Agenda item

Questions from members of the Council

To receive any questions from members of the Council, of which due notice has been given in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 10, to be submitted and answered.

Minutes:

The Mayor advised that there were three questions from members of the Council had been received under Council Procedure Rule 10.

 

Councillor Pound sought confirmation that the questions raised were in order and that interjections from the floor were inappropriate. The Mayor agreed.

 

1. Question from Councillor Pound

 

“On Monday 14th February, Cllr Scott posted on social media (Next Door) “AXA investing heavily in the old cinema site” and on Tuesday 15th February he said on NextDoor: “AXA investing in the cinema site” is a “positive thing”.

 

Can you confirm that AXA has, through its subsidiary Retirement Homes Ltd. only placed an option to buy the site, subject to approval of a planning application yet to be put to the Council and that it has not yet, therefore, invested in the cinema site?”

 

Answer from Councillor Scott

 

“Valuing and Assessing options is a key part of my regulations training for UK and USA financial services authorities. Retirement homes have placed an option to buy, the contractual and financial terms where an option was placed are confidential to them, and different elements will have financial implications.

 

The option will create an obligation for public engagement and development and is evident in all preplanning work done to date, until preplanning is agreed and can be expensive and without knowledge of what outcome will be they will continue their investment in the process.”

 

Supplementary question from Councillor Pound

 

“Would you agree that value and assessing option or preplanning or investment in the development process in the cinema site carry with it clear connotation of investment in the site which is simply untrue, and you are again misleading the public and this needs to be corrected”.

 

Supplementary answer from Councillor Scott

 

“Councillor Pound, whenever you are investing in a property you are leasing or an option on the property and identifying each of these things are related directly to the site and do not see any scope for misinterpretation.”

 

2. Question from Councillor Everitt

 

“Since the prohibition of the letting of properties with energy performance certificates F and G by private landlords from 1 April 2020, what steps has the Council taken to inform private renters of the responsibility of their landlord and equally inform private landlords of their responsibility?”

 

Answer from Councillor Dawlings

 

“We provide information on our website for both landlords and private tenants setting out Responsibilities for landlords and a guide to finding accommodation, including details of the EPC requirements.

 

We also participate in the West Kent Landlords’ Forum hosted, by the National Residential Landlords’ Association, where landlords are made aware of their responsibilities. The next Forum will focus on Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards.

 

Our Housing Option Advisors request copies of all required certificates, including the EPC when assisting someone into or offering private rental accommodation. As part of our response to any service request from a private sector tenant about property conditions we check the EPC rating. Where poor energy insulation is identified, landlords are required to carry out works to ensure improvements in the EPC rating.

 

Work is planned to contact landlords and letting agencies to remind them of various responsibilities, including the minimum energy efficiency standards and to highlight energy efficiency measures to help tenants reduce their energy costs.”

 

Supplementary question from Councillor Everitt

 

“Do you think in retrospect given that I have not seen this change in law featuring in local of council publications, the council has missed an opportunity to promote something that would benefit private rental residents with the cost of fuel crisis and would tie into our climate emergency policy by improving environment housing stocks within the borough”.

 

Supplementary answer from Councillor Dawlings

 

“We need to recognise what our council is and isn’t focused on and may possibly be right, but the housing department have enough to deal with”.

 

3. Question from Councillor Rutland

 

“On 4th February 2021, the Cabinet approved the grant of a 25-year lease of Bayham sports pitches to Tunbridge Wells Foresters Football Club. Minutes of this meeting also relay that the Football Foundation in association with the Kent FA prepared a report stating that the Bayham sports pitches site needed an upgrade, as the current facilities were no longer fit for purpose.

 

The granting of a long lease would enable Foresters Football Club to begin this upgrade project by fundraising and applying for grants.

 

Since then, there have been negotiations, legal processes, and the production of documentation, but the lease has not been signed. As of today (17 February) the process has taken one year and two weeks. Please can you explain why this is taking so long?”

 

Answer from Councillor March

 

“Councillor Rutland rightly points out that having a lease for Bayham Sports Pitches will enable the Foresters Football Club to vastly improve the facilities. The Council is fully supportive of this project and work on the lease has progressed albeit not as quickly as we all would have hoped due to the challenges of the pandemic and other contract related work. The Council had to give notice of the proposed disposal of the lease and this part of the process was completed in early April. Since then, Officers have been working on the extension of the sports centres and grounds maintenance contracts as well as addressing issues with the waste contract. This unprecedented workload has limited the time they have had to progress the lease with the Foresters however I am pleased to be able to report that an updated lease was emailed to the Foresters Football Club earlier this week.”

 

Supplementary question from Councillor Rutland

 

“Thank you for your reply I am aware the latest version is with Foresters, and I am very grateful.  I am wondering if there is anything that can be done to expedite the process?”

 

Supplementary answer from Councillor March

 

“I can speak to our legal team and see if there is anything that can be done to speed up the process, I am unable to push any more that Foresters can push with their own legal team.”

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