Property Realisation Strategy
Councillor Andrew Rule asked the following question of the Leader of the Council:
Shortly after becoming Leader of the Council, the Leader placed great emphasis on bringing the Council’s unsustainable debt levels under control. This has become an even more urgent priority following the Non Statutory Review. Can the Leader of the Council update the Chamber on the progress of the Council’s property realisation strategy, the proceeds from which form a key part in the debt reduction strategy?
Councillor David Mellen replied as follows:
Thank you Lord Mayor and can I thank Councillor Rule for his question.
Capital receipts generated for the financial year 2020/21 exceed the target we set at the start of that financial year. The sale targets for this year remain challenging and there are a number of actions underway to accelerate our plans. These include the prioritisation of the high value sales currently on the programme to ensure that we achieve the quickest possible and maximum possible receipts; the re-evaluation of the existing pipeline for robustness leading to a refreshed forecast produced to enable future planning; the identification of a number of additional properties for potential sale following a full review of our assets that are going through the due diligence process and will come to the market in the coming months; and we have also had a number of operational properties coming through following the budget process which will become available for sale. In addition to this we have reviewed the process and decision making used to deliver sales, appointed additional capacity into the Property team and are considering alternative routes to market to generate quicker receipts where appropriate. Our Member Asset Rationalisation Board is tightly monitoring the programme on a monthly basis.
Old Market Square
Councillor Andrew Rule asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Culture and Schools:
Could the Portfolio Holder confirm whether the concession agreements in place for the Beach, Christmas ‘Wonderland’ and ad hoc events throughout the year place an obligation on the event operator to reinstate any damage done to the hard standing areas of Old Market Square?
Councillor Eunice Campbell-Clark replied as follows:
Thank you very much Councillor Rule. All events staged within Old Market Square and across our public open spaces and parks are required to reinstate or meet the cost of any damage that occurs during the licenced period. A pre and post event site survey is undertaken to ensure this happens at all times.
Councillor Andrew Rule asked the following question of the Leader of the Council:
The ‘Big Conversation’ on the future of Broadmarsh is in danger of becoming the ‘Big Silence’. Could the Leader of the Council give an update on the vision for the site and how it is envisaged the vision will become a reality?
Councillor David Mellen replied as follows:
Thank you Lord Mayor and thank you to Councillor Rule for his question. I thought what would be the question about the Broadmarsh Shopping Centre? Maybe how it will fit in with the College building now completed and being landscaped; or how it relates to the car park, bus station and library building, with the car park and bus station due to open in the next few months complete with a farm of photovoltaic cells on the roof and 81 charging points in the car park; or maybe there would be a question about how Broadmarsh will enhance the now re-opened Castle and the thousands of visitors expected to that attraction. None of those questions. Instead Councillor Rule asks why no-one is talking about Broadmarsh. Well I think perhaps he can be forgiven for not reading the New York Times, which recently covered the opportunity that the City has in this space ripe for development at the heart of a major city. Perhaps he doesn’t read the Guardian which has featured the site and the record number of contributions to the conversation about it – over 3000 individual submissions to this consultation, more than any previous Council consultation. Perhaps Councillor Rule can be forgiven for not seeing the item on the Six O’Clock News on the BBC a few weeks ago. Surely he can’t have missed the many items in local media. There have been two front page stories in the last month alone in the Nottingham Post and in my conversations with local media outlets and residents I have been asked more about what is going to happen with the Broadmarsh than any other issue. So Councillor Rule, I don’t know where you have been but in my experience lots of people are talking about this site and the possibilities it gives to us.
