Agenda and draft minutes
Venue: Committee Room One, Birkenhead Town Hall
Contact: Bryn Griffiths, Senior Democratic Services Officer Tel: 0151 691 8117 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
WELCOME AND INTRODUCTION
The Chair opened the meeting and reminded everyone that the meeting was being webcast and a copy is retained on the Council’s website for two years.
Councillor Gill Wood sent her apologies. Councillor Angela Davies substituted.
Councillor Ritchie Pitt sent his apologies. Councillor Brian Kenny substituted.
MEMBERS' CODE OF CONDUCT - DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
Members are asked to consider whether they have any disclosable pecuniary interests and/or any other relevant interest in connection with any item(s) on this agenda and, if so, to declare them and state the nature of the interest.
Members were asked to consider whether they had any disclosable pecuniary interests and/or any other relevant interest in connection with any items on this agenda and, if so, to declare them and state the nature of the interest.
No such declarations were made.
To approve the minutes of the meeting of the Economy, Regeneration and Development Committee held on 16th October 2023.
Resolved – That the minutes of the meeting held on16 October 2023 be approved as a correct record.
Notice of question to be given in writing or by email by 12 noon, Friday 1st December 2023 to the Council’s Monitoring Officer via this link: Public Question Form and to be dealt with in accordance with Standing Order 10.
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Please telephone the Committee Services Officer if you have not received an acknowledgement of your question by the deadline for submission.
Mr Alan Featherstone asked for the square metreage rented by all tenants at the present Birkenhead Market, including the outside market.
The Chair responded that currently, a total of 5,500 metres squared was rented by all tenants of Birkenhead Market. This was split into 4,656 metres squared in the indoor market and 644 metres squared in the outside market.
Mr Featherstone asked a supplementary question, about whether a feasibility report that showed a reduction of 50% of the square metreage for traders had been made available to councillors.
The Chair stated that Mr Featherstone would receive a written response to this question within 10 working days.
Mr Featherstone asked whether a current feasibility study document had been shared with Members of the Committee and whether that document would be made available to the market community when consultations begin.
The Director of Regeneration and Place confirmed that the document would be shared with members of the committee.
Mr Featherstone asked a supplementary question asking for clarification that the feasibility study raised in his previous question was the most recent version and not one from 3 years prior.
The Director of Regeneration and Place confirmed that it would be the most recent version of the study.
Mr Terry O’Reilly noted that market traders had been promised a state-of-the-art new market in the heart of Birkenhead town centre and asked for an explanation of how moving to a re-purposed site on the outskirts of the town centre would deliver on the promises made to the community.
The Chair responded that there were examples of other markets that have transitioned into re-purposed sites such as Altrincham and Crewe. He noted that high-level proposals to date had suggested circa £6 million of investment in the former Argos site would be required to deliver a market of similar internal quality to the House of Fraser option. He noted that the Argos option was located within walking distance of the train station, bus station, a multi-storey car park and sites allocated for housing within the local plan.
Mr Greg McTigue asked whether the committee felt it was acceptable that traders should be told about the Council’s redevelopment plans 24 hours before the committee were due to make a decision on the future of the market.
The Chair responded that the agenda for the committee, including the report on the options of the market, had been published on 28 November 2023, in line with standard operating procedures. He noted that following the publication of the report, officers and Members had met with the Birkenhead Market Tenants Association.
Mr Dave Borrill was not in attendance and the Lead Principal Lawyer read his question on his behalf. He asked whether a comprehensive retail assessment had been undertaken to evaluate the effects of moving the market into the Argos site and the impacts it would have on small businesses, businesses surrounding the market and the wider community.
The Chair responded that the work to date on the Argos site proposal was ... view the full minutes text for item 46.
Statements and Petitions
Notice of representations to be given in writing or by email by 12 noon, Friday 1st December 2023 to the Council’s Monitoring Officer (email@example.com) and to be dealt with in accordance with Standing Order 11.1.
