Agenda and minutes

Local High Streets Task & Finish Panel
Monday, 24th February, 2020 7.00 pm

Venue: Committee Room 2, Civic Offices, High Street, Epping. View directions

Contact: G. Woodhall Tel: (01992) 564243  Email:  democraticservices@eppingforestdc.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1.

Chairman & Appointment of Vice-Chairman

(Democratic Services Manager) To note that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee has appointed Councillor J Share-Bernia as Chairman of the Panel and delegated authority to the Task & Finish Panel to appoint its own Vice-Chairman.

Minutes:

The Panel noted that Cllr J Share-Bernia had been appointed as the Chairman by the Overview & Scrutiny Committee.

 

The Chairman requested nominations for the position of Vice-Chairman, as the Overview & Scrutiny Committee had delegated authority to the Panel to appoint its own Vice-Chairman. Two nominations were proposed and seconded: Cllr J Jennings; and Cllr S Rackham.

 

            Resolved:

 

            (1)        That Cllr J Jennings be appointed as Vice-Chairman for the Panel.

2.

Terms of Reference pdf icon PDF 108 KB

(Democratic Services Manager) To note the attached Terms of Reference for the Panel that was agreed by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee at its meeting on 28 January 2020.

Minutes:

The Panel noted its Terms of Reference, as agreed by the Overview & Scrutiny Committee at its meeting held on 28 January 2020.

3.

Work Programme for 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 91 KB

(Democratic Services Manager) To note the attached work programme for the Task & Finish Panel that was agreed by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee at its meeting on 28 January 2020.

Minutes:

The Panel noted its Work Programme for 2019/20, as agreed by the Overview & Scrutiny Committee at its meeting on 28 January 2020.

4.

Update Report to the Local High Streets Task & Finish Panel pdf icon PDF 131 KB

(Strategic Partnership Specialist) To consider the attached report (LHS-001-2019/20).

Minutes:

The Task & Finish Panel received a presentation on the evidence pack for local high streets from J Houston and M Chwiedz.

 

J Houston reassured the Panel that the full evidence pack would be available for Members before the next meeting, and an on-line survey was being developed to complement the on-street surveys being undertaken, which could be sent to local Town and Parish Councils if the Panel wished. There was concern at a national level about the impact of online retailing on high streets, but the high street vacancy rates within the District were generally better than the national picture. However, it was emphasised that footfall was critical in maintaining the vibrancy of local high streets, including the social interactive element that was not available on line. Officers welcomed any suggestions or questions from Members.

 

In response to a number of questions from Members, J Houston and M Chwiedz stated that surveying shopkeepers would be considered, and information would be sought regarding the current levels of business rates being levied. Data was being obtained regarding the number of shops that had closed in the last year, and a high turnover of retail units was being seen in some areas. The two biggest high street growth sectors in the District were currently Vaping shops and Turkish Barbers. In addition to surveying local shopkeepers, the Panel could also hear evidence from other partners, such as the local Chamber of Commerce.

 

Cllr J H Whitehouse stated that shopkeepers in Epping had voiced concerns about the cost and availability of car parking in the town, and Cllr D Plummer also highlighted the large increase for car parking fees for Waltham Abbey, which was exasperated by poor public transport in the area. There were currently not many stalls in Waltham Abbey Market, but the pop-up shops in the empty retail units were usually good. Cllr J H Whitehouse also enquired about the effect of rental levels for retail units on the high streets and who also owned all of the retail units. J Houston stated that the Council had more information regarding rental levels and ownership in some areas, such as The Broadway in Loughton. However, every high street in the District was subtly different so one common approach would not necessarily work equally well in the six centres.

 

Cllr H Kauffman informed the Panel that if the rateable value of the unit was less than £15,000 then no business rates would be levied, and charity shops would only pay 20% of their business rate charge anyway. The Councillor felt that heritage retail units performed better than non-heritage units, and that a strategy for the owners of the retail units was required to encourage longer-term rental of units within the District. The Councillor would like to see each high street in the District ranked from the worst performing to the best performing, and enquired if there was a separate budget for this work which could be used to fund surveys that would garner a better  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Any Other Business

(Democratic Services Manager) Section 100B(4)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972 requires that the permission of the Chairman be obtained, after prior notice to the Chief Executive, before urgent business not specified in the agenda (including a supplementary agenda of which the statutory period of notice has been given) may be transacted.

Minutes:

The Panel noted that there had been no other urgent business received for consideration following the publication of the agenda.

6.

Dates of Future Meetings

(Democratic Services Manager) To note that future meetings of the Task & Finish Panel will be held at 7.00pm on the following dates:

 

(i)         Thursday 19 March 2020;

 

(ii)        Wednesday 15 April 2020; and

 

(iii)       Thursday 14 May 2020.

Minutes:

The Panel noted that future meetings of the Panel would be held at 7.00pm on the following dates:

 

·        Thursday 19 March 2020;

 

·        Wednesday 15 April 2020; and

 

·        Thursday 14 May 2020.