The Head of Legal, Democratic and Property Services presented a report in respect of asset rationalisation of the community centre located on Easemore Road, Redditch.
The Executive Committee was informed that the Property Services team had been undertaking stock condition surveys. A stock condition survey had been completed in respect of the community centre located on Easemore Road at an early stage of this process because the Council had received reports that the building was in a poor state of repair. The survey had concluded that a significant amount of work would be required to address these issues and to make the property suitable to let at a commercial rate moving forward.
There were a number of long-term tenants which used the community centre on Easemore Road as premises. Many of these tenants were Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) organisations and they had approached the Council to ask about alternative accommodation due to concerns about the building’s state of disrepair. Officers had been working closely with these tenants to try to help find them alternative premises. Gemini Dance Studio, which was one of the existing tenants that had benefitted from a meanwhile use letting arrangement at the community centre for many years, had not yet identified suitable alternative accommodation, although the Council continued to try to provide assistance in locating alternatives.
Following the presentation of the report, Members discussed the debate regarding this report that had occurred at a meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 7th July 2022. It was noted that during this meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Members had recommended that the Council should defer making a decision on disposal of the community centre until a full review of the Council’s assets had been completed. Members considered this recommendation from the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and in doing so commented on the following points:
· The work that was already being undertaken by the Council in respect of the stock condition surveys that were being completed on Council assets and the fact that these surveys had not been undertaken in previous years.
· The work that had been undertaken by officers in terms of consultation with tenants of the community centre and the assistance that the authority had provided to these tenants when searching for alternative accommodation.
· The need for the Council’s assets to be managed on a commercial basis as part of ensuring that Council services were sustainable moving forward.
· The condition of the community centre building and the fact that tenants had approached the Council about the property’s state of disrepair.
· The meanwhile lease arrangements that, although supposed to be temporary, had been in place for many of the VCS organisations for a number of years.
· The potential risk that a deferral on this decision would result in further deterioration in the condition of the property.
On the basis of these points, the Executive Committee rejected the recommendation from the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on this subject.
Members subsequently discussed the report further and in doing so questioned whether the condition of the building might represent a health and safety risk for visitors. Officers explained that the building was safe for people to use in its current form. The intention of the proposal detailed in the report was to ensure that the asset was fit for purpose moving forward.
Reference was made to the availability of a significant number of meanwhile use lease arrangements for the community centre on Easemore Road and a number of other Council owned assets in the Borough. Officers confirmed that there were a number of historic arrangements in place which needed to be reviewed as the Council increasingly needed to operate in a more commercial manner in order to remain sustainable. There were alternative options available to VCS groups, including potentially accommodation in the REDI Centre and the Council was working closely with VCS groups to help them to explore these options.
Consideration was given to the ongoing work on stock condition surveys and the approach that had been adopted to this work by the Council. Members were advised that the Council was prioritising stock condition surveys for properties in a poor state of repair and / or assets that the authority could potentially utilise differently to maximise commercial opportunities. An Asset Strategy was in the process of being developed for the Council and the external organisation, Savills, had identified assets that the Council might want to survey at an earlier stage as part of this process.
the existing Community House building and associated land in Easemore Road (rear of No. 103), be declared surplus to Council requirements and disposed of at market value.