Petitions may be presented to the Committee. The person presenting the petition will be allowed to address the meeting briefly (not exceeding one minute) to outline the aims of the petition. The Chair will refer the matter to another appropriate body of the Council within whose terms of reference it falls without discussion, unless a relevant item appears elsewhere on the Agenda. Please give notice of petitions to firstname.lastname@example.org in advance of the meeting.
Mr Alan Featherstone presented a statement in respect of agenda item 6, Birkenhead Market Options Study. The statement noted that he had attended the meeting of Council on Monday 4 December 2023 where there were some promising commitments to local businesses through the Local Plan. He was disappointed by the way that market traders were shown around the proposed Argos site, feeling that there was too much secrecy and felt that the site was too small, with a report delivered in May 2023 that showed this. He noted that Britain had a reputation as a nation of shopkeepers and asked Members of the Committee to consider voting against the recommendations in the report if they had any doubts about whether the proposed site could accommodate enough traders.
Mr Greg McTigue presented a statement on behalf of the Birkenhead Market Tenants Association. He stated that he was witnessing the demise of the traditional market in Birkenhead through under- investment, mis-management and complacency. He noted that the number of market traders had reduced significantly in recent years. He noted his disappointment in the proposed former Argos site compared to the bespoke, flagship design the market traders had been promised and stated that its location was also poor in comparison.
Questions by Members
Questions by Members to be dealt with in accordance with Standing Orders 12.3 to 12.8.
The Chair noted that no such questions had been submitted.
The appendices to this report may not be suitable to view for people with disabilities, users of assistive technology or mobile phone devices. Please contact Marcus Shaw (email@example.com) if you would like these documents in an accessible format.
The Chair noted that an addition to the recommendations in the report had been circulated to Members of the Committee from the Director of Regeneration and Place. The additional recommendation read as follows:
“The Director of Regeneration and Place wishes to make a further recommendation as follows to the above report as a new paragraph 7. Paragraph 7 of the recommendations within the report will be numbered as Recommendation 8:
7. Agree that in recognition of recent engagement with Birkenhead Market Traders Association the Director of Regeneration and Place be requested to undertake further feasibility work on both:
a) St John's Pavement to determine whether this is a viable option for market traders; and
b) the refurbishment of part of the existing Birkenhead Market.”
The Assistant Director for Asset Management and Investment presented the report of the Director of Regeneration and Place. The report noted that the current Birkenhead Market Hall was an aging building, operating inefficiently and the Council had been considering options to re-locate the market to an alternative market site for several years. A number of options had been considered and rejected for a variety of reasons detailed in the report, leaving the proposal to relocate the existing market to a new purpose-built market hall on the site of the former House of Fraser Store, as the current option subject to the scheme being delivered to an acceptable design and cost.
The capital cost of delivery for the House of Fraser proposal was at £31.6 million and the emerging funding gap could have had a significant impact on the Councils financial position.
The report noted that the Council acquired the Grange and the Pyramids in May 2023 and as part of the acquisition a strategic review of the vacant sites and sites that could accommodate a market offer to a similar size of the House of Fraser proposal had been undertaken. The report proposed to examine in detail an alternative permanent option in the former Argos Store located in the Grange shopping centre. However, the Council was at an early stage of engagement with new representatives for the market traders and consideration of alternative options was appropriate.
A discussion was had on the rise in costs of the House of Fraser site and the perceived slippage of the offer to traders, the need for further information on the costs involved and the housing requirements involved from grant funding received from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority. Members requested more communication from officers on plans and noted that the original plans for the House of Fraser site were meant to be a lynchpin for the regeneration of the area. Concerns were raised as to whether the proposed move to the former Argos site would have the same impact. Members were informed that the number of stalls available at the Argos site was comparable to the House of Fraser site.
Members were informed that Councillor Helen Raymond wished to move an amendment which had been ... view the full minutes text for item 49.
