Agenda and minutes

Overview & Scrutiny Committee
Tuesday, 8th June, 2021 7.00 pm

Venue: Conference Suite - Civic Offices. View directions

Contact: Vivienne Messenger Tel: (01992) 564243  Email:  democraticservices@eppingforestdc.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

14.

Webcasting Introduction

The Chairman will read the following announcement:

 

“I would like to remind everyone present that this meeting will be broadcast live to the internet (or filmed) and will be capable of repeated viewing (or another use by such third parties).

 

Therefore, by entering the Conference Suite and using the seating area, you are consenting to being filmed and to the possible use of those images and sound recordings for webcasting and/or training purposes.”

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chairman reminded everyone present that the meeting would be broadcast live to the Internet, and that the Council had adopted a protocol for the webcasting of its meetings.

15.

SUBSTITUTE MEMBERS

To report the appointment of any substitute members for the meeting.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee noted that Councillor S Heap had been appointed as a substitute for Councillor D Plummer.

16.

MINUTES

To note that the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 3 June 2021 will be confirmed at the next meeting on 1 July 2021.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

It was noted that the minutes of the meeting of the Committee of 3 June would be confirmed at the next meeting on 1 July 2021.

17.

DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST

To declare interests in any item on the agenda.

 

In considering whether to declare a pecuniary or a non-pecuniary interest under the Council’s Code of Conduct, Members are requested to pay particular attention to paragraph (11) of the Code in addition to the more familiar requirements.

 

This requires the declaration of a non-pecuniary interest in any matter before Overview & Scrutiny which relates to a decision of or action by another Committee or Sub-Committee of the Council, a Joint Committee or Joint Sub-Committee in which the Council is involved and of which the Councillor is also a Member.

 

Paragraph (11) of the Code of Conduct does not refer to Cabinet decisions or attendance at an Overview & Scrutiny meeting purely for the purpose of answering questions or providing information on such a matter.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

(a)         Pursuant to the Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct, Councillor I Hadley declared a non-pecuniary interest in item 9, Qualis Quarterly Monitoring Report Quarter 2 2020/21, by virtue of being Chairman of the Audit and Governance Committee, and because of this he was not allowed to be on the Stronger Council Select Committee. The Democratic Services Officer advised that this Committee was not a decision-making committee nor would it be changing the report or taking a vote at this meeting.

 

(b)         Councillor S Murray declared a non-pecuniary interest in item (9a), Economic Development – Town Centre Regeneration, regarding The Broadway and High Road in Loughton by virtue of being an elected member of Loughton Town Council.

 

(c)          Councillor S Heap declared a non-pecuniary interest in item (9a), Economic Development – Town Centre Regeneration, regarding Buckhurst Hill by virtue of being an elected member of Buckhurst Hill Parish Council, and item (9), Qualis Quarterly Monitoring Report Quarter 2 2020/21, by virtue of being a member of the Audit and Governance Committee.

18.

Public Questions & Requests to Address the Overview and Scrutiny Committee

(Democratic & Electoral Services Team Manager) To receive questions submitted by members of the public and any requests to address the Committee, in accordance with Article 6 (Overview and Scrutiny) of the Council’s Constitution.

 

(a)       Public Questions

 

Members of the public may ask questions of the Chairman of Overview and Scrutiny Committee at ordinary meetings of the Committee, in accordance with the procedure set out in the Constitution.

 

(b)       Requests to address the Overview and Scrutiny Committee

 

Any member of the public or a representative of another organisation may address the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on any agenda item (except those dealt with in private session as exempt or confidential business), due to be considered at the meeting.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee noted that no public questions or requests to address the meeting had been received.

19.

Executive Decisions - Call-In

(Democratic & Electoral Services Team Manager) To consider any matter referred to the Committee for decision in relation to a call-in, in accordance with Article 6 (Overview and Scrutiny) of the Council’s Constitution.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee noted that no executive decisions had been called-in for consideration since the previous meeting.

20.

Sale of Pyrles Lane Site to Qualis pdf icon PDF 221 KB

To discuss and comment on the outline proposals from Qualis for the redevelopment of the Pyrles Lane site in Loughton (report attached).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

A Small, Strategic Director, introduced this report. When Qualis was created at the end of 2019 it was with the intention of taking forward a number of potential redevelopment sites that the Council had been holding on to for some time, as the market was unable or unwilling to respond, due to local conditions or site challenges. The Council had agreed last year to transfer the Pyrles Lane site but Qualis had held it in abeyance, as the access and site conditions made it more challenging to progress.

 

Qualis Commercial Development Director, S Rutter, outlined the redevelopment proposal, which was a Local Plan site and was now at the pre-application stage with the Local Planning Authority. The original scheme in 2016 had included flats and houses with a narrow access off Pyrles Lane, but the creation of a suitable entrance road was important. Regarding timescales, Qualis would be ready for the evaluation stage by the beginning of July 2021 followed by a formal offer, and a consultation would be organised for mid to the end of September 2021.

 

Councillor S Murray acknowledged this was an important site in Loughton. He wanted to see the financial model and queried the use of ‘fair’ market value rather than ‘proper’ market value. He felt it probably had around the right number / mix of properties and was conscious the application might go before Area Plans South. Adequate parking would be required as public transport links were not very good. If Cabinet decided to sell the site, what was in place to prevent Qualis submitting a completely different application? Councillor J Philip replied that fair market price was a recognised term. The Qualis Four-Year Business Plan would incorporate a proper business case. The planning committees were there to make decisions but if the plans were changed, the project would need a better business case and return to Cabinet.

 

Councillor D Wixley, the Ward Councillor, clarified that the Council’s Pyrles Lane Nursery had previously been located here and the site had first been disclosed 10 years ago but he had not been kept informed on developments as the Ward Councillor and for residents. A press release would be helpful to avoid any misunderstandings. Based on the houses proposed it would go before the District Development Management Committee (DDMC) not Area Plans South and to Loughton Town Council for comments. He had a phone conversation with S Rutter yesterday. The biggest concern on residents was to those whose properties backed on to this site, especially 77 Pyrles Lane and no. 81, as Qualis wanted to purchase some land. Since the Council had annually trimmed the trees on the site, what would happen in future? There had been a suggestion that the water supply that went to the GROW community garden would be cut off, but this should be preserved. A site visit before the planning application determination would be useful as the drawings in the report made the site look bigger than it was. He stated  ...  view the full minutes text for item 20.

21.

Qualis Quarterly Monitoring Report - Quarter 2 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 257 KB

To pre-scrutinise the attached Qualis Monitoring Report for quarter 2, prior to its consideration by Cabinet.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

This report presented the second Quarter’s monitoring report for the Qualis trading year 2020/21 and covered the period from 1 February to 31 March 2021. This reflected a shortened quarter due to the change in the Qualis year end. This report would usually be reviewed by the Stronger Council Select Committee but, as this Committee would not be meeting until July, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee would scrutinise progress instead, and any actions could be identified in a timely way. Appendix A detailed the Qualis Board monitoring report for quarter 2 as agreed by the Qualis Board on 29 April 2021. Performance was measured against the business plan targets for 2020/21. The Board report had highlighted performance against these using the recognised Red, Amber, Green reporting system (RAG). The majority of the deliverables for quarter 2 were flagged as green. The Strategic Director and 151 Officer, A Small, advised that generally the promise was good as there were few ambers highlighted. As detailed in the report at paragraph 3.2, the cash balance had moved from amber to green last quarter. Regarding Qualis Living (3.3), the delay in securing the third commercial property was the reason that this KPI was flagged as amber, but he believed Qualis had found a suitable property. Income and expenditure remained at amber, as detailed at 3.7. It was reported that the Roundhills site (3.8) had moved to the consultation stage. In conclusion this was an improvement on the last quarter.

 

Councillor I Hadley referring to the cash balance as being £3.2 million higher, would Qualis reinvest this? N Dawe, Chief Operating Officer, replied that this was essential cash that was needed to run Qualis to the end of year and was not for reinvestment.

 

Councillor S Murray asked about the use of ‘should’ in paragraph 3.2 and why was Qualis not more confident? The Strategic Director replied that the Qualis Business Plan expected to make a profit in the second year.

 

Councillor R Baldwin remarked that in relation to assets (income) versus liability, what tangible assets did Qualis have to offset these liabilities? The Strategic Director replied that the tangible assets it had were the two commercial assets it had acquired. As long as it had cash in the bank, a current asset, it would ultimately have work in progress showing on the balance sheet as money in the bank, which was an asset as well.

 

Councillor D Wixley asked what the difference was between assets and long-term assets? The Strategic Director replied that a fixed / long-term asset was anything that could not be liquidised within a year, so cash was usually a current asset while property was a fixed term asset.

 

Councillor M Sartin reminded members that this would be going to Cabinet on 21 June 2021.

 

RESOLVED:

 

(1)          That the Committee reviewed the Qualis Quarterly Monitoring Report for quarter 2 2020/21 and no actions were identified.

22.

Any Other Business - Economic Development: Town Centre Regeneration - Loughton Broadway, Loughton High Road, Buckhurst Hill and Epping town centres pdf icon PDF 117 KB

To consider the reports and express opinions around the immediate actions identified prior to consideration by Cabinet.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Portfolio Holder Councillor J Philip introduced the town centre regeneration reports. The District had more than one key town centre and they were all very different. The first of the town centre reports had been produced for the last municipal year to kickstart regeneration. The consultant, Mr P Messenger, who was now the Council’s Town Centre Project Manager, had looked at these as retail centres, and they were produced throughout the lockdowns. The Council wanted to move forward at a reasonable pace but would not be doing everything in the reports. It had to be done as a collaborative approach driven by businesses in the town centres and was looking at sources of funding from partnership working. Waltham Abbey and Ongar town centres had already achieved improvements, so the Council was looking favourably on things that could be done quickly to improve the town centres. For the longer term in conjunction with other stakeholders in the town centres and with a real commitment from businesses, this was seen as the way forward.

 

J Houston, Partnerships and Economic Development Specialist, reported that there were six market towns in the District each with their own character, strengths and opportunities. The challenges high streets were facing was recognised and the Covid epidemic had impacted on shops in the high streets, but not at the vacancy levels apparent in other places, so the high streets in the District were starting from a strong base. The Council was at the beginning of the process on how to tackle long term strategy and was one stakeholder in the partnerships. The reports provided a starting point of a localist approach as the high streets had their own characters and attractions.

 

Councillor A Lion commented that the reports were interesting and detailed. Localism had come in 2011, so it was important to do things ‘with’ not ‘to’ businesses and asked about feedback from the work in the Ongar and Waltham Abbey town centres. Was there a plan on timescales as there seemed a lot to do at one point in time? Councillor J Philip replied that it was important to move across all town centres promptly. The Council had employed a Town Centre Project Manager to oversee the schedule but had also budgeted for additional support because one officer might not be sufficient. People were positive about working in partnership with the Council. The project would be rolled out to larger villages as well. Guidance and priorities would initially help to identify the quick wins. The regeneration projects had to be brought in by the various town centres on what they wanted to see happen through collaborative working.

 

Councillor M Sartin said that small shopkeepers had been very creative during the lockdowns. Councillor B Jennings remarked that from events that Loughton Town Council had organised, it was larger chains that were governed by head office or the owner of the building, so the high streets were controlled by larger businesses.

 

In reference to Loughton Broadway, Councillor S Murray  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22.

23.

Exclusion of Public and Press

Exclusion

Democratic & Electoral Services Team Manager) To consider whether, under Section 100(A)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public and press should be excluded from the meeting for the items of business set out below on grounds that they will involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in the following paragraph(s) of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act (as amended) or are confidential under Section 100(A)(2):

 

Agenda Item No

Subject

Exempt Information Paragraph Number

Nil

Nil

Nil

 

The Local Government (Access to Information) (Variation) Order 2006, which came into effect on 1 March 2006, requires the Council to consider whether maintaining the exemption listed above outweighs the potential public interest in disclosing the information. Any member who considers that this test should be applied to any currently exempted matter on this agenda should contact the proper officer at least 24 hours prior to the meeting.

 

Background Papers 

(Democratic & Electoral Services Team Manager) Article 17 - Access to Information, Procedure Rules of the Constitution define background papers as being documents relating to the subject matter of the report which in the Proper Officer's opinion:

 

(a)        disclose any facts or matters on which the report or an important part of the report is based;  and

 

(b)        have been relied on to a material extent in preparing the report and does not include published works or those which disclose exempt or confidential information and in respect of executive reports, the advice of any political advisor.

 

The Council will make available for public inspection for four years after the date of the meeting one copy of each of the documents on the list of background papers.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee noted that there was no business which necessitated the exclusion of the public and press from the meeting.