Contact: Fiona Cameron Democratic Services Manager & Deputy Monitoring Officer
The Leader welcomed Members and the public to the virtual meeting of the Executive, which was being webcast live on YouTube in compliance with the Regulations covering remote attendance at meetings.
The Leader introduced Officers present at the meeting, and welcomed Mr Crowther and Mr Weller, who had submitted written questions which they would read out later in the meeting.
To confirm the Minutes of the Meeting held on 12 May 2020.
The Minutes of the Meeting held on 12 May 2020 were confirmed as a correct record.
DECLARATIONS OF INTERESTS
To receive from Members, declarations of interest in relation to any items included on the agenda for this meeting, in accordance with the Waverley Code of Local Government Conduct.
There were no declarations of interest in relation to matters on the agenda.
The Chairman to respond to any questions received from members of the public for which notice has been given in accordance with Procedure Rule 10.
Two questions were received by the deadline of 5pm on Wednesday 1 July. These are detailed on the attached paper. A response will be provided at the Executive meeting.
The Executive received the following questions in accordance with Procedure Rule 10:
i) Question received from Simon Crowther, Chairman, Sport Godalming
“With respect to agenda item 10 - Property Matter – Broadwater Golf Course – would the committee confirm that this area of land would remain solely for the purposes of sport and leisure.”
Response from Cllr Mark Merryweather, Portfolio Holder for Finance, Assets and Commercial:
“The area of land is classed as D2 (Leisure) under the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987. D2 use includes indoor and outdoor sports and associated recreations. The land is also Green Belt land under Waverley Borough Council’s Local Plan Part 1 (policy RE2).
There are no plans to change the use of the land from D2 to another use.”
ii) Question from Bruce Weller of Rowledge:
“As a resident of WBC (resident of Rowledge) and somewhat experienced (30 years) in leisure development and golf course development (Weller Designs Ltd, Sports Pitch Design Build, Golf Land Solutions), I have one question:
Is it wise to spend £50k (which I assume is taxpayers money) on a report that is going to tell you what we already know, ie there are limited options on this site for open space leisure and even more limited if you want a tenant that will make a profitable operation.
Clearly there are the options of:
· Extension of Park, woodland nature, sculpture trail etc etc Laudable and given my qualification as a landscape architect completely understandable in current climate.
· Football (3G) / other sports pitches (possibly profitable ) but limited public access. With most sports apart from football not making much or any money.
· Or golf / range / adventure / cafe...Golf is having a serious renaissance following Covid and the success of Adventure Golf putting courses is well known (there are none in the district )
What is wrong with the current approved application which remedies the uncapped landfill at the same time?
As an experienced golf designer and consultant £50k will tell you what we know would be the case and that is a small scale high end Family Golf or 3G football pitch(s) will be profitable. The rest not so. Extension to naturalistic park in whatever manner would be great (that’s my landscape architect hat talking!) but I assume a cost burden to WBC?
I am based in Farnham and indeed set a few thoughts flying about Brambledon Park possibilities and happy to have a chat (at no cost sometime).
I was involved (some 5years!) with the planning application details to SCC for Broadwater Golf Club so clearly have an interest, but at the same time it’s a lot of money to perhaps come to an already known conclusion.”
Response from Cllr Mark Merryweather, Portfolio Holder for Finance, Assets and Commercial:
“With regard to the process that brought us to this point, we do recognise that the outcome of the process was not what anyone involved, including the Council, aspired to when it was started back ... view the full minutes text for item EXE 4/20
QUESTIONS FROM MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL
The Chairman to respond to any questions received from Members in accordance with Procedure Rule 11.
The deadline for receipt of questions is 5pm on Wednesday 1 July 2020.
There were no questions received from Members of the Council.
Leader's and Portfolio Holders' Updates
To receive any updates from the Leader or Executive Portfolio Holders.
The Leader and Executive members reported on current issues within their respective Executive portfolios:
6.1 Cllr John Ward, Leader of the Council:
· Following the recent announcement from the Government regarding its White Paper on Devolution to be published in the autumn and subsequent rumours regarding unitary councils, the MJ had reported that Surrey County Council had commissioned a study into how the county council could become a unitary authority. The Government appeared to be favouring a model of larger authorities with elected mayors, but was also looking for consensus from authorities bringing forward proposals proactively. Waverley’s Leadership would keeping a close watch on the issue as it developed.
6.2 Cllr Mark Merryweather, Portfolio Holder for Finance, Assets and Commercial
· A major focus for the council was the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the council. A contingency revised budget for 2020/21 had been prepared to address the budget gap of £6.6m in the budget agreed by Council in February 2020, which was equivalent to 60% of the annual Council Tax revenue. The revised budget was detailed in a report for the Value for Money Overview & Scrutiny Committee meeting on 13 July, and Members had received a briefing on 6 July. The Council was still awaiting detail on what further support might be available from the Government, if any, following the announcements of last week. In the meantime, the Contingency Revised Budget for 2020/21 would be considered by the Executive at the end of July, and an Extraordinary Full Council meeting in early August.
6.3 Cllr Steve Williams, Portfolio Holder for Environment and Sustainability:
· Very grateful to Waverley Officers for their work during the lockdown period and beyond, and their relentless focus on keeping essential services going, and protecting the most vulnerable in the community.
· There had been an inevitable pause in the consultation on the Sustainability Strategy and Climate Emergency Action Plan, but this work was now progressing again and comments were welcomed from the general public, organisations concerned about the environment, town and parish councils, and Waverley Members.
· Reducing our carbon footprint was a responsibility of every department and every member of staff in the council, and a culture was being built that put sustainability at the heart of decision-making in each department. The Climate Emergency Action Plan was key to this, and the central core of the Covid-19 recovery strategy was to build back better and not just to return to the way things were but to learn the lessons of lockdown. A green recovery was at the heart of our strategy for moving forward, including investing in greener energy, greener homes, offices and public building, and greener transport, and supporting more sustainable businesses and communities in Waverley.
· In line with that, the Executive was heartened and vindicated in its serious objections to UK Oil & Gas and their plans to drill for fossil fuels in Waverley, when the Surrey County Council planning committee turned down the planning application.
6.4 Cllr Anne- Marie Rosoman, Portfolio Holder for Housing ... view the full minutes text for item EXE 6/20
PART I - RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE COUNCIL
There were no matters falling within this category.
PART II - MATTERS OF REPORT
The background papers relating to the following items are as specified in the reports included in the original agenda papers.
To make the Executive aware of the issues being experienced with the Waverley Borough Council Household Recycling Centres due to misuse and fly-tipping, propose a way forward to deal with these issues and inform the Executive of feedback from the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee which considered the report at its meeting on 24 June 2020.
It is recommended that:
1. The containers for co-mingled recycling at the Household Recycling Centres listed in Annexe A be removed as soon as possible to avoid any ongoing additional payments to Biffa.
2. The banks for textiles and WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) be removed following the introduction of the kerbside textiles and WEEE collections from households (Autumn 2020).
3. An effective communications plan be developed to promote the additional kerbside recycling collection services and the reasons for removing these sites.
7.1 Cllr Steve Williams introduced the report, which proposed the removal of the Household Recycling Sites (‘Bring sites’) due to mis-use and fly-tipping, which resulted in high levels of contamination of recyclables and additional collection costs. The forthcoming introduction of kerbside collections for textiles and small electrical items would mean that everything currently collected at the Bring Sites would be collected kerb-side.
7.2 Whilst the removal of the Bring Sites would release additional space in the car parks, it was not intended to create additional parking spaces for cars, but to use the space to promote sustainability by providing facilities for cyclists that encourage alternative active transport in line with the post-Covid recovery strategy.
Three Members had registered to speak on this item:
7.3 Cllr Carole Cockburn, speaking as Chairman of the Environment Overview & Scrutiny Committee and personally, wholeheartedly supported the proposal finally to remove the Bring Sites, after many years of discussing and trying to resolve the issues they caused. She particularly wanted to draw attention to the need to be sensitive to and respect special areas in Waverley towns, notably the Farnham Conservation Area, when considering how to use the space going forward. However, she had some concerns at the proposal to introduce cycle parking facilities, without any consultation, and asked that there be proper engagement locally and consideration of the right proposals for each location that had due regard to special circumstances.
