To consider the proposals to Cabinet set out in the associated report.
The Chairman brought this item forward on the agenda.
William Benson (Chief Executive) introduced the report set out in the agenda pack.
Councillor Hamilton had registered to speak, comments included:
· Raised at both the Planning and Transportation and Communities and Economic Development Cabinet Advisory Boards, specifying the Memorial Field as the location for the new Community Centre should be removed from the document.
· To be clear, the request was just to remove the Memorial Field as the location, not the idea of supporting development of a Community Centre.
· The Memorial Field was open space that was valued by the community.
· The was no planning consent for the Memorial Field or a plan B if planning consent was not granted.
· The results of a Parish Poll was that the Memorial Field was not the right location for the new Community Centre.
· The Borough was only playing a supporting role, the decision was ultimately for the Town Council as it concerned its own land.
· Open space was of unquestionable value and relevance to the issues of well being, mental health and those suffering from domestic abuse.
· In other areas, land had been acquired by Councils to protect it as open space but this had not happened in Paddock Wood.
· Given the current circumstances the Council had an opportunity to review the views of residents and changes in market force.
· Members were asked to support the removal of the Memorial Field as the location of the community facility from the TWBC document.
Councillor Scott had registered to speak, comments included:
· There were a number of demographic changes with consequences for planning. The growth and numbers of people, particularly the Council’s reduction in the share of 20-30 year olds and the substantial increase in residents who were over 65 years of age. Housing growth had been slower, but prices had risen.
· Very happy to see the reference to light electric vehicles but there was a need to consider the type of vehicles that would be used.
· Public consultation with wide engagement was very important.
· Town centres would need to be made more attractive, to attract more visitors but without increasing congestion.
· Action was needed on the Civic Centre and the Town Hall.
· A summer festival in 2022 would help morale and brighten the moods of residents.
· The Council must attract new investment and encourage activities.
· The Council must ensure that projects that were put forward were deliverable and welcomed by residents.
· The Council must also deliver on its green agenda.
· The report should be recommended but with the proviso that the comments raised were emphasised.
Discussion included the following matters:
· The Town Hall and the Assembly Hall Theatre would be included in the project portfolio to be taken forward.
· All contract work undertaken by the Council had complied with the constitution, financial procedure rules and contract procedure rules.
· If the Council had entered into a new contract, the details would appear on the contract register.
· The confirmation of Covid-19 Marshals was done as an extension to an existing contract, not a new contract.
· The Council’s Gold Group was linked to the Covid-19 Panel. Group Leaders would be consulted on decisions taken and those that have been proposed to ensure that there was a political awareness of the actions that officers were taking during this time of emergency.
· The Council had been clear that it would support Paddock Wood Town Council. It had agreed that the Memorial Field as a specific location would be removed from the document.
· The themes that had emerged and included in the report had come from the Councillor Convention held in 2019.
· Retrospective issues would be considered as part of the Plan. It was understood that funding had already been given to address some of the sewage issues currently experienced in Paddock Wood. In addition the Council was looking to secure some Highways infrastructure provision and was also looking to improve drainage and flooding at the bottom of the Pantiles.
· The use of Hydrogen as an alternative fuel source was something being considered by the Climate Emergency Panel. In addition these were provisional priorities which the Council would be exploring and which would be subject to further extensive engagement and consultation.
· Work on the Cultural and Creative Industries framework would be important, particularly post Covid-19. As part of the work for the Local Plan, the Council had commissioned further work on the town centre.
· Leisure in the town centre was included in the Sports and Active Recreation Strategy and the Council’s planning policies. It made commercial good sense to have these facilities.
· A request was made that the Discretionary Housing Payments Policy be given more prominence with more importance given to identifying those residents that might require help.
· There were a few suggested topics for future Member Briefings:
o Benefits Take Up Campaign.
o Moratorium on Council Tax Arrears Court Action – particularly the use of debt collection agencies.
o Simplification of the Council Tax rebate system.
· The report included provision which aimed at improving football facilities with a new sports hub adjacent to the Hawkenbury Recreation Ground. The Council was looking to produce an updated business case in 2021. The site at Culverden was a separate matter.
· The Local Government White Paper had suggested that there might be some incentives for Local Government reorganisation, either Unitisation or the merging of Local Authorities. All recent discussions with Government were that this was no longer the case.
· With regards to the Town Hall and the Assembly Hall Theatre, the Council had operated very well over the last few months with staff adapting very well to new flexible working patterns.
· The cost of running and maintaining both the Town Hall and the Assembly Hall Theatre increased each year. The increasing cost and the need to decide on the future of both buildings were the reasons the Council had included them as projects that should be taken forward as a matter of urgency.
RESOLVED – That the report be noted.