The Executive Member for Regeneration, Councillor A Waters, will be in attendance to update the Board on his aims and aspirations, progress made to date and to highlight any emerging issues relating to his portfolio.
The Executive Member for Regeneration, Councillor A Waters, was in attendance at the meeting to update the Board on his aims and aspirations, progress made to date, and to highlight any emerging issues relating to his portfolio. The Director of Regeneration and Culture was also in attendance at the meeting.
The Executive Member made the following points as part of his update to the Board:
· This portfolio covered transportation, inward investment to the town, economic development, development, planning and building control.
· Current key issues included: Cycle lanes on Linthorpe Road; Inward investment at Centre Square, with the properties now largely being let; Tees AMP, with all units now let or under offer; and the BOHO Zone area.
· Regarding economic development, the Town Centre issues in relation to COVID-19 had had a huge impact. Reference was made to the significant amount of work being undertaken by officers in relation to grants and revenues and benefits, with a message of thanks being conveyed to all of the teams involved.
· Regarding the Future High Streets Fund, the Council had secured £14m, which was excellent news for the Town Centre and the wider Tees Valley area.
· Work was currently being undertaken in repurposing Captain Cook Square.
· In terms of housing development, work was progressing in Gresham and it was hoped that Thirteen Group would be on site soon. Reference was made to BOHO Bright ideas, where 60 units would be on site soon. Agreements had been reached with all of the developers for housing at Middlehaven, which was excellent news.
· Work was currently ongoing with regards to the Stainsby consultation, which was due to end at the end of January 2021.
Following the update, Members were afforded the opportunity to ask questions.
A Member referred to cycle path investment and the importance of this. Reference was made to the cycle lanes investment on Linthorpe Road and to the potential for further investment in other areas of Middlesbrough. Further details were requested as to how Linthorpe Road had been selected for the lanes, what other options had been considered, and what consultation work had been carried-out. In addition, it was queried whether further investment for other areas could be identified. In response, the Executive Member explained that consultation work in respect of Linthorpe Road had been carried out through the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA), as it was a TVCA funded project. Consideration was given to the feedback received to date, which had included negative feedback from some businesses. This was acknowledged, however, it was indicated that car parking on Linthorpe Road was limited, and the revenue generated from car parking was minimal as only 30 vehicles paid to park in this locality during designated/peak times. Following consultation activity, responses had been reviewed and it was hoped that some further ideas would be brought forward to support businesses in the area. It was explained that Linthorpe Road was a gateway into the Town Centre. In terms of further infrastructure, it was important that development permitted cycle lane linkage across the town to drive the cycling initiative forward, to encourage change and reduce reliance upon personal vehicle usage. The Member requested that, if/when looking at other sites for cycle infrastructure, as many Ward Members as possible be involved in the process.
A Member referred to the Stainsby development and commented upon potential traffic issues if the spine road did not proceed. In the event that this did not go ahead, a commitment was sought from the Executive Member that further consultation work would be undertaken with affected Wards/Ward Councillors (including Hemlington and Stainton and Thornton). In response, the Executive Member provided background details in respect of the development, referring to: housing development in the area; inclusion of the road in the 2014 Local Plan; preservation of as much of the meadow as possible; and consultation activity currently being carried-out. It was indicated that further consultation work would be undertaken with Members of the surrounding Wards, as appropriate.
A Member referred to the £14m allocation from the Future High Streets Fund and requested further information. In response, the Executive Member explained that, in essence, the purpose of the allocation was to ensure that Middlesbrough retained its High Street for the future. Consideration was given to a neighbouring Local Authority area where a significant number of businesses had been lost. It was indicated that Middlesbrough provided a centre point for the whole of the Tees Valley and it was essential that the Town Centre be kept in what was an ever-changing environment. Continued investment was needed in order to keep businesses operating.
The Director of Regeneration and Culture explained that the Council had secured a 70% allocation of the funds originally bid for from the Future High Streets Fund, which appeared consistent with other Local Authorities. Reference was made to retail space and empty premises being replaced with leisure and cultural facilities, and urban living space. It was envisaged that the Town Centre would continue to retain a core retail offering, but would be complemented by a wider mix to ensure that it could continue to operate. It was highlighted that a report would be considered by the Executive in April 2021, which would set-out the full programme for the Future High Streets Fund.
A Member made reference to the Future High Streets Fund and commented that the High Street was not only concerned with the Town Centre. It was queried whether any of the funding would be allocated to other localised shopping areas, such as The Viewley Centre and Parliament Road. In response, the Executive Member acknowledged this point and made reference to other elements of development plans, such as wider business, leisure and retail. The Director of Regeneration and Culture explained that there were two funds in existence: the Future High Streets Fund, whereby funding had already been secured, and the Towns Fund, whereby the outcome to a recent bid was currently awaited. It was explained that this enquiry aligned more towards the Towns Fund bid, but it was difficult to say what and how activity would be undertaken until the outcome of that bid was known.
A Member referred to a recent meeting of the TVCA’s Audit and Governance Committee and commented that the Authority had £19.3m worth of funding set aside to support Local Authorities in the Tees Valley to develop brownfield sites. It was queried what plans were in place for Middlesbrough in this regard. In response, the Executive Member commented that wherever funding opportunities were presented through the TVCA, bids would be made for an allocation. The Director of Regeneration and Culture explained that this funding was being allocated in phases; Middlesbrough had received an allocation of £7.9m in phase one for preparatory work at Middlehaven. This was subject to the satisfactory completion of legal and contractual work, which was currently being undertaken. The outcome of this would be reported to Executive in due course. Mention was also made of funding that the Council had helped secure for Thirteen Group in relation to a couple of sites. It was indicated that the £7.9m was spread across a number of years. The fund was still open and bidding would continue for other sites.
