Agenda item

Vacant and Surplus Land - Options (Agenda item 8)

Report of the Executive Member for Economic and Commercial.

Minutes:

The Land Management Officer presented the report which requested the release of £130,000 revenue funding and that power be given to the appropriate Director to offer a contract to a consultant(s) offering best value to submit planning applications on 11 vacant and surplus Council-owned sites; and commence negotiations with developers and housing associations to achieve the maximum commercial return, once the Council’s procurement process had been adhered to.

 

A paper was circulated which illustrated two cost scenarios.

 

The Executive Member for Environment supported the recommendation as she felt that there was a desperate need for further social housing in the area.

 

The Leader of the Opposition said that this appeared to him to be an exercise in antagonism. Four of the 11 sites, were in his Ward, including Howlett Close and Boyd Avenue.  He asked whether any consultation had taken place as, to his knowledge, neither he, Dereham Town Council, and more importantly the residents themselves had been consulted.

 

He highlighted one of the plots in question that was currently a delightful piece of open amenity space which he felt should not be replaced with concrete.   He reminded Members that, according to national standards, Dereham was already short of 21 acres of brownfield sites and rather than losing valuable amenity space for those residents, there were other, more suitable sites in the area that he knew of that could be utilised.

 

The Opposition Leader further recalled a statement from the Executive Member for the Cabinet Office during a previous meeting about the Council not hiring any further consultants.

 

The Executive Member for Community Services felt that there was a real need for the provision of open space and that for the public to be consulted.

 

In response, the Leader said that, at a Scrutiny meeting held in 2005, the Opposition Leader had recommended that the land at Howlett Close should go forward to Registered Social Landlords (RSLs).  He reminded Members that all that was being asked was for valuations to be carried out on the said pieces of land.  Each plot of land would then have to go through the planning process where full consultation would have to take place. 

 

The Leader of the Opposition pointed out that he was just reflecting the views of the public he represented, whatever the political party, and irrespective of whatever he might have said at a meeting held in 2005.  He still felt that this matter had been wholly misconceived.

 

On the use of consultants, the Leader clarified that what the Executive Member of the Cabinet Office had actually said was: “that the Council would not be using consultants as a replacement for full-time posts but would employ them to engage in particular pieces of work”. 

 

The Executive Member for Commercial Services reminded Members that a long and thorough consultation process had been carried out through the former Scrutiny Panel (Economic).  The Land Management Officer confirmed that a full consultation process had followed recommendations from the Panel.  The recommendations had then been endorsed by the Overview and Scrutiny Commission and by Cabinet in 2005.  The Land Management Officer highlighted the fact that this report was purely a follow up from that. 

 

In response to the aforementioned points the Opposition Leader was concerned that the initial endorsed consultation, on which this report had been based, had taken place in 2004/05.  There would have been many changes since then, one in particular being that the new Councillors would not have had any involvement in the consultation process.

 

The Overview and Scrutiny Commission Chairman asked for the recommendation to be clarified.  In response, the Leader advised that planning permissions would be sought for all of the initial sites.

 

The Opposition Leader wished for it to be recorded that he, as a Ward Representative for Dereham Central, had asked Members to vote against the recommendation.

 

Two options were made available to Members.  The first option was to request the release of funds of £130,000 and that power be given to the appropriate Director to offer a contract to a consultant(s) offering best value to submit planning applications on 11 vacant and surplus Council-owned sites and commence negotiations with developers and housing associations to achieve the maximum commercial return, once the Council’s procurement process had been adhered to. 

 

The second option was that an exception to Standing Orders be applied in this case; that funds of £130,000 be released and that power be given to the appropriate Director to instruct Allman Woodcock Ltd, David Futter Associates Ltd and Edwin Watson Partnership to submit planning applications on 11 vacant and surplus Council-owned sites and commence negotiations with developers and housing associations to achieve the maximum commercial return.

 

The reason for the recommendation was to progress this innovative scheme.

 

RESOLVED that

 

1)           £130,000 of revenue funds be released and power be given to the appropriate Director to offer a contract to a consultant(s) offering best value to submit planning applications on 11 vacant and surplus Council-owned sites and commence negotiations with developers and housing associations to achieve the maximum commercial return, once the Council’s procurement process has been adhered to; and

 

2)           consultants be chosen through a tendering process which complies with the principle of best value procurement and Breckland’s current Procurement Strategy and EU procurement regulations.

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