The appendices to this report may not be suitable to view for people with disabilities, users of assistive technology or mobile phone devices. Please contact Ed Kingsley (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like these documents in an accessible format.
The Principal Strategic Housing and Investment Officer presented the report of the Director of Regeneration and Place. The report set out the reasons for implementing a Selective Licencing scheme (scheme 4) in four designated areas in the borough. There was a robust evidence base to justify the targeting of proposed areas and support for the scheme had been evidenced through feedback from a wide-ranging consultation exercise. The consultation survey showed that 84.9% of respondents either strongly agreed or agreed with selective licensing proposals compared to 10.3% who either strongly disagreed or disagreed.
The report noted that while there had been substantial improvements in property conditions, previous and current Selective Licensing schemes demonstrated that without pro-active Council intervention in these areas, vulnerable tenants would continue to live in poor quality, often hazardous housing.
Members discussed the benefits of the selective licensing scheme, the impact that some rogue landlords can have on the lives of their tenants and the costs of the scheme Members also asked whether the service had the resources to deliver the scheme, which officers confirmed that they were confident that they did. Officers were congratulated for the level of consultation for the scheme and were thanked officers for the report.
Resolved – That it be agreed that:
1. Selective Licensing shall apply in Birkenhead West (LSOA E01007127 / Wirral 016B), Seacombe St Pauls (LSOA E01007273 / Wirral 008B), Bidston & St James West (LSOA E01007123 / Wirral 011D) and Egremont North (LSOA E01007218 / Wirral 002A);
2. The Selective Licensing designation for the above four areas shall commence on 1st April 2024 and last until 31st March 2029;
3. The selective licence fee shall be at the rate of £585; and
4. Any future eligible recharges be reserved for consideration as part of the review of the next Selective Licensing Scheme which will be brought to this Committee in 2024.
The Director of Regeneration and Place presented his report which set out the financial monitoring information for the Economy Regeneration and Housing Committee as at Quarter 2 (30 September) of 2023/24. The report provided Members with an overview of budget performance, including progress on the delivery of the 2023/24 saving programme and a summary of reserves and balances, to enable the Committee to take ownership of the budgets and provide robust challenge and scrutiny to Officers on the performance of those budgets.
Resolved – That Committee noted:
1. The adverse revenue forecast of £1.3m as at Quarter 2;
2. The progress on delivery of the 2023-24 savings programme at Quarter 2;
3. The level of reserves at Quarter 2; and
4. The capital programme of £52.238m for 2023-24
The Head of Regeneration Delivery presented the report of the Director of Regeneration and Place. He noted that the date given in paragraph 3.9 was an error and that the follow-up reports were due to be presented to the Economy, Regeneration and Housing Committee on 4 March 2024. The report sought to set out the status of existing Neighbourhood Frameworks and Masterplans and the process and timescale for adopting those that had been recently published and subject to consultation.
The report noted that the Council had been developing its regeneration strategy for Wirral Left Bank for a number of years. The Birkenhead 2040 Framework has been endorsed by the Committee as the interim regeneration strategy for Wirral in March 2022. This document was supported by a series of more detailed Neighbourhood Frameworks setting out the regeneration objectives and strategies for specific areas. Some of these regeneration documents were completed and published in 2021. Other Neighbourhood Frameworks remained in draft as further work was carried out on delivery strategies.
Members discussed the value of being able to see all the masterplans in the borough. A member queried whether specific areas such as West Kirby needed a masterplan when they are not as in need of regeneration in the way that other areas are. Members also queried the need for employing consultants to devise questions for residents.
The Director for Regeneration and Place noted that he agreed with the Members’ comments and that the scope of consultation for areas such as West Kirby should be done in consultation with local ward councillors. He felt that local officers could come up with plans for the area rather than use outside consultants.
