To consider the business case for the regeneration of the town centre and to scope the review.(Part 2 sheet)
Mark Ashwell, Deputy Executive Member for Regeneration and Committees and Mr Bernie Pich, Head of Town Centre Regeneration, gave the Committee an update on the town centre regeneration scheme.
Mark Ashwell reminded Members of the objectives of the scheme and that any profit that may result would be a by-product and would be then reinvested in schemes for other parts of the Borough. He gave an overview of the mechanisms used to mitigate risk such as appraisal reviews, viability testing, independent financial reviews, market testing etc.
Bernie Pich spoke about financial tools such as cost plans and rental value forecasts, the details of which were laid out in Part 2 of the report. He said that data is reviewed and updated at key points.
Rachelle Shepherd-DuBey questioned whether it was correct to exempt the financial information in the report from public disclosure. She suggested that information relating to proposed development for which the local planning authority may grant itself planning permission was not exempt.
The meeting adjourned to take advice on this matter.
Following the adjournment it was agreed that discussion of the financial part of the report be deferred to the next meeting so that legal advice could be obtained.
Members asked how long the regeneration scheme is likely to have an impact and what happens after the scheme is complete. There were also questions about the type of retailers the scheme attracts or retains, the level of control the Council has over retailers, the likely impact of internet sales and any likely return from the scheme.
Bernie Pich told the meeting that they had identified that intervention was needed to regenerate the town centre but it was hoped that it wouldn’t be needed again when the scheme is complete. They hope to be in a position to start regeneration schemes in the Borough’s other towns about two years after completion - that would be 2022 but they can plan ahead of that. It was necessary to retain some big name stores but the rents charged were attractive to small independent retailers too. The Council could control some aspects through lease agreements but they couldn’t control everything that happens so they try to identify the key issues. He said that they were not concentrating only on retail businesses but that much of the current growth was in the café/restaurant sector.
Mark Ashwell told Members that they could discriminate positively in favour of types of business they want to attract. He said that the scheme must not be a cost to the taxpayer and the Council had aimed for a 5% return as a contingency and that current predictions are above that figure.
RESOLVED: That the report, excluding the financial information, be noted and that discussion of the financial information be deferred to the next Meeting pending legal advice.