Earlier in the year the Council thanked everyone for taking part in the Big Conversation. Following on from the huge success of the engagement exercise, we announced the appointment of an external advisory group. A group chosen, giving their time freely, based on their expert knowledge in urban design and architectural expertise, work on delivering major international and national projects as well as their understanding of Nottingham’s heritage and the needs of Nottingham businesses and people. The Group has been asked to work on two crucial aspects for the site: the creative vision for the space, as well as a recommendation for how Nottingham can deliver this project over the next few years in partnership. The Advisory Group has met a number of times this year. It includes Greg Nugent, Director of Brand, Culture and Marketing at the 2012 Olympics, Sir Tim Smit, creator of the Eden Project, Charlotte Throssel, Chief Executive of Disability Support, Natalie Gasson-McKinley, Development Manager at the Federation of Small Businesses as well as Councillor Roberts, one of the local councillors and Chair of the previous Broadmarsh Councillors Working Group, and former Councillor Jane Urquhart, who has long experience in planning, housing and transport in Nottingham. The Chair and the Vice Chair of the Advisory Group have continued the Big Conversation with a number of bigger contributions to the Big Conversation and they have spent in excess of 100 hours listening to their thoughts and ideas in addition to considering the responses received, in excess of 3000 and summarised in a report accessible on the Council’s website. The report sets out the top themes from the responses, many which talked about the necessity for this site to be carbon-neutral, which of course we whole-heartedly agree with.
We have had a successful bid to the Local Enterprise Partnership, D2N2, for £8m to add to resource already secured as part of the Transforming Cities bid. This provides for demolition of the western end of the site, which will start in the next couple of months; and securing experts to help develop the vision for the footprint of the former shopping centre. A further bid for the site has been submitted to the Government’s Levelling Up Fund. Work has been ongoing to secure the resources to deliver the work required to deliver the creative vision and delivery mechanism. The conclusion of that work saw the announcement last week of the appointment of Stories and the Thomas Heatherwick Studio. Appointing companies of such international standing and recognition demonstrates the scale of the ambition that we have for the Broadmarsh site and the fact that Thomas Heatherwick wants to be involved is testament to the once-in-a-generation opportunity that we have here in Nottingham. Working with the Advisory Group and listening to the feedback from thousands of people and groups we want to create something different and special in the heart of our City. The announcement of the new appointments has been received positively from a wide and broad range of people, including those who took part in the Big Conversation and they have taken their time to email me personally to thank us for this exciting news. The programme over the summer is to deliver the vision and strategy by the autumn and at that point there will be an opportunity to invite everyone’s comments yet again on the proposals to enable the master-planning of the site to begin.
All of this is has happened within a year of the collapse of Intu and just over nine months of the Council having complete control of the site. There is no silence Councillor Rule, plenty of conversation, lots more to come, a terrific opportunity for Nottingham.
Self-managed Allotment Associations
Councillor Andrew Rule asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Highways, Transport and Cleansing Services:
Could the Portfolio Holder confirm when self-managed allotment associations will be provided with the revised allotment leases?
Councillor Rosemary Healy replied as follows:
I thank Councillor Rule for his question. The Allotment Team is currently working hard to reinstate the full allotment service as there has been a break in the continuity of the service during the last year due to the Covid restrictions. The Team manage over 2,800 allotment plots that are owned by Nottingham City Council. Of these, approximately 800 plots are managed directly by the Allotment Service with tenancies to ‘direct-let tenants’. The other 2,000 are leased to 19 allotment associations or companies under business leases. The association-managed sites include the majority of the large allotment sites ranging from 600 plots down to 30 plots. These lease-holding associations are required to manage and maintain their allotment sites independently from the Council. However, each association is up for review at different times as this will be dependent on the date that they originally signed up and in what year their current lease started or ends. The Service is currently in discussion with the associations who either are ready to review their current lease or those that are willing to proactively surrender their existing leases and move onto the new preferred lease arrangements. The Service is happy to talk directly with Councillor Rule to discuss any specific sites he may have concerns over.
Councillor Kevin Clarke asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Strategic Regeneration and Communications:
The news that the opening of Nottingham Central Library will be further delayed until at least 2023 is naturally a disappointment for us and the people of Nottingham. Could the Portfolio Holder explicitly explain why this delay has occurred and why the reason has not previously been made public?
