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Agenda item

Question Time:

(i)                 To answer questions from members of the public pursuant to Procedure Rule No. 10.

 

(ii)               To answer questions from members of the Council pursuant to Procedure Rule No. 11

 

Minutes:

QUESTIONS FROM MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL NO.1

 

Under Procedure Rule No 11, Councillor T Clements will ask the Portfolio Holder for Heritage and Growth, Councillor J Oates, the following question:-

 

“Can the Cabinet member give the people of Tamworth some reassurance that we understand the challenges of the high street? COVID 19 has changed many ways of working and we need to ensure that we future proof our plans and particularly the High Street business plan that this council will consider submitting to the government this evening.”

 

Councillor J Oates gave