Agenda item - Levelling Up Phase 1 Funding - pre-scrutiny

Agenda item

Levelling Up Phase 1 Funding - pre-scrutiny

(Report to follow).


This report will follow in a Supplementary Papers pack once the report has been published for consideration of the Cabinet.


The Chairman welcomed officers and Mr. P. Carpenter, Interim Head of Finance and Customer Services introduced the report.  He explained that it was largely a financial report and that Mrs. Bamford, Head of Planning, Regeneration and Leisure Services and Mr. O. Paparega, Head of North Worcestershire Economic Development (NWEDR) had input in respect of the operational side.


Mr. Carpenter provided a reminder in respect of the background to the report and provided an update on progress to date.  This included an extension of the deadline by one year and the purchase of Windsor Street site at the end of the previous financial year.  The report requested delegated authority to the Head of Planning, Regeneration and Leisure Services in order to spend up to budgeted sum of £2.266m on the demolition of the Windsor Street site and the engagement of a design and build contractor for the Market Hall site.  Members attention was drawn to paragraph 3.6 of the report and the indicative timetable, which Government had extended to 2024/25.  It was also noted that formal monitoring was required on a 6 monthly basis.


The Leader provided further details around the award of the Levelling Up funds and it being fundamental to further development across the District.  Bromsgrove had received a higher level of funding than other areas in the county and it was important that the Windsor Street site, which had remained unoccupied for over 2 years was developed as soon as possible.


Following presentation of the report Members discussed a number of areas and officers responded to questions – this included:


·       Clarification in respect of the total cost as detailed at paragraph 3.10 of the report and whether this included the purchase price of the Windsor Street site.  Officers confirmed that it did include the acquisition cost of the site. 

·       Details around the Market Hall site and the high level proposals for it were also discussed – these had been provided within the report considered by Cabinet in January 2022.  It was confirmed that key stakeholders and organisations would be consulted on the final proposals.  There had already been initial research carried out locally to gauge potential interest. 

·       The type of use and operating models were yet to be finalised and reviews of similar sites and hubs would be considered as part of that process.

·       The procurement process would follow the normal procedure followed by the Council and advertised as any other contact would be, so there was the potential for local contractors to apply if they so wished.

·       It was noted that the organisational chart within the report needed to be updated.

·       Concerns were raised in respect of the inclusion of the amount of £2.266m within recommendation 2 of the report and whether this would work against the Council in receiving a cost effective tender for the work and it was questioned whether this element of the report should have been on private papers.  Mr. Paparega commented that it did not mean the cost would be £2.266m but that this was an indicative cost received from the professional team the Council was working work.

·       Members discussed the project plan and were concerned that it was being optimistic in respect of the desired planning permission being granted between May and September 2022.  Concerns were reiterated around the overall timescales in light of the current national position.  The Head of Planning, Regeneration and Leisure Services responded that the timetable was constantly being reviewed as everyone was concerned about this, she also confirmed that pre-planning discussions would be ongoing in order to iron out any issues prior to planning application being brought forward.  She confirmed that everything was being done to meet the requirements of the monies received.

·       The inclusion of the Worcestershire and Birmingham LEP on the Programme Board was questioned when it was understood that they were not making a contribution to the project.  The role of One Public Estate was also questioned, and the Leader confirmed that this was part of Worcestershire County Council.  Mr. Paparega confirmed that the Birmingham LEP had funded some feasibility work to support the bid and that the LEP position changed on a daily basis and therefore the membership of the Project Board could and would likely change as the project moved forwards.

·       Members asked whether there were any restrictive covenants in place in respect of the Windsor Street site – the Leader confirmed that both Worcestershire County Council and the Fire Authority had relinquished all rights to it when it was purchased.

·       It was confirmed that the demolition rights and any mitigation costs were covered by the grant funding.  It was also confirmed that any other remediation costs for the site in required outside of the site would fall to WCC and the Fire Authority (as detailed in the contract).

·       It was suggested that although the Leader was a member of the Programme Board there should also be another Councillor in attendance.  The Leader confirmed that Councillors would be consulted at the appropriate stages.

·       The Head of Planning, Regeneration and Leisure Services reminded Members that Ward Councillors could also be involved in the pre-application process.


Following detailed discussion around the wording of recommendation 2 of the report Members agreed that it would be more appropriate to amend this to “up to a total of” rather than as was currently stated.  It was also discussed that an update in respect of progress should be reported back to the Board on a quarterly basis.


RECOMMENDED that recommendation 2 of the report be amended as follows:


“authority be delegated to the Head of Planning, Regeneration and Leisure Services and the Executive Director of Resources to proceed to spend the Levelling Up Fund allocation up to a total of £2.266m on the required demolition and remediation works at the Windsor Street site and to engage a design and build contractor on the Market Hall site:”



Supporting documents: