, raised concerns about the poor quality of the replacement trees. What would you say in response to that?

Indeed, they're right. And I think we were disappointed in the quality of the trees, or some of the trees, being provided, and we'll remedy that. The important thing for us is that there's a five-year maintenance programme for the trees we're putting into the park, and the fact is that those first five years are crucial in establishing the trees into those areas there. So, we have spoken, it's a continuing dialogue, it will be a continuing dialogue, and the maintenance period that we adhere to is a five-year programme to replace any trees that are damaged or don't take in that setting in future.

So, you've got a plan in place now to replace the poor-quality trees that have already been put in, have you?

Yes, yes, they'll be planted this month. Indeed, yes.

The plan was always in place. It was a five—we're committed for five years. As John said, we were disappointed with some of the quality that went in, and we would have picked that up as part of the five-year maintenance programme.

Can I just ask something about the Welsh Government's 'Woodlands for Wales' strategy? Because that was introduced after you published your original options appraisal, and that specifically looks at the value of urban trees—and this is monetary value, as well as the other benefits that you've outlined. So, should phase 3 of the works be reassessed, to take into account the Government's new strategy?

I think when you look at the strategy—and it's a good strategy; it's looking at a 50-year programme, 50 years hence—what we're doing at Roath takes on board certainly the spirit of what's in that strategy. My reading of it is about the multiple benefits, the long-term perspective, the value of trees in an urban environment, the shade in the summer, the intense rainfall patterns coming through the winter, in future years. I think we're broadly in spirit of what it says in that strategy. It followed our work, but really, in spirit, we're on I think the same page.

There were some concerns we raised about the husbandry of the trees after they were planted. Can you give us some comments on that?

Do you want to pick that up?

Yes. Well, I think John's touched on it previously. Unfortunately, due to various reasons, some were poor-quality trees that were delivered, and we hold our hands up to that. We're having strong words with our suppliers. We do feel let down and very disappointed with what has been provided, but there was always a process in place. Others have just failed to establish, which is always a risk with planting trees, as well as being affected by lifting them just after snowfall in the spring, and then obviously the summer heat wave—they've not had a great year, unfortunately. But, we've got a process in place, we're working with Cardiff council, who own the parks, and have obviously given us planning permission. And staff are at the nursery today picking out the trees, with Cardiff council, and then they'll be replanted over the next couple of weeks—

And the people who've supplied these trees, are they responsible for the husbandry afterwards?

We've contracted Dawnus to construct the works. They've employed a specialist landscape contractor to then install and maintain the trees over the next few years.

Yes. I said at the very beginning about being misled. In the meeting, there was a disagreement about what was actually said. But I feel quite insulted to sit here and for you to say that you're trying to create a park. Well, I've actually visited the park—maybe not all Members here have—and you're actually cutting away a huge swathe of it. So, I think what I'd like from you is just some honesty, to say that possibly in your view you're making the best of a bad situation, but I'd ask you not to come here and say that you're creating a park, because you're clearly not. Phase 3, in terms of monetary value, you're looking at losing £420,000-worth of trees, which doesn't equate to creating a park. I really don't understand why you won't go back to the drawing board on this. You've had stage 1, stage 2; stage 3 is completely separate now, whether you like it or not, and there should be a complete reappraisal of this. Why won't you do that?

10:35

Chair, again, John may wish to come in. John's intention wouldn't have been to insult or to mislead. If you feel insulted, then we'll apologise, but that wasn't the intention. I think what John was trying to say is that we're trying to deliver a flood scheme here, and as part of that flood scheme, our intention is to deliver an improved environment in the longer term. In the longer term. But we recognise that, in the short term, there are going to be impacts. If we could have delivered a scheme without removing one tree, we would have chosen that option. But, unfortunately, we haven't been able to. I don't know if you want to add to that, John.

I think that—. Sorry if I insulted you, Neil; it wasn't intended at all.

What we're trying to do—and it's quite clear in the woodland strategy—is create these multiple benefits. It's not jargon; it's actually trying to do many, many things. With the watercourse in Roath, it's a man-made watercourse—sorry, it's a modified watercourse—and what we're doing there isn't about putting concrete in there; it is about widening the channel and putting what gentle incline is there to speed the water through.

All of the strategies that have followed from our approvals—you know, whether it's the environment Act or the well-being of future generations Act, or the woodland strategy—talk about more natural solutions without intervention. This is a more natural solution in our view. Gareth has said, and others have said, in our view—and it's our view, it's our judgment, because we are professionals in flood risk management—it's the best option. It's the most sustainable option. And in doing that, we're very aware of the value and the importance of this park to the people who live in Roath, but also to the wider community. The design in working with our tree experts, also the councils who own the park, is trying to create—and I will use the word, because in my view it's the correct word—a park, like the Edwardians did 100 years ago, which justifiably will have the same level of interest and stimulation, and play an important part in health and well-being in the future. And that's the whole strategy of the Government's legislation agenda over the last couple of years, and I believe that we are in the spirit of trying to do that very clearly, Chair.

