Reference from Council meeting on 21 February 2008: Vacant and Surplus Land Options (Agenda Item 6)
On 12 February, 2008, Cabinet had agreed to the release of £130,000 in revenue funds and the delegation of power to the appropriate Director to offer a contract to a consultant or consultants offering best value to submit planning applications on 11 vacant and surplus Council owned sites and begin negotiations with developers and housing associations to achieve the maximum commercial return subject to adherence to the Council’s procurement process.
At the Council meeting on 21 February, it was decided to ask the Commission to review the policy and processes in regard for the future of vacant and surplus land; in the meantime no action would be taken on the Cabinet decision and the Cabinet would be asked to reconsider the matter at a future meeting following the Commission’s review.
The Asset Manager explained the history of the process so far that had led to the selection of these sites for possible development. Some 75 locations have been identified in 2004 and, following consultation with Ward Representatives, Town and Parish Councils and appropriate officers, 11 of these had been selected as having development potential. All sites were looked at by one of the Scrutiny Panels. Approval had been sought at the time from the then Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to pursue development.
Some Members of the Commission were of the view that it would be reasonable to consult further on these sites, to see whether there was any variance in the views expressed by consultees originally. Some of those consulted had been councillors who had since retired and been replaced by others who had not had the benefit of consultation. Updating consultation would have the advantage of enabling the latest information, for example from the National Playing Fields Association on public open space standards, to be taken into account. The same principle could be applied to any areas of vacant and surplus land subsequently identified. As far as the current 11 sites were concerned, the decision of the Cabinet to authorise the expenditure of £130,000 would remain in abeyance pending the further consultation process. It was proposed and seconded that a recommendation to this effect be made to Cabinet.
An alternative view was expressed, to the effect that proper processes had been followed thus far and that to proceed with establishing whether or not the 11 sites in question could be developed was reasonable. This process would give opportunities for further consultation in each case.
The proposal to re-consult was put to the vote and lost by 8 votes to 4.
It was then proposed that Cabinet be recommended to continue with the current process, the proposer believing that procedures followed so far, and those that would follow in accordance with the Cabinet decision were democratic. This proposal was seconded and, on being put to the vote, was carried by 8 votes to 3.
RECOMMEND to Cabinet that the current process continue as intended in accordance with Cabinet Minute No. 29/08.
Note: Mr K Gilbert and Mr R Goreham asked that their votes against this recommendation be recorded.