Scrutiny Call-in Request: Millers Garage Car Park Project, Crewkerne - Request for Additional Funding from the Corporate Capital Contingency Budget
The Chairman referred to the Scrutiny meeting of 2 August 2022, and the question that remained unanswered regarding value for money, and the subsequent decision made by the District Executive on 4 August 22 to allocate £430k from the capital contingency fund to the proposed car park development at the Millers Garage site.
The Chairman explained that he had been contacted directly by the adjacent landowner, agents, and other members of the community regarding another option which would facilitate a car park being built on the site with no significant cost to the Council. He explained that this proposal, which includes a possible land swap with the adjacent landowner had been around for some time and felt that this should be explored further as an alternative option. He concluded that he would welcome the suspension of the car park development until such time as the District Executive had reconsidered the decision.
A Vice-Chair expressed concerns regarding predisposition or predetermination of any future planning decision that may be taken at Area West Committee. The Monitoring Officer explained that there was a clear distinction to be observed here and that as part of their role, councillors were required to take many different decisions. She assured members that this decision was regarding a Council landholding issue, and not a planning application. She added that the debate should not be concerned with any of the planning merits of the proposals seen today.
The Commercial Property, Land and Development Manager stated that the call-in here was concerning his report to the District Executive on 4 August 2022, which called for a significant increase in budget for the development of the Millers Garage site into a car park. He explained that the funding report had made reference to a previous report (considered by Scrutiny on 7 June 2022) which made recommendations concerning a potential land swap deal, but that report was withdrawn by the District Executive. He was not part of the decision to withdraw the report but believed that it was withdrawn until such times as a planning application for the site was received. He explained that the land has been owned by the Council since 2015 and he acknowledged that it should not have taken this long for any agreements to be reached. The delay on this particular project has been due to conflicting priorities as a result of many factors, most recently the Covid-19 pandemic and local government reorganisation, but he accepted the frustrations of local people and apologised that the redevelopment of the site had not been actioned sooner.
Members discussed the call-in request in depth and the general consensus was to refer the decision made by the District Executive on 4 August 2022 (to allocate 430k from the capital contingency budget) to the District Executive for reconsideration, to explore other options which may achieve greater ‘value for money’ in the development of Millers Garage Car Park site.
A member also recommended that the presentation made to Scrutiny Committee by Boon Brown Architects during Public Question Time (item 4 on this agenda) should be presented to District Executive. A link to the recording of this item was subsequently circulated to District Executive members in advance of their meeting.
The Scrutiny committee resolved to refer the decision made by the District Executive on 4 August 2022 (to allocate £430k from the capital contingency budget) to the District Executive for reconsideration, to explore other options which may achieve greater ‘value for money’ in the development of Millers Garage Car Park site.
(referred to the District Executive committee meeting of 3 November 2022 for re-consideration).
(Voting: Unanimous in favour)