This is just my final question. There were claims in the review of alternatives paper that the proposed works would cause a deterioration of the ecological quality of the watercourse, therefore failing the EU water framework directive. What is your response to that?

No, absolutely. I mean, on that point, and it comes with Mr McEvoy's point as well, you're going back to the drawing board. Through this appraisal, we have been very open minded and thoroughly considered, and we welcome this report from the campaign group and we're more than willing to sit down with them and their engineer, review its contents, listen to their concerns, talk them through our view, listen to their view, and hopefully obtain some common understanding of the decisions that we've made and where we're going forward and what decisions should be made going forward.

With regard to WFD, the option, as John said, is a very natural option. We've undertaken a preliminary WFD assessment. That's gone through the planning process as well and has been approved by Cardiff council. We don't think that the works will inhibit the water body reaching its good ecological status, as well as also providing improvements where we can, such as flow deflectors to try and increase interest and variety in the river, and bring in a different ecology.

Fine. There are constraints, obviously, on Assembly Members with regard to—. Neil has had to leave, and Janet will have to leave just before the end of this session.

So, in conclusion, and this is talking about communication rather than anything else, in your view, could any more have been done to adequately communicate the flood risk, proposed works, options considered, and the impact on the environment to local residents? Do you feel you've actually done that?

Chair, what's become clear to me, if I look back at the timeline of the engagement we did before we got the permission, is that we did walk-throughs, we did media work, we used social media, but the penny dropped for me when I sat in a room with the campaign group—probably, I think, last January—and they said to me, 'This feels as if it's being done to us as opposed to with us.' And that was a watershed moment, because Gavin, Gareth and I were in the room with the campaign group. And that, I think, was important, in that we had never wanted it to be done that way. We don't do our business that way; we recognise the importance of taking the community with us.

So, since that time, and this, I guess, is the lessons learned, if you will, we've paused the scheme and we have, at the suggestion of the campaign group, done seven further sessions of engagement. We were all there at those sessions. We had one of our board members, Dr Madeleine Havard, at the sessions as well. So, I think, for us, we did learn from that exercise, if you like. The world is changing and, perhaps, engagement is changing. I think that time is that—. We have worked, with regular meetings, and we agreed terms of reference with the campaign group, and, again, the telling words for me were—this came from the campaign group—'If only we'd done this a year ago.'

So, I think more can always be done. All public sector organisations have to engage with communities. It's certainly one of the key planks of the well-being of future generations Act—the ways of working there. We're committed to taking that forward. We have supported the campaign group in the sense of answering questions on the rationale for our scheme—why we've done it and the reasons why we've gone for our best option, if you like. So, I think there are things that we and other public sector organisations can understand, to take forward here. So, I think the short answer is 'yes'.

10:40

Because it appears to us that, obviously, this petition is brought forward because people weren't satisfied with the solutions that you were coming up with and, perhaps, they didn't really understand how you had come about the conclusions you had. So, obviously, there seems to have been a lack of that communication or adequate communication with those locals.

Yes, I think, what I'd add, Chair, is, if we go back a 12-month, we would have said quite openly, 'We thought we'd done enough.' We'd look back a year now and say, 'Obviously, we've learned and we can do more.' The nature of communication has changed. I think, if you ask the campaign group, they would say similar in terms of the involvement in the scheme and the awareness of the scheme. So, yes, we could have done better,  and yes, we can learn from the engagement here. It's changed—the nature of engagement has changed and we need to change with that.

Fine. Now, we all know that there's a pause in the works at this moment in time. So, what are the next steps? Because, obviously, it matters to the locals exactly where you're going from this point on.

Obviously, we paused the scheme initially for four months to the end of July. The campaign group asked if we could extend that when they did further work and we continued to do that. They asked for it to be until the end of November to get the latest consultant's report in. We had that last week. We've had a chance to flick through it but not to digest yet. What we want to do is have a look at what's in there. We're happy to meet in the way we described and then we'll consider all options. I mean, obviously, I said at the beginning it's important to us. I'm involved, our exec team are involved. We need to keep all options open and decide how we move forward.

Right, fine. Thank you, gentlemen. And can I thank you for your engagement with the committee and just ask you whether there are any further comments that might not have been brought up by the questions that we've asked that you'd like to make before we close this evidence session?

The only thing I'd add, Chair, is that NRW has to make hard choices, hard decisions, and it's important that we take the community with us. But, in going forward, we have to draw a line under Roath. We have to make a decision, and I think that the project that Gareth outlined of taking the report and meeting is one step in trying to do that. So, it's important.

Okay. Well, again, thank you very much for coming along and speaking to us. Obviously, there will be a transcript of this meeting available to you, whenever you wish to have that. Okay. Thank you very much.

7. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd ar gyfer eitemau 8 a 9
7. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public for items 8 and 9

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd ar gyfer eitemau 8 a 9 yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public for items 8 and 9 in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

Can I propose that under section—which section are we talking about—17.42, that we enter into private discussion? Are you happy with that? Thank you.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:44.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 10:44.

The psychologist in question wishes to note that she is not employed by the petitioners and has never received remuneration. She does, however, volunteer for the organisation.

Archwilio Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru