Agenda item

Covid 19 Development Projects - Update 1

Finance and Economic Development -  (C-031-2020-21) This report sets out the overview of the development projects, the expected outcomes and high-level milestones.


(1)        The Cabinet reviewed and discussed the scope and progress of the Covid Recovery projects detailed within the report and agreed that the project ‘Digital Engagement & Gateway for Place’ be withdrawn; and


(2)        The Cabinet reviewed and noted the overview of the project portfolio across the council.


The Finance and Economic Development Portfolio Holder, Councillor Philip, introduced report outlining the recovery projects for Covid 19.


When Cabinet gave approval to proceed with the projects it was recognised at the time that these projects would need to have:

           Short-term objectives, i.e. that would need to be delivered in this financial year.

           Medium-term objectives, i.e. that are coherent with the approved plans and priorities of the Authority.

           Longer-term objectives i.e. that are coherent with the strategic objectives and emerging strategic objectives of the Authority.


The project briefs set-out the work and considerations that have taken place in August and September.


He noted that this was about moving towards Covid recovery and the report recorded the individual projects and what we were doing to take this forward. They were also reviewing each project to see if they should be taken forward.


The town centre regeneration was clearly something we wanted to keep on doing. As for the Digital Gateway for Place, after closely looking at this he had concluded that was a challenge to high on the risk level and on the returns we would receive on the money we would need to invest. Having spoken to the Housing and Communities Portfolio Holder they were both of the view that this should not be taken forward.


The Gazetteer for the Council to have a complete list and understanding of all business activity across the district. There was also the North Weald Airfield Business Zone that ties in with the masterplan. The Accommodation Review, officers have said that there had been significant interest in the top floor of our building, and they were hoping to have a tenant identified by the time it was reopened.


The Local Business Suppliers was tied up with the Gazetteer certainly something we should be doing. We were also looking to continue work on Sustainable Transport, on the Climate Emergency action, and on Local Skills and Opportunities, significant work was being done with the Government on this.


Councillor Philip stated we were doing a lot of things; on one project we shall have to pull the plug on but the rest we shall continue with.


Councillor H Whitbread noted that this was an impressive body of work and it was good to see proactive measures for the Covid recovery. She did share Councillor Philip’s concern over the Digital Gateway project, it was costly and replicated things that was already there.


Councillor Patel noted that when these projects were mentioned at a previous Cabinet meeting the term aspirational was used, it’s good to see the amount of work that has gone on since then. He commended Julie Chandler and Nick Dawe on the work done. He then remarked that he was taught to look for opportunity costs and believed that they should look at the opportunity costs for taking the Digital Gateway forward and what we could be doing to give us “more bang for our bucks”.


Councillor Philip agreed, opportunity costs were a key part of this and one of the reasons why we should not be going ahead with this. This had been tried in larger councils without it being successful.


Councillor Bedford, on behalf of Councillor Avey, reminded members about the money and commitment given to the Ongar Leisure Centre. They had managed to find between £1.3 to £1.5 million to refurbish the centre.


Councillor Murray agreed with the decision to lose of the Digital Gateway project. He noted that the local skills and opportunities was really important and would like the younger people to be kept in mind for this. He was surprised that we did not already hold the information for the Gazetteer. He was also disappointed with how the accommodation review was going, he did not think it was going to be much of a community hub. It seems that it was going to be the library and the voluntary services.


Councillor Philip said that they were still working out who exactly was going to be in the Community Hub. As for the Gazetteer there are over 8000 businesses in the district and we were aware of a number of them, however the economic development section consisted of about 2.5 people. We would like much more detail hence the project.


Councillor Janet Whitehouse noted that the town centre development programme was important. To what extent were ward members to be involved in the meetings about different high streets? Councillor Philip replied that the initial focus was around Waltham Abbey and the local councillors and town council were involved.


Councillor Bedford noted that a big problem we had with the Gazetteer was GDPR, and that we could not use all our old information.


Councillor Heap asked if we could develop new sites for North Weald we could realise a lot of money for the district. Was this a possibility? Councillor Philip replied that it was not in our Local Plan to do this and it was known that the residents of North Weald wanted to intensify flights at North Weald Airfield.





(1)        The Cabinet reviewed and discussed the scope and progress of the Covid Recovery projects detailed within the report and agreed that the project ‘Digital Engagement & Gateway for Place’ be withdrawn; and


(2)        The Cabinet reviewed and noted the overview of the project portfolio across the council.



Reasons for Proposed Decisions:


In July 2020 a series of actions were recommended that could assist with the economic recovery from Covid 19.  This report outlined the projects.

Other Options for Action:


None, as this was a review of the established projects.



Supporting documents: