To consider and provide a recommendation to Cabinet on the proposals set out in the attached report.
Councillor Matthew Bailey had registered to speak which included the following:
- The decision by the administration to declare the Wesley Centre in Paddock as surplus asset and to consider it for sale or development.
- The Wesley Centre was a historic building and was still widely used by children, youth and adult community groups and would be a big loss to these groups if it were no longer there.
- The Wesley Centre was one of only two Council owned community facilities in Paddock Wood, the other being the Day Centre on Commercial Road which was very small.
- The loss of the Wesley Centre would reduce the ability to properly manage the current needs of the town and future needs as the town expanded.
- There existed a small green space behind the Wesley Centre which the Council had previously considered for possible residential development.
- This was not the appropriate time to sell off a small piece of Council land for housing, given the amount of greenspace already being lost in the area.
- The provision for new housing was already unpopular in the area, and the loss of more greenspace in the town would further despair the local community.
- Paddock Wood Town Council and the Borough Councillors for Paddock Wood were opposed to the selling of the Wesley Centre or developing the land to the rear of the building. This position was also backed by Heritage Wood and by many local residents.
- It was understood that the Town Council had today written to the Portfolio Holder and further correspondence would be received in due course.
David Candlin, Head of Economic Development and Property, introduced the report as set out in the agenda.
- The Asset Management Plan (AMP) was still out to consultation, with a closing date of 9 February 2023. Verbal updates of the responses received would be given to both the CAB and at Cabinet. Full details would be submitted for Full Council.
- To give an update of the responses received to date:
o 85 people had read the AMP, of which 44 had left comments.
o 7 comments were related to car parks in Tunbridge Wells.
o 1 comment on the Civic Complex
o 3 comments on the Council’s disposal policy
o 33 comments on an asset in Paddock Wood
o All comments rested on assets not being disposed.
Discussion and questions from Members included the following:
- Under the section titled ‘Assets Declared Surplus 2023/24’ the wording to be amended to read ‘The following assets have been declared surplus and identified for potential/possible disposal in 2023/24’.
- Although the AMP was still out to consultation, it was possible to make a recommendation to Full Council, as the assets would still be reviewed before any decisions were taken.
- The AMP gave details of the procedures and mechanisms in place where assets were being considered for disposal. This included the Property Asset Oversight Panel which it was hoped would be re-established soon.
- The term ‘disposal’ had different outcomes, and could mean either the sale or lease of an asset.
- Car parks would be looked at in broad terms as part of the car parking strategy and would not be considered in isolation.
- The report sought to identify sites for review. It was recognised that not all would be actioned in 2023/24.
- Appendix 1 of the Draft Asset Management Plan (Appendix A – page 93 of the agenda pack) set out the key principles when consideration was given to the disposal of assets. It further stated that the Council would ensure that decisions for the strategic management of Council owned assets were made on a case-by-case basis based on comprehensive options analysis (bullet point 4, page 94 refers).
- The AMP allowed the Council to start to look at its assets. More detail would be forthcoming as the work developed.
- The decision whether to sell or lease an asset would be open for discussion.
A vote was taken by a show of hands:
RESOLVED – that the recommendations to Cabinet as set out in the report be supported