Agenda and minutes

Community and Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Monday, 14th January, 2019 7.00 pm

Venue: David Hicks 1 - Civic Offices, Shute End, Wokingham RG40 1BN. View directions

Items
No. Item

36.

Apologies

To receive any apologies for absence.

Minutes:

There were no apologies for absence received.

37.

Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 76 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the meeting held on 5 November 2018.

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 5 November 2018 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

38.

Declarations of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest received.

39.

Public Question Time

To answer any public questions

 

A period of 30 minutes will be allowed for members of the public to ask questions submitted under notice.

 

The Council welcomes questions from members of the public about the work of this committee.

 

Subject to meeting certain timescales, questions can relate to general issues concerned with the work of the Committee or an item which is on the Agenda for this meeting.  For full details of the procedure for submitting questions please contact the Democratic Services Section on the numbers given below or go to www.wokingham.gov.uk/publicquestions

Minutes:

In accordance with the agreed procedure the Chairman invited members of the public to submit questions to the appropriate Members.

39.1

Jacob Chennells had asked the Chairman of the Community and Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee the following question and, in his absence, the written answer below was provided:

How has safety been considered with the regeneration, the low curbs make it too easy for a vehicle to enter the pedestrianised area at the Centre of the town, especially as attacks using lorries are becoming more common, the design leaves pedestrians vulnerable?

Minutes:

 

Question

How has safety been considered with the regeneration, the low curbs make it too easy for a vehicle to enter the pedestrianised area at the Centre of the town, especially as attacks using lorries are becoming more common, the design leaves pedestrians vulnerable?

 

Answer

As with any scheme being delivered upon the public highway, safety is paramount.  A Road Safety Audit aims to identify potential road safety hazards arising from possible changes to the existing road layout; it is not a technical check against design standards or any amended traffic regulations but is an evaluation of any changes made during design, upon opening the road to traffic and, post-construction during everyday use. Its purpose is to identify any potential road safety problems and to suggest measures which may help to eliminate or mitigate any concerns.   Road Safety Audits are undertaken by teams of specialists trained in road safety engineering and accident prevention. They are completely independent of the Council and its contractors.

 

In the UK, the height of kerbing can vary from 0 to 150mm + and there are no regulations on what height should be used in any location except for pedestrian crossing areas and bus stops. The kerb heights in the Market Place have been designed following feedback from various users groups and with consideration of the planned use of the area and designation as a conservation area. It should also be noted that the kerbs within the Market Place area prior to construction were old natural stone that varied in height from between 0 to approximately 100mm, examples of this are still visible along Broad Street and the southern end of Denmark Street and therefore this design feature is not significantly different from the original scheme.

 

The design of the scheme has taken account of users, including vulnerable users and through consultation with disability groups kerb heights were reintroduced as they act as a tapping rail for cane users.

 

Following the completion and opening of the Market Place, which has already been used to host a number of successful events, a final Stage 3 Road Safety Audit is to be carried out shortly.  This follows the interim report that was undertaken upon its opening to the public and will review how the scheme has settled in.

39.2

Sarah Kerr asked the Chairman of the Community and Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee the following question:

Minutes:

 

Question

Wokingham Borough Council did not do an Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA) for the marketplace regeneration project despite WBC's Public Sector Equality Duty report clearly stating the importance of EqIA's in upholding the Equalities Act 2010.  According to a Senior Officer at the Council, the reason for an EqIA not being required is because the disability workshops and government guidance were deemed adequate.  However, this same officer also stated that some guidance wasn't followed (such as Guidance on the use of tactile paving surfaces) because it's not policy, and there were recommendations from disability groups that were not utilised, such as the importance of distinct colour contrast.  The result is a public space that discriminates against certain users, particularly the visually impaired.  This is not the first time WBC has redeveloped an area and not fully considered the needs of those with disabilities - the Carnival Pool car park is an example of this, as is the fact that California Cross is being consulted on, despite the design being a shared space which central government has asked all local authorities to halt whilst guidelines are updated to take into account the Equalities Act 2010.  The reputation WBC has regarding accessibility for those with disabilities in public spaces such as the Market Place is poor.  Following a formal complaint I made, I have had acknowledgement that mistakes were made regarding the lack of EqIA for the marketplace regeneration. Given the ongoing nature of these problems, are the Council’s failings down to inadequate understanding and performance by Council Officers or a lack of robust scrutiny from the Council’s Scrutiny Committees. Or is it a combination of the two?

 

Answer

The Borough Council is aware of its responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010. In March 2017 the Council’s Executive approved a set of Equality Objectives including a commitment to accessible services and support for vulnerable individuals and groups.

 

In order to strengthen the Council’s approach, in 2018 updated guidance on the Public Sector Equality Duty and the development of the Equality Impact Assessments was provided for Officers together with a mandatory e-learning programme for all managers. This will result in improved understanding of the Council’s Equality duties and, in turn, more rigorous and effective decision making.

 

In the meantime the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committees continue to hold the Executive to account and seek to understand and promote the views of all the Borough’s residents.

 

Recent Scrutiny reviews have highlighted the importance of effective communication and consultation and the importance of removing or minimising any disadvantages suffered by residents due to their protected characteristics. The Scrutiny Committees will continue to highlight any issues of concern and monitor progress against the Council’s published Equality Objectives.

 

Supplementary Question

Will there be a guarantee from the Council that all projects like this are going to have Equality Impact Assessments?

 

Supplementary Answer

I am going to look to an Officer for clarification but my understanding is that when the rules were passed through the Executive that was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 39.2

39.3

Keith Malvern asked the Chairman of the Community and Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee the following question:

Minutes:

 

Question

In the latest Wokingham Borough News Philip Mirfin is quoted as saying "...not only a fantastic town centre with far better facilities...but also a town centre generating new income for you..." So can you tell me will the income come in time to affect the Council Tax demand for 2019/20?

 

Answer

Although the Town Centre is already generating considerable income for the Council of £600k, this income will first be used to pay down the debt financing costs. When the scheme is completed in 2024/25 the Council can consider if the expected total annual income of £4.2m is introduced as a component of the Council Tax calculations or continues to reduce the residual scheme debt.

 

Supplementary Question

Clearly the answer to my question is no.   There is no evidence that any of this money will arrive.  I am led in this glossy blurb to believe that that might be the case i.e. Philip Mirfin is saying it will generate income for me.  So are you saying that I have to wait until 2024/25 until that happens and if that is the case how come that is not mentioned here?

 

Supplementary Answer

As stated in the answer that was already given, and I will look to the Executive Member to clarify this as well, my understanding on this is that we are already getting income of £600k per year which is being used to pay down the financing costs of the debt which would have otherwise been taken out of Council Tax.  So we are having income and it is already being of net benefit to the Council.

40.

Member Question Time

To answer any member questions.

Minutes:

In accordance with the agreed procedure the Chairman invited Members to submit questions to the appropriate Members.

40.1

Oliver Whittle had asked the Chairman of the Community and Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee the following question and, in his absence, the written answer below was provided:

Minutes:

 

Question

With regards to the market place highways project, why did WBC allow WSP to withdraw their project manager and not replace them, when WBC and WSP were partners?

 

Answer

The WSP design commissioned element of this project was completed towards the end of March 2017.  Whilst transitioning from design into delivery, WBC asked WSP to consider undertaking a delivery role for the project and as was their right, they declined.  We had hoped that WSP would continue, with this PM role, however WSP were retained on an advisory design role throughout the scheme life.  At this point WBC allocated the scheme to their existing Project Manager.

 

41.

Wokingham Town Centre Regeneration Update pdf icon PDF 87 KB

To consider an update on the town centre regeneration projects including Peach Place, Elms Field and Carnival Phase 1 and 2.

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report, set out in agenda pages 11 to 16, which provided an update on the ongoing town centre regeneration works including Elms Field, Peach Place and Carnival Phase 2.

 

Philip Mirfin, Executive Member for Regeneration (including town centre highways), stated that he had been involved in the town centre Regeneration project for some time, originally being the deputy Executive Member for regeneration under Councillor Stuart Munro. Philip added that the Market Place project was a highways improvement project, rather than a regeneration project. Philip stated that the Clerk for Wokingham Town Council had asked for support with the Market Place project (see item 42), and subsequently Philip took on town centre highways as part of the Executive portfolio. He added that more stringent governance was put in place on the Market Place scheme (modelled after what was already in place on regeneration projects), in addition to weekly updates being communicated via the Town Council to residents and the wider community.

 

Bernie Pich, Assistant Director - Commercial Property, stated that it was important to understand the distinction between the regeneration projects (such as Peach Place) and the Market Place highways improvement project. Bernie stated that Gail’s Bakery and Waterstones had been a big success with residents since their openings, and demonstrated the type of quality retail stores that the Peach Place development was looking to attract.

 

Bernie stated that there had been some delays in the development of Peach Place, and outlined the timeframe for new tenants taking up new retail outlets being early February 2019. Bernie added that an Executive decision had been made in 2016 to lease the Peach Place residential units as key worker housing. He stated that access between Rose Street and Peach Street was being looked at.