In response to a request for clarification regarding the Stainsby/Mandale Meadow consultation work currently taking place, the Executive Member explained that this consultation activity referred to housing development. Reference was made to the Local Plan produced in 2014, which stipulated the inclusion of a road in the locality to alleviate problems with traffic. Unfortunately, a road was mandatory and despite every effort to achieve otherwise, it was highly likely that a road would run through the site. Work would be undertaken with the community and activities undertaken as sensitively as possible to mitigate damage.
A Member referred to brownfield sites and commented upon payments made to surrounding communities to develop amenities for local people, feeling that in some cases the payment amounts needed to be increased. In response, the Executive Member explained that if there was a profit from a land sale within the town, i.e. the amount received exceeded the Council’s asset value, the Council would do its utmost to share that amount with the local community. It was hoped that in the long term, in light of the work being undertaken with housing developers, increased monies would be afforded to local people within those areas. Members were encouraged to come forward with their ideas and suggestions as to how local areas could be improved through the payments/allocations.
A Member commented that there were many brownfield sites located around Middlesbrough; it was hoped that some would be retained to provide work opportunities for both older and younger people residing in Middlesbrough. Reference was made to development of one site that had been awarded a 199-year lease to a housing developer, which although would provide Council Tax revenue, the use of the land by the Council for this period of time would not be possible. In response, the Executive Member acknowledged this point. It was explained that development of brownfield sites in small pockets would generate Council Tax income. Reference was made to the regeneration of Middlehaven, where the infrastructure was being established first to provide training and employment opportunities in industries, such as technology, that would provide for future generations. It was highlighted that there was a current skills shortage in Middlesbrough, with individuals relocating from other areas of the country to fill digital employment vacancies. Work was currently taking place with schools in order to address skills shortages and prepare young people for future employment.
A Member agreed that consideration did need to be given to the future, but commented that Middlesbrough had a finite number of greenfield sites – it was important to remain mindful of this when looking at development opportunities. In response, the Executive Member acknowledged this point. Reference was made to the Mayor’s Vision and the desire to increase urban living, which would utilise brownfield sites in the Town Centre. It was also important to remain mindful of the desire to provide training and employment opportunities for local people in digital industries. Reference was made to the Local Plan, currently being drafted, which would help protect greenfield sites.
A Member referred to the Local Plan and a recent meeting of the Planning and Development Committee, where an application for a housing development had been considered. It was explained that the maximum allocation for housing identified in the Local Plan for that particular area had been exceeded, and planning permission granted; clarification as to the role of the Local Plan was sought. In response, the Executive Member explained the importance of the Local Plan, which was enshrined in law. The Director of Regeneration and Culture explained that the Local Plan guided the Planning and Development Committee. It was not 100% specific on every issue and there was flexibility available (the example of a change to housing numbers on a particular development was provided). Omission of a Local Plan would have very negative consequences; a clear and concise Local Plan facilitated the Planning and Development process. If justification for changes to the housing mix or design of a particular development was provided, this could be taken into account by the Planning and Development Committee.
A discussion ensued in relation to the wider benefits afforded to local communities in instances where development work was undertaken. A Member felt that in some cases the benefits awarded had differed; reference was made to the Nunthorpe and Newport Wards. The Executive Member referred to the past, current and planned development of these areas and the work that would be undertaken in moving forward.
A Member referred to the development of Middlehaven and, on the basis that the snow centre project would no longer be progressed, queried the plans for that key site. In response, the Executive Member advised that there was interest in the site; work was currently being undertaken as to potential ways forward. In terms of timescale, the Director of Regeneration and Culture advised that a report regarding the future development of Middlehaven would be considered by the Executive shortly, which would set out how a strategy would be developed. A subsequent report to a future Executive meeting in three/four months’ time would provide details of this strategy. Ward Members would be involved in this process and consulted upon.
A Member referred to the development of a new Community Centre in East Middlesbrough, which would replace the Southlands Centre, and queried the current status of this. In response, the Executive Member confirmed that this development would be taking place. A large proportion of the required funding had been identified from within the Council’s Capital Programme; it was intended that the remaining funds would come from the Towns Fund bid, which would hopefully be confirmed in March 2021. Work was currently taking place to determine potential ways forward to ensure that it was a community site fit for purpose. The planning application was being prepared and activities were on-going with the local community in respect of the design of the Centre. A full programme of works would be provided once the remaining funds had been confirmed.
A Member made reference to the Towns Fund bid. To help ensure the most effective way forward for local communities, it was requested that Ward Members be involved/consulted at appropriate times throughout the process. In response, the Executive Member agreed with this point and the importance of Ward Member involvement.
A Member made reference to Selective Landlord Licensing and, given the amount of time that had been lost to COVID-19, queried whether this initiative would be extended. In response, the Director of Regeneration and Culture advised that further information was currently awaited, which would be provided when available.
A Member referred to the consultation activity undertaken in respect of the cycle infrastructure works and queried whether a copy of the consultation document, together with an analysis/details of the responses, could be provided. In response, the Executive Member advised that the consultation work had been carried out by the TVCA as it was funded through the TVCA. The Executive Member referenced media work that he had carried out to publicise the consultation process. The Director of Regeneration and Culture advised that the consultation had now closed and work was currently underway on analysing the results, details of which could be provided in due course.
The Chair thanked the Executive Member for Regeneration and the Director of Regeneration and Culture for their attendance and contributions to the meeting.