7.4 Cllr Mary Foryszewski welcomed the proposals. The issues described in the report were apparent to anyone using the car parks and who saw the overflowing bins, heaps of recycling and black bags around the bins, and clear evidence of no personal responsibility. Under the previous administration a SIG had been formed to look at the procurement of a new waste and recycling contract. The SIG had explored all aspects of the service and had encouraged the removal of the Bring Sites. She encouraged Members to look at the work of the SIG and to take the opportunity to educated residents about taking personal responsibility for the waste they produced and being accountable for it. Cllr Foryszewski paid tribute to the key workers who had continued to collect waste and recycling throughout the Covid emergency and had done a fantastic job. And, she urged consultation and engagement on how the space freed up by removal of the Bring Sites was used in future.
7.5 Cllr Peter Isherwood echoed the previous speakers’ support for the proposals. He had also been on the SIG in 2018, and the Members had recommended unanimously the removed of the Bring Sites due to their misuse. Only recently, the bins at Beacon Hill had been set on fire and burnt out, but the following day six black bags of rubbish were left on the ground beside them for someone else to clear up. He looked forward to rapidly progressing the actions to end this abuse of council facilities.
7.6 The Leader thanked Members for their support for the proposals ... view the full minutes text for item EXE 7/20
This report seeks approval for the purchase of the British Red Cross Society site in Wey Court, Farncombe at a value detailed in Exempt Annexe 1. It is proposed to fund the purchase from the Capital Receipts Reserve.
It is recommended that the Executive approves the purchase at the value set out in Exempt Annexe 1, and that the purchase be funded from the Capital Receipts Reserve.
8.1 Cllr Mark Merryweather introduced the report which recommended the purchase of the British Red Cross Society site in Wey Court, Farncombe for the purchase price set out in the Exempt annexe to the report. The investment would be funded from capital receipts, and had been recommended by the Property Investment Advisory Board.
Cllr Jerry Hyman had registered to speak on this item:
8.2 Cllr Hyman expressed his view that there did not appear to be sufficient information on which to make a decision on spending public money; there was no map, no information on yield from the sitting tenant, size or condition of the property, a vision for the area, and a reliance on commercial and residential values and returns holding up in what could be a very deep recession.
8.3 Cllr Paul Follows responded that, as a Godalming councillor, he felt that this was a sensible acquisition, and the council was well aware of the position of the building in relation to neighbouring businesses such as the football.
8.4 In conclusion, Cllr Merryweather confirmed that the Property Investment Advisory Board had satisfied itself that this was a sound recommendation to make to the Executive.
8.5 The Executive RESOLVED that the purchase of the British Red Cross Society site at the value set out in Exempt Annexe 1 to the agenda report be approved, and that the purchase be funded from the Capital Receipts Reserve.
Reason: The Red Cross wished to sell the site and the Council had a right of first refusal. The site had potential for continuing with the existing nursery lease if they wished to stay, or site accumulation for a bigger development project. The purchase proposal was reviewed by the Property Investment Advisory Board which recommended the purchase to the Executive.
This report seeks approval for the use of up to £35,000 from the Investment Advisory Board Reserve to commission the Council’s external property advisors, Montagu Evans, to undertake a detailed feasibility study and due diligence on the development potential of the Wey Hill site in Haslemere.
It is recommended that the Executive approves the use of up to £35,000 from the Investment Advisory Board Reserve.
9.1 Cllr Merryweather introduced the report, including the Exempt annexe, and recommendation to approve the use of up to £35,000 to commission a detailed feasibility study for a council-owned and operated open market residential rental development. The site had previously been targeted for site assembly and then capital sale to the private sector for development. However, the results of the preparatory work by the council’s Housing team, supplemented by a high-level review by the council’s external advisors, had concluded that the council could undertake the development itself and achieve more of the council’s strategy goals. The funding now required was for preparation of the detailed development scheme, and would be funded from the Investment Advisory Board Reserve, which had been established for this purpose.
Two Members had registered to speak on this item:
9.2 Cllr Simon Dear expressed his opinion that the proposed budget was an absurd amount for the work being commissioned. Given the recent Member briefing that had set out the extent of the Council’s budget pressures, he recommended that it would be better to continue the involvement of the council’s in-house housing team. He had dealt with them on a number of occasions and had been profoundly impressed with their level of expertise and practicality. Cllr Dear noted that if the land was sold off it would need to be a price that was ‘best consideration’; if it was retained, was there a similar test of ‘best exploitation’ or getting the best economic use from it?
