This report will be published in an Additional Papers pack once it has been published for the Executive Committee.
The Head of Legal, Democratic and Property Services presented the report in respect of declaration of land surplus to requirement at Community House, Easemore Road.
Officers reported that following a recent detailed condition survey and report, it was envisioned that over the following 5 years a minimum sum of £340,000 needed to be spent on planned preventative maintenance. Members were informed that the tenants, mainly from Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) organisations, would be displaced and that alternative properties had been located for all the tenants.
Officers also informed members that Where Next, which occupied the site adjacent to the property, had been encroaching substantially on the site. Where Next were aware of this and understood the need to vacate this encroached area. To assist with this, Officers had agreed to work to improve accessibility to their entire site from their main entrance on Wellesbourne Close.
Following the presentation of the report Members queried the following areas.
· The financial details, which Members suggested could have been improved in the report and members asked for further information about the financial data.
o Officers confirmed that income for the Community centre was £17,000 in total, which was well below the market rate. In some cases, this was because tenants had originally taken up a lease as a meanwhile use, or temporary arrangement, that had subsequently been extended over the years.
o The sum of £350,000 would be for repair work and was not intended for modernising or improving the building.
o Officers confirmed that the capital receipt from the sale of the land would be far greater than the income for the building.
During consideration of this item, Councillor Michael Chalk moved the recommendation as printed in the report and he also proposed the following additional recommendation:
“The Executive Committee consider the financial and social implications of using the land for social housing”
These recommendations were proposed by Councillor Chalk and seconded by Councillor Brandon Clayton.
In making this proposal, Members were asked to note that it would be helpful to explore the potential for the land to be used for social housing as part of the Council’s Housing Growth Programme. There was general agreement amongst Members that there was a need in the Borough for more social housing, including more Council houses to meet the needs of Redditch residents.
However, Members were advised that the site did not fall under the Housing Revenue Account (HRA), and the funding arising from sale of the land could not be vired from the general fund to the HRA. In addition, Officers working in the Housing Department had been consulted about the potential for this land to be used and had advised that this was not considered suitable for social housing. Officers had therefore concluded that the land would be more suitable for commercial development.
Members subsequently commented that it would be ideal if the council performed a survey of all the authority’s property assets and brought this forward as a whole rather than piecemeal. Members commented that it was difficult to make an informed decision when taking items one at a time. Instead, Members suggested that they needed to know where the properties and the communities they served were located.
In this context, Councillor Hartnett made the following proposal:
“that the Executive Committee defer making a decision on the disposal of the land at Community House, Easemore Road, until a full review of Council assets had been completed.”
The recommendation was proposed by Councillor Hartnett and seconded by Councillor Altaf.
Officers informed members that it was important to understand that stock condition surveys could be financially costly. The Community Centre received a very low rent and the £350,000 maintenance costs would just be for emergency repairs and not investment in improvement works. Officers also reminded members that the tenants themselves were reporting that the building was not fit for purpose. Sale of the property would result in a capital receipt for the Council.
Some Members raised concerns that it would not be wise to postpone whilst reviewingall other assets due to problems with the building. However, other Members raised concerns that it would be inappropriate to make a decision on the disposal of the building at this time until further information regarding the review of the Council’s assets was available.
On being put to the vote, the recommendation proposed by Councillor Hartnett and seconded by Councillor Altaf was carried.
Following the vote, Councillor Chalk raised the potential for a minority report and a majority report to be put forward by the Committee in respect of this matter. Officers advised that, as the Overview and Scrutiny Committee had not prepared a report but was, rather, making recommendations, this would not be possible on this occasion. However, it was agreed that a detailed minute should be drafted, to include reference to the proposals that were not taken forward.
the Executive Committee defer making a decision on the disposal of the land at Community House, Easemore Road, until a full review of Council assets had been completed.