The Head of Regeneration and Delivery stated that the work outlined in the report had helped support and inform the evidence base for the emerging Local Plan. The documents specifically helped support the housing numbers that had been attributed to the “other developable areas” or non-allocated sites in regeneration areas in the Local Plan.
The Local Plan identified 11 Regeneration Areas, and these were the focus of the Council’s brownfield first housing delivery. Neighbourhood Frameworks aligned with the boundaries of the regeneration areas and set out the regeneration objectives and potential housing delivery within each area.
Many of the Regeneration areas also contained Masterplan areas. These were defined in the Local Plan in policy WS6.3. Masterplan areas were areas where significant change was expected and a co-ordinated and comprehensive approach to development was required. Masterplans were planning documents and should be in place before development in the area could be approved. Masterplans could be progressed by a developer via a Planning application, or could be developed and endorsed by the Council.
Resolved – That
1. The process for adopting the Neighbourhood Frameworks and Masterplans as referred to in paragraph 3.1 of the report and the engagement process as described in 3.2 to 3.7 of the report be noted; and
2. The process for endorsement of the Neighbourhood Frameworks and Masterplans as referred ... view the full minutes text for item 52.
The Lead Principal Lawyer presented the report of the Director of Law and Governance. Members were informed that the work programme should align with the corporate priorities of the Council, in particular the delivery of the key decisions which are within the remit of the Committee
Members queried the timescale for feasibility work on Birkenhead Market and were informed that it would not come to Committee until March 2024 at the earliest.
Members requested an update report on Mass Transit and a delivery workshop on Council House Building Options be added to the Work Programme.
Resolved – That the Economy Regeneration and Housing Committee work programme for the remainder of the 2023/24 municipal year be agreed with the inclusion of the above items.
Addendum: Supplemental Questions and Answers
Mr Alan Featherstone:
“Has the feasibility report that would then reduce the square meterage by 50% of traders been made available to councillors?”
Answer: The Council are in the process of ensuring that all Councillors have a copy of the relevant report.
Mr Joe Orr:
“We have over 1400 signatures from the community rejecting the proposed move to Argos. Can you outline further if you have conducted any surveys to gauge public opinion of the local community?”
Answer: Following the decision at committee on the 6th Dec, further engagement will take place with traders on the options being considered.
Mr Tommy Roberts:
“I thought that to build a new market was £15 million, with funding from the government, but now we’re only getting allocated £6 million to do a refurbishment of Argos, I just wondered where the other £9 million was going?”
Answer: The £6m investment in the Princess pavement option is based on a concept design budget cost estimate and will be developed further to inform the actual cost of delivering this option.
Mr Sean Martin:
“I don’t know if you’re familiar with the computer game Sims, it’s a game where kids create a house and a family, and then they build a town around this, it’s an idyllic creation in their eyes, but of course it’s a figment of their imagination. The New Brighton Master Plan reminds me of Sims. The buildings produced by the architects of this plan resemble the buildings of this game. It has three new hotels, a floating lido, cafes and bars, open public spaces adorn the leisure strip, with no cars allowed, a minimum of 300 new homes on this short strip, but no infrastructure to support them. And do you know what makes it even more of a joke? There’s no plan to secure funding to deliver it. The private landowners have to deliver it themselves with no help from the Council, and to complicate it even more, regeneration will compete with planning to make it even more difficult. New Brighton has been let down by this Master Plan. When will the Council put this right?”
Answer: The publication of a Marine Promenade Masterplan is a requirement of the Local Plan. The aim of the Masterplan is to ensure that development proposals come forward in a coordinated and planned way, while providing flexibility by setting out a number of potential design options for each site. The Masterplan will also provide a robust basis for the Council to bid for future sources of public funding, by setting out a clear vision and set of priorities for the area. Council planning officers have been involved in the development of the Masterplan. Once approved, the Masterplan will form a material consideration in planning decisions, and the Council would encourage landowners and developers to engage with the Council’s pre-application planning service prior to the submission of a planning application.