Councillor David Mellen replied as follows:
Thank you Lord Mayor and thank you to Councillor Clarke for his question. Firstly, I want to reiterate that the delivery of a new Central Library remains a key priority for the Council and its development remains part of the City Council’s Capital Programme moving forwards. The building itself is very nearly complete, along with the bus station and the car park. Funding has been secured as a result of the Transforming Cities Fund to work on the pedestrian area of Collin Street and Carrington Street, which will surround the library entrance. In terms of the timing and delivery of the second stage of the project: the fit-out of the library, I’m acutely aware that any delay around the re-provision of a Central Library for Nottingham is not desirable. I am a passionate advocate for libraries and the role that they play in our City and it is important to me to ensure that this project is completed as soon as possible. After the closure of Angel Row, it is vital that we have a new Central Library as soon as we can. I can assure you Councillor Clarke that every effort will be made to open the new Central Library as soon as practicable. The end of 2022 remains the target for this work. We are now moving to the tender stage to appoint a company to work on leading the fit-out of it at the same time as reviewing our options for capital funding. The scheme of course needs to be delivered within our current expenditure constraints and this will be planned for carefully. I am proud of the continued commitment that we have been able to make over the last decade to improve library services in Nottingham and our ambition around the provision of the new Central Library remains undiminished.
Traffic Survey on Green Lane
Councillor Kirsty Jones asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Highways, Transport and Cleansing Services:
Since we were elected as councillors for Clifton East we have been inundated with concerns from residents of Green Lane concerning the number of heavy vehicles using it as a ‘rat run’. Since 2019, resurfacing works to repair the roads have cost the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds and this does nothing to fix the environmental or noise issues to the local residents. While we recognise a traffic survey was undertaken in 2018, residents believe the volume of heavy vehicles has increased alarmingly and we have submitted a request for a new survey to be undertaken, with the hope of possibly implementing weight restrictions as a result. Will the Portfolio Holder commit to supporting us in getting a new traffic survey for Green Lane?
Councillor Rosemary Healy replied as follows:
I thank Councillor Jones for her question. Concerns relating to the number of Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) using Green Lane as a through route is a long standing issue and officers remain committed to continuing to work with local councillors to explore different solutions. Within existing legislation, it is very difficult to enforce environmental weight limits as they rely on the Police being present to catch HGV drivers travelling through an area and with limited Police resources it is unlikely to be a priority for them. Also, access for loading to businesses within the area affected by such a weight limit would still be allowed to service shops and other premises, which only adds to the complexity.
Since the 2018 survey we have been working with local councillors to alter the traffic calming measures on Green Lane to try to reduce the noise and environmental impact of HGVs using the road. Phase 1, outside of the school, was completed in 2019 and the area towards South Church Drive is due to begin imminently. Whilst it is recognised that these works will not deter HGVs by themselves they should hopefully further reduce the noise HGVs cause as they travel and access businesses within the area. In addition to these changes we have also written to the main HGV operators using Green Lane as a through route to encourage them to avoid using the area. Looking to the future, it is hoped that the Government will soon give more powers to local authorities to enforce moving traffic offences, including environmental weight limits. An announcement on this from Government is expected by the end of this year. Once these powers are available to us the option of an environmental weight limit for Clifton, including Green Lane, becomes a much more viable solution subject to the necessary funding. The commissioning of a new traffic survey at that stage would of course be necessary as part of any successful business case for such a scheme to be implemented. I will certainly commit to supporting a new traffic survey for Green Lane as part of a business case for such a scheme to be implemented.
Councillor Kevin Clarke asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Highways, Transport and Cleansing Services:
With the Wind Mobility e-scooter trial entering its ninth month, could we ask the Portfolio Holder to outline what effect the measures taken to deal with irresponsible riders are currently having, especially in dealing with issues like badly parked scooters or dangerous riding?
Councillor Rosemary Healy replied as follows:
I thank Councillor Clarke for his question. The e-scooter service remains popular with over 500,000 total rides since its launch and is expected to continue to grow through the summer season. To address the key issues of parking and pavement riding many improvements have been made in partnership with Wind Mobility. This includes:
· physically marking all parking bays across the City. This work comprised a review of all 400 spots by the Council’s Highways and Road Safety Teams to ensure they were placed in areas away from desire lines and in line with other street furniture. Around 325 spots have been reinstated with the rest removed due to lack of footway space or potential conflicts with other road users. The marked spots have significantly improved the way riders leave the e-scooters when ending a ride.
· Wind have increased the fines to users for leaving e-scooters outside of these mandatory parking spots which is also having a positive effect and reducing the number of e-scooters abandoned. Messaging through the App is regularly sent to the 30,000 registered users reminding users of the rules.
· During May and June a series of ‘days of action’ were conducted by the Community Protection Officers, mostly around Derby Road and Mansfield Road. A total of 40 e-scooter riders were observed and engaged. 10 of those were found to be Wind e-scooter users about to, or riding on the pavement; 25 riders were found to be compliantly riding Wind e-scooters on the road; and the remaining 10 e-scooters were privately owned. All non-compliant riders were warned. Further days of action are in the process of being planned in liaison with the Community Protection Team.
· Wind’s street patrollers have grown to 6 full time employees who target hotspots around the City witnessing pavement riding and correcting poorly parked e-scooters. The patrollers have reported 993 instances of inappropriate riding since the patrol team was introduced. On first offence riders receive a warning text message informing them they have been witness riding illegally. 954 users have received a first warning. Users caught on a repeat second offence receive a one week ban. 46 users are on a one-week ban. The final stage is a complete ban and 12 riders have received permanent account suspensions linked to criminal incidents and/or charges.
In the week 28 June – 4 July, total pavement riding recorded was 57, down from the previous fortnight when it was 152. Pavement riding instances are showing an increase to 99 in 5 -11 July but that is as much due to the increased number of patrollers actively working and the continued growth in ridership and fleet size. As restrictions ease a summer programme of safety and training events will commence. Further details will be shared once the plan is agreed.
Councillor Nick Raine asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Finance and Resources:
What does the Portfolio Holder for Finance and Resources think the consequences will be if the Government takes £20 a week off many Nottingham families by scrapping the Universal Credit uplift?
Councillor Sam Webster replied as follows:
Thank you Councillor Raine for the question. Back in January, he and colleagues will recall that Full Council passed a motion which called on the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to retain the £20 per week Universal Credit uplift and we wrote to the Chancellor on behalf of Nottingham residents to make this point. We had some success as the Chancellor did change course after threatening to withdraw the uplift from April this year, instead he approved a temporary extension to the uplift. Sadly though, yet again, thousands of Nottingham families now find themselves back in the same position with the Chancellor again threatening to reduce Universal Credit payments by £20 per week from October. Councillor Raine rightly asks: what will the consequences be for the tens of thousands of families in Nottingham who receive Universal Credit. Well, let’s remind ourselves that Universal Credit supports low paid working people in our City, tens of thousands of children in our City and people who are entitled to support with housing costs or who have lost their job during the Covid pandemic. So the consequences will often be felt most acutely by Nottingham children who are growing up in families where there already isn’t much money around, families who are living in poverty. How important is that £20 per week? It can be the difference between being able to afford food or having to visit a food bank; it is whether you need to take out a loan to get the washing machine fixed; it is whether a family can have a day out during the summer holidays; it is whether the household bills are stacking up; it is that pair of shoes for back to school in September; it is the difference between being able to afford the rent or not. It is all of these things and much more. £20 a week is no bonanza, in my personal opinion the uplift should be permanent. I want to make two points. Firstly, that the poorest families have been most affected by the health consequences of Covid and the resulting economic fallout. Secondly, continuing the uplift at the very least until the Covid crisis abates, which it most certainly isn’t at the moment, is not a matter of affordability it is a matter of priority. So on the first point: it is undisputed that the health and economic impact of Covid has been felt most acutely by the poorest people across the country and here in our own City in Nottingham. Health and economic inequalities are raging at this time. Lower paid and lower skilled working people are much more likely to have lost their jobs, not be able to work from home, have additional childcare needs, have gone through periods of Covid isolation without receiving full pay, have lost hours at work and the list goes on and on. Reducing Universal Credit now would be a big blow to many families who are already struggling to make ends meet. On my second point about political priorities: this isn’t about affordability, it is about who the Chancellor and Prime Minister want to help. The cost of making the £20 per week uplift permanent is estimated to be around £6bn per year. Now compare that to the £27bn that the National Audit Office says the Government might have lost through schemes such as the Bounce Back Loans for businesses during the pandemic. The National Audit Office has stated that levels of fraud were very high and I quote the National Audit Office saying “Government often prioritised the need for speed when setting up new initiatives over reducing the risk to the tax payer.” Without proper checks in place the National Audit Office is investigating the matter and has pointed to the £27bn on several occasions in public reports, or said another way 27 thousand million pounds potentially lost to fraud, organised crime and business failure. Last week the Prime Minister talked about levelling up, but his words must be translated into policy otherwise they become meaningless bluff and bluster yet again. Taking over £1000 a year away from the poorest families in Nottingham will be a litmus test for us to make a judgement. Are the Conservatives serious about levelling up or it be just another case of levelling down, leaving behind those that have been left behind before? In the aftermath of the global financial crisis over a decade ago it was, and still it shameful that the poorest people in this country were made to pay the price of mistakes made by the wealthiest. In terms of policies that our national politicians pursue, this is one of those markers. Who will the Conservative Government expect to pay for this latest economic and public debt crisis? The message I imagine from Labour in Nottingham is crystal clear: let it not be the poorest families again.
Councillor Jay Hayes asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Adults and Health:
Will the Portfolio Holder for Adults and Health be continuing to wear a face mask on public transport and in closed spaces?
Councillor Adele Williams replied as follows:
Thank you Councillor Hayes. Yes, I will be wearing a face covering while out shopping and on public transport etc as I did on the way here on the bus today. As always, I was impressed by the measures on the bus and pleased to see almost everyone on the bus wearing a face covering. All through the pandemic people in Nottingham have put up with so much and worked so hard to support and back each other through all the difficult times that people have lived through. They have worked really hard to keep each other safe and we are nowhere near out of the pandemic yet with our case rates rising, coupled with the big strides we have yet to make in getting more of our citizens vaccinated. That means it would be absolutely reckless to abandon protective measures that most of us can do with little more than a slight inconvenience. Vaccination is working but we have more work to do. If we wear a face covering it is primarily to protect other people, it is not about ourselves and collectively by standing together as we have done during the time of Covid. We keep each other safer if we continue to do that. I hope that all of our citizens can feel safe to go out rather than being fearful of going to the shops and pubs because they are worried about being exposed to the virus because others have decided that they don’t want to wear one. Wearing your face covering protects citizens who might be more vulnerable to the virus and it also protects the jobs of people who work in our city businesses. Letting Covid have its freedom threatens lives and threatens livelihoods. It is worth clarifying, as it might have been lost in some of the really unhelpful rhetoric by politicians, that the official public Government guidance still says that it is still expected and recommended that face coverings are worn on public transport and in busy indoor areas. Covid has not gone away, only the legal teeth to enforce. Nottingham City Transport and the Tram are asking the same and I know that other businesses the very same. As a Council we maintain our expectations that people will wear face coverings when they access Council services unless exempt. Our City’s key workers have been out on the front line during the pandemic and we will not let those claps ring hollow by standing by as they are unnecessarily exposed to risk. This pandemic has taken many lives and is still doing so. Our hospital colleagues report that they are seeing more people admitted, that increasing numbers are young and many of them unvaccinated. I won’t need to tell Nottingham mums and dads how many young people and school-aged kids are getting Covid and we don’t yet know what the tale of Long Covid will be. The Government has let Covid rip through our communities and I know that people in Nottingham will do their bit to slow it down. In Nottingham we stand together, we stand with each other not just for ourselves. Get vaccinated, wear your face covering unless you are exempt and enjoy our City safely. The message remains: ‘hand, space, jabs and face’.
Councillor Angharad Roberts asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Housing, Planning and Heritage:
Considering proposed Government planning reforms and the recent cross-party Parliamentary motion emphasising the importance of retaining the right of citizens to object to individual planning applications, what can the Council do to make known our support for this crucial element of the local democratic scrutiny of planning and development applications in Nottingham?
Councillor Linda Woodings replied as follows:
Thank you. As I said to this Council last October, I am dismayed by the proposals contained within the Government’s White Paper on Planning which do absolutely zero to address the acute shortage of housing in this country. You will recall that Boris Johnson said that he wanted to take the planning system, tear it down and start again. Of course, the devil is in the detail and we still haven’t seen the details from the White Paper consultation. We have, however, seen the shock result in the Chesham and Amersham By-Election which delivered an astonishing swing away from the Government with the loss of a 16,000 majority attributed to objections by the voting public to both HS2 and, significantly, the Planning White Paper. So colleagues, the Government doesn’t listen to planning experts or housing experts, even to their own Tory councils but that result has finally made them sit up and take notice to the electoral damage that they will inevitably face by destroying the right of local people to have a say on individual planning applications affecting their homes, their neighbourhoods and their communities. The Tories have to face up to the fact that sucking up to wealthy developers and property tycoons, deregulating planning standards and silencing the voices of communities might result in substantial donations to their Party but it doesn’t go down well with ordinary members of the public. Let’s just quickly remind ourselves of the size of those substantial donations. In the first three months of this year the Tories received 36 donations from developers totalling £891,984. Over the last decade more than one fifth of Tory Party donations came from the residential property sector - £60.8m in donations from individuals and companies relating to substantial property interests. No wonder they have to deliver for these people a planning free-for-all. We still haven’t seen much detail yet of the new White Paper and now I sincerely hope that we won’t, that this ridiculous Bill won’t be quashed by common sense but maybe by fear of electoral defeat. I can tell you that this Council whole-heartedly supports the importance of democracy in planning decisions, especially by maintaining the ability for citizens to make representations on specific planning applications that might affect them, whether it may be to object or to support. Whilst decisions on planning applications are often very complex, hearing the views of citizens greatly helps our planning officers and Planning Committee members in making decisions. Nottingham City Council responded to the consultation on the White Paper with a number of observations, one of which was expressing concern about the proposals for more decisions about the principle of developments to be taken through the new proposed zoning system. ‘Zones’ are a new mish-mash of planning areas, a chaotic mess of different standards and regulations for different areas: either ‘protected’ where current planning processes apply; ‘renewal’ which has a little bit of influence but lots and lots of permitted development; ‘translation’ with lots of repurposing of inappropriate buildings for housing; and ‘growth’ zones which are a free-marketer’s dream where almost anything goes. The White Paper proposes that public input will only be during the drawing up of the Local Plan stage but they want a time limited period to consult on that Local Plan and they plan to stop direct representations in person from members of the public to the Government Inspector who will approve the Plan. So not actually any ‘say’ there. If you don’t like the building going up on the land next to you, well you should have had the foresight to object four years earlier in writing. Nottingham City Council has made clear our view: engagement with citizens at the planning application stage should remain at the heart of the planning system and we have worked with partners including the Local Government Association, Core Cities and the Joint Planning Advisory Board to send that clear message to Government. It is likely that the Government response to the White Paper consultation will be published in the autumn. Recent statements by Ministers suggest that the proposals that will emerge in the Planning Bill may well be different to those put forward in the White Paper. However, the extent to which the proposals in the Bill will affect the ability of citizens to comment on individual development proposals affecting them remains to be seen and remains a worry. We will continue to use any, and every opportunity to emphasise the importance of local consultation and engagement in decision making on individual planning applications and to make sure the public fully understand how the current proposals, unamended, will harm their communities, silence their voices and leave the gate wide open for unrestrained deregulated building in their community.