Agenda item

Agenda item

Questions from Councillors

To receive members’ questions under procedure rule no.11.  The procedure rule provides that any member may ask the Chairman of a board or group any question on any matter in relation to which the Council has powers or duties which affect the District, provided that three clear days’ notice in writing has been given to the Head of Legal and Support Services.


There were four questions asked which are set out below with the responses.  Each Member who asked a question was invited by the Chair to ask one supplementary question which is also set out together with the response.


Question from Councillor J Legrys


‘Can the Portfolio Holder please inform me how much is it costing per month, to keep the old council offices since closure, secure, heated/ventilated and continue to enable staff access to items remaining in the building please?’


Response from Councillor A Woodman


‘The Council continues to make low level use of the former Council Offices building such as to accommodate the town CCTV Server equipment. These systems are slowly being disentangled from the building and relocated. Much has now been completed to reduce holding costs. The current cost of retaining this building and the site it sits on is approx. £11k per month.’


Supplementary question and response


Councillor J Legrys shared his disappointment at the activity still occurring in the building and that demolition had not moved any further forward.  He asked for the current timeline for the building. Councillor A Woodman stated that he would keep track of the progress and keep Members updated on the matter.


Question from Councillor P Moult


‘How much has the Council spent on defending the `Area of Separation between Whitwick and Coalville, including officer resources, appeals, and the high court judgement plus the cost of the five-day judicial review, which supported it`s retention recognising it`s importance?’


Response from Councillor K Merrie


‘There have been two applications in the area of separation that have successfully been defended at appeal by the Council. The Stephenson’s Green proposal was also successfully defended at judicial review.

The legal cost of defending the Stephenson’s Green proposal (Application No.10/01208/OUTM) was £33,433. (Note: made up of external legal fees - £31,600 and internal officer time - £1,833). 


The legal cost of defending the Jelson’s proposal on land to the rear of Hall Lane (Application No. 14/00800OUTM) was £15,506.  (Note: made up of external legal fees - £12,075 and internal officer time – £3,431).


I am unable to advise what the cost of the planning officer resource in dealing with these applications was, but those costs would have generally been covered by the fees received for the planning applications.


I would also advise members that the land at Broom Leys Farm, agreed as a site allocation for the purposes of the Local Plan Regulation 18 consultation at Local Plan Committee on 17 January, was not part of the either the Stephenson Green and Jelson’s proposals successfully defended by the Council.’


Supplementary question and response


Councillor P Moult reported that the Whitwick Action Group did not recognise the figures presented by the Portfolio Holder and asked why there was a discrepancy.  Councillor K Merrie asked for the Whitwick Action Group’s figures so that he could discuss the matter with officers.  A response would be provided to Councillor P Moult outside of the meeting.


Question from Councillor T Eynon


‘The restoration of the Mother and Child Statue has been delivered as part of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, and its relocation in the Belvoir Shopping Centre has been agreed in principle. 


Can the Portfolio Holder please provide an update on the project, in particular the terms of the licence agreed between this Council and the owners of the Belvoir Shopping Centre (Gylo) and the timetable for the reinstatement of the Mother and Child Statue in the Belvoir Shopping Centre’s public space?’


Response from Councillor Blunt


‘A lease arrangement to relocate the Mother & Child Statue into the Belvoir Shopping Centre has been drafted by Council Officers, working with legal services. This draft lease is currently being finalised with the owners of the Shopping Centre. 


Once the lease has been completed, officers will submit a planning application for the necessary consents to relocate the statue. Subject to the granting of planning consent, officers will then be able arrange for the statue plinth to completed and the statue to be installed.


I’m unable to provide more specific detail on the timetable, but I will ask officers to keep you updated on progress as part of our UK Shared Prosperity Funded projects, through the shadow portfolio holder briefings.’


Supplementary question and response


Councillor T Eynon asked why adequate planning was not carried out to allow residents to know what was happening with the statue.  Councillor R Blunt explained that it was a very complex situation due to the relocation of the statue to land not owned by the Council, as well as the fact that the Council did not own the statue and were custodians only.  As soon as it was brought the Council’s attention, plans have been put into place to preserve the statue, which it has now been, and things will continue to progress as soon as possible.


Question from Councillor S Sheahan


‘On 23 March 2022, the Government published its Levelling Up Fund Round 2 prospectus. In an officer’s email to a third party dated 26th April 2022, it was said that “it is unlikely that the Council will be submitting its own bid to round 2.” Can the Leader please explain how the Council arrived at that position and why, for instance did it not submit an improved version of the round 1 bid?’


Response from Councillor R Blunt


‘I understand officers have already provided a detailed written response on this matter and have met with you to discuss.


National Government regularly announces funding opportunities for various activities. This Council has bid to those where it believes there is a strong chance of success. There is no Council policy requiring that bids be made.  To submit bids takes significant resource, both officer time and external specialist consultancy support. 


Having already made two unsuccessful bids for Coalville, firstly for the Future High Street Funding and then to Round 1 Levelling Up - which was in effect the "improved version" it was considered that our available resource needed to be spent delivering funded regeneration projects in line with our Council Delivery Plan. 


The Council did begin discussing a new bid (not in Coalville) for round 2 with a third party in 2022, considering that this may be more attractive for government to fund than another bid centred on Coalville.  After providing initial advice and support it was decided by the third party that they were not in a position to bid and would prefer to wait until Round 3 Levelling Up.


Given this, no Round 2 bid was submitted as it was considered that any resubmitted bid for Coalville had a poor chance of success given the two failed attempts. Staffing resource was instead focused on deliverable projects.’


Supplementary question and response


Councillor S Sheahan asked if Councillor R Blunt would consider supporting Durham County Council in its call for a judicial review in Levelling up f  Councillor R Blunt confirmed that he had no details on the matter and therefore it was difficult to volunteer support when circumstances may be different.  He reaffirmed his disappointed over the Council’s unsuccessful bids and asked officers to look into the matter and if relevant a decision can be taken on next steps. =


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