Leader's Announcements (Agenda item 5)
To receive a verbal update from Councillor Nunn, Leader of the Council.
The Leader of the Council gave a brief update on the following subjects:
A short film was shown from the start of the Riverside development in Thetford to completion. The Leader was confident that this development would bring regeneration to the town as it had been well received and had gone from strength to strength; it had also been endorsed by colleagues who had been against it at the beginning. He was pleased to announce that the Grand Central Restaurant would be open for business in the New Year and felt it to be appropriate to have a café culture alongside the river.
A petition was coming forward from Thetford Town Council; the subject matter being the former Cottage Hospital site at Earl Street in Thetford. The Thetford Labour Party had asked for it to be debated at the next Full Council meeting in January 2017. The Leader was aware of this site but was also aware that this authority could not do everything for every town and village in Breckland; however, he mentioned a piece of work that South Holland District Council was undertaking called unsightly sites and felt that this authority should do everything it could through the Town and Parish Councils to bring forward this type of work. He pointed out the many difficulties that the Council faced when it came to privately owned buildings including the legal ramifications but the Council had a duty of care to its constituents and therefore he had tasked the Overview & Scrutiny Commission (O&SC) to take these matters forward for debate.
Devolution had disappeared for now but there was still a potential piece of work going on and it was agreed that the Chief Executive and the Leader would engage in this conversation and work with the coalition to discuss Norfolk’s future moving forward. Members would be notified if any funding was required by way of a report to Full Council.
Funding had been secured from Norfolk County Council for the duelling of the A11 corridor.
A full Corporate Peer Review would be taking place from Monday, 12 December 2016; some Members had already been invited to meet the Peer Team at 6pm on Wednesday, 14 December. The Leader felt that Peer Reviews only worked if Members engage.
Councillor Brame queried the submission of the petition as he believed that it had not come from Thetford Town Council and felt that this matter should have been debated at a Full Council meeting and asked that the public be informed that Breckland Council would do its best for any site in Thetford. The Leader agreed and had been dismayed that a petition had been submitted instead of having a discussion. He pointed out that any Member should be able to approach him and have a debate and as the Leader he would do everything he could as the Council had a duty of care. He reminded Members of the graffiti issues that had been resolved; this would have been a great opportunity to work collaboratively for the community and felt upset that some Members had played politics with a matter such as this.
On the subject of Riverside, Councillor Jermy praised the Council for the successful opening event and felt that the key test would be the extent of regeneration to support the wider town centre. The Leader advised that there was a Market Town Initiative going on at the moment. Regeneration had to be about sustainable projects going forward and not about funding projects in the short term. Councillor Joel asked that the subject of unsightly sites be brought to the O&SC sooner rather than later. Councillor Gould, the Chairman of O&SC thought this would be an interesting topic but was cross with Councillor Jermy as Breckland Council had invested a great deal of money in the town and was at a loss as to what the Town Council actually did. The Leader said that he would be happy for him and the Chief Executive to attend a Town Council meeting if invited to have an unpolitical dialogue of what the Council could assist with but it was up to the Town Councils to come forward with ideas. Councillor Jermy clarified that the aim of the petition was to get the best outcome for the building.
Councillor Dimoglou reminded Members that the Riverside development had been delivered on time and within budget and asked if it would be appropriate to send a letter of thanks to Breckland Bridge and The Land Group. The Leader agreed and also conveyed his thanks to the Breckland Team, everyone had done an excellent job and all should be congratulated.