9.3 Cllr Jerry Hyman was critical of the quality of the memorandum in the Exempt Annexe, and agreed with Cllr Dear that the work should be carried out in-house rather than spending residents’ money on feasibility studies that assumed that residential and commercial returns would hold up. He was not sure that this was something the council should be doing, and that there was sufficient information to make a decision.
9.4 Cllr Merryweather responded by pointing out that he Medium Term Financial Plan currently projects a need to increase property investment returns by £1.2m by 2023-24, and the Investment Advisory Board Reserve was established to fund the exploration of projects for that purpose. The Housing Team had done a tremendous job in assembling and packaging the land and getting outline planning permission so that it could be sold to a private developer. The decision to develop the site directly as part of the council’s investment strategy was on the proviso that due diligence would be carried out by external professional advisors.
9.5 Cllr Anne-Marie Rosoman also commended the work of the Housing team so far in assembling the site, and assured Cllr Dear and Cllr Hyman that the feasibility study would build on that work, and would not ignore it and start again. The budget sought was for up to £35k and the council would not be making the most of the opportunity for this site if it did not explore it thoroughly.
9.6 The Executive RESOLVED that up to £35,000 ... view the full minutes text for item EXE 9/20
This report seeks approval for the use of up to £50,000 from the Investment Advisory Board Reserve to commission the Council’s external property advisors, Montagu Evans, to undertake a detailed options appraisal of the Broadwater Golf Course site. A draw down of the reserve is also sought to cover legal fees which were incurred in obtaining the site back for the Council of some £20,000.
It is recommended that the Executive approves the use of the Investment Advisory Board Reserve to fund the options appraisal on the site at a cost of £50,000 and the legal fees incurred of £20,000.
10.1 Cllr Mark Merryweather briefly introduced the report which requested a budget of £50,000 to commission and detailed options appraisal from the Council’s external advisors for the Broadwater Park golf course, and £20,000 for legal fees to obtain the site back from the lessee. The site had not been operational as a golf course for over 18 months. There were constraints on what could be said publicly about the detailed outcome of the lease renewal process that had led to the current position, although local Members had been briefed as far as was possible. The land use designations had been referred to in the response to the public questions, and the council had a duty to seek value for money from this public asset.
Six Members had registered to speak on this item:
10.2 Cllr Julia Potts advised that her concerns were about the process by which the Executive had come to the decision before it this evening. The previous administration had agreed on 4 December 2018, subject to the usual legal caveats to grant a new lease to Broadwater Park Golf Course. Cllr Potts asked why that decision of the Executive, which had been noted by Full Council later in December 2018, had not been implemented; when the current administration decided to overturn that decision; and at what public meeting of the Executive had it been made? There was no evidence of a public decision, no scrutiny by councillors or the public, and no record of the decision. The fact that an Executive decision of 18 months ago could be overturned seemingly behind closed doors raised very serious concerns around transparency in governance, and she looked forward to being provided with some answers.
10.3 Cllr Steve Cosser echoed the concerns raised by Cllr Potts regarding transparency around dealings on the site, but in addition he did not believe that the agenda report made a clear and credible case for approval of up to £70,000. It appeared that the council had already spent £20,000 on legal advice to assist in securing the site and was now seeking approval retrospectively, so again there was a very unclear process. There was also a suggestion of the need for further legal advice, and apparently no certainty about securing the site. Against that background and taking account of the unspecified amount paid for the initial assessment, how could the Executive justify the risk of further possible abortive expenditure of up to £50,000 for yet more work on options? Given the council’s current financial position, wouldn’t this expenditure be better deferred? Cllr Cosser went on to ask when the public might be given a say on the future of this site; and whether Cllr Merryweather could clarify his earlier comments that no change of land use was proposed, yet it was still intended to spend £50,000 to look at options.
10.4 Cllr John Gray referred to the apparent retrospective approval sought for £20,000 of legal fees and the process being followed, which was contrary to ... view the full minutes text for item EXE 10/20