To consider an update on the Transforming Our Town Centre Programme and proposals in respect of Towns Fund decision making.
The Executive considered a report in respect of progress with regard to town centre regeneration, together with proposals for decision-making with regard to the Town Investment Plan projects benefitting from the Towns Fund.
The Executive supported the replacement wording of Recommendation 2.4 of the report proposed by the Assistant Director (Regeneration), as follows:
“To note that all Business Cases will be prepared for submission to the Ministry of Housing Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) by 24 March 2022. A report will be prepared for a meeting of Full Council confirming the approval of Business Cases for submission to the MHCLG with delegated authority to the Executive.”
In order to meet the challenging timescales relating to the submission of Business Cases, the Leader requested officers to identify some dates for additional Executive (and possibly one Council) meetings to consider the Business Cases.
In response to Members’ questions, the Assistant Director (Regeneration) replied;
· The Regeneration Team had taken on additional resources to help progress the Business Cases, and external professional support had also been engaged. Other Council Teams (particularly Planning and Finance colleagues) would also be assisting in the process. He was confident that there was the necessary capacity to deliver the Business Case submissions;
· Correspondence from the MHCLG indicated that successful Town Fund bidders should receive an upfront payment of 5% of the total Towns Fund award. For Stevenage this was estimated to be £1.875M, to assist with the development of Business Cases and the implementation of projects. This sum had yet to be received;
· In approving the £37.5m Town Deal for Stevenage, the MHCLG had not as yet provided any supporting information regarding its rationale for approving the bid;
· The Stevenage Development Board would be required to endorse Business Cases before they were considered by the Executive. A Chair’s Panel, comprising of officers, external experts (including the Development Board Theme Lead for each project) and Members, would be established to vet the draft Business Cases before submission to the Development Board/Executive; and
· The timing of any further planning approvals for projects would vary dependent on the size and complexity of each scheme. Some projects (such as the Marshgate Science Innovation Centre) already benefitted from having planning permission in place.
The Leader requested the Portfolio Holder for Resources and her Street naming Sub-Group to compile a list of potential names for the new streets arising from the Town Centre Regeneration Programme.
The Leader asked the Chief Executive to invite the Chairman of the Stevenage Development Board to future Executive meetings where Town Deal Business Cases were being considered.
The Leader requested that consideration be given to the introduction of some form of interactive Town Centre Regeneration question and answer forum be developed for inclusion on the Council and Stevenage Even Better websites.
It was RESOLVED:
1. That the progress of the regeneration programme, including the Queensway North regeneration scheme, Town Square co-working & heritage project, and the construction of the new bus interchange, be noted.
2. That the progress of Town’s Fund programme to date, including the obligations of the Council as the Accountable Body for the Town’s Fund, be noted.
3. That the creation of an Officer Panel (as set out in Paragraph 4.12 of the report) be approved, to support the discharge the Council’s obligations as Accountable Body and to review and approve business cases for full approval.
4. That it be noted that all Business Cases will be prepared for submission to the Ministry of Housing Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) by 24 March 2022. A report will be prepared for a meeting of Full Council confirming the approval of Business Cases for submission to the MHCLG with delegated authority to the Executive.
5. That it be noted that there will be future decision points for a number of Council-sponsored projects, in accordance with the Council’s Constitution, following approval of the Towns Fund Business Cases and release of funding by MHCLG.
6. That the inclusion of the £37.5 million within the Council’s Capital Strategy be noted, and that it be further noted that this is aligned with the Heads of Terms agreement with MHCLG for the Towns Fund, and the funding profile attached to the Towns Fund grant confirmation letter. Authorisation for Council match funding will be reserved until the relevant Business Case is approved.
Reason for Decision: As contained in report.
Other Options considered: As contained in report.