 

Bernie stated that the Elms Field development was progressing swiftly, based on a phased completion process with the Shute End car park being the first such phase to have been completed. Bernie added that the Carnival Phase 2 development was now planned to include the demolition and a rebuild of the Carnival Pool. Bernie outlined that the Carnival Pool demolition would not take place until the redevelopment of the Bulmershe leisure centre was completed in addition to a substantial completion of the Elms Field development.

 

Bernie stated that Wokingham was in a good position to attract and maintain retail support as it was a historic market town in the South East. He added that the regeneration team were very keen to open Gail’s and Waterstone’s as this was used to help attract further interest in the rest of the scheme from prospective tenants and the community, with the goal being a mix of local and national names within the retail outlets.

 

Bernie stated that work on the Elms Field development did not begin until 65% of the retail units on the site had been let. He added that the total cost of the regeneration projects was £117.6m (using a cash flow model), which included everything  ...  view the full minutes text for item 41.

42.

Market Place Highways Improvement Project pdf icon PDF 95 KB

To receive a briefing on the Market Place highways improvement project, including feedback from stakeholders, businesses and residents.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report, set out in agenda pages 17 to 150, which provided an update on the Market Place highways improvement project.

 

Philip Mirfin, Executive Member for Regeneration (and town centre highways) stated that since taking over the Market Place Highways project (in May 2018), he had asked the Monitoring Officer to identify a suitable person/company to undertake an independent audit. He added that, at the time he took over the project, it was in need of focus and in September 2018 he was invited to a Balfour Beatty workshop. Philip stated that it was at this workshop that he met the person who would eventually undertake the “lessons learned” report.

 

Philip stated that he organised weekly meetings between all parties to assess and discuss all elements of the Market Place project. Philip stated that part of the delay to the Market Place highways project was due to having to redesign every shop front and drainage system. He added that the underground conditions were very poor and the majority of the underground issues had not been identified prior to the start of the works due to poor highways underground inspections. In addition, Philip stated that many of the underground utilities pipes were unknown or not recorded which added the delays. Philip stated that weekly round table meetings were organised, which included partners from Balfour Beatty, highways and project managers to agree upon weekly works to be achieved. Philip added that the highways team worked very hard to achieve results, with Balfour working hard from their senior levels.

 

Chris Easton, Lead Specialist - Transport, Drainage & Compliance, stated that the Market Place highways project was identified through Public Realm, and CP14 of the Core Strategy. He added that when the Market Place project was commissioned, a stage one safety audit was undertaken which identified several key issues which were fed through consultation processes throughout the project. Chris stated that an example of changes made through the consultation process was the reintroduction of raised kerbs.

 

Chris stated that there were several unforeseen issues throughout the project, including having to appoint a new project manager (after the previous WSP project manager left), the Balfour lead being taken ill and a series of works issues (see Member question for more detail).

 

Chris stated that a final road safety audit had been commissioned and would be delivered in February 2019. He added that disability groups had been invited to attend a feedback session after the completion of the project, whose feedback would be compiled along with the comments from the Scrutiny Committee to form a final works package.

 

Guy Grandison thanked all businesses, disability advocacy groups and members of the public who submitted questions and views to the Committee.

 

David Sleight queried whether there could be signage improvements made to the disabled parking and loading bays in the Market Place. Chris Easton stated that the Council’s Car Parking Team were aware of signage issues and were looking to address them at the formalised completion  ...  view the full minutes text for item 42.

43.

Work Programme 2018/19 pdf icon PDF 78 KB

To consider the Committee’s work programme for 2018-19 and to prioritise items for future meetings.

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report, set out in agenda pages 33 to 38, which gave details of its proposed work programme for 2018/19.

 

Members discussed training ahead of their review of the 2020/2021 budget. Members agreed that initially some in house training be provided, and a decision then be made as to whether externally provided training would be beneficial. 

 

Bill Soane asked that the item on the Coppid Beech Park and ride include a discussion regarding the recently rejected MRT scheme.

 

Members requested that a copy of the Executive Forward programme be circulated to Members, to allow them to scrutinise issues proactively.

 

The March 2019 meeting of the Committee was identified as having capacity to receive either/or the final road safety and financial audits of the Market Place scheme.

 

RESOLVED That:

 

1)     in house budget scrutiny training be provided, and a decision then be made as to whether externally provided training would be beneficial;

 

2)     the item on the Coppid Beech Park and ride project include a discussion regarding the recently rejected MRT scheme;

 

3)     a copy of the Executive Forward programme be circulated to Members, to allow them to scrutinise issues proactively;

 

4)     the March 2019 meeting of the Committee be identified as having capacity to receive either/or the final road safety and financial audits of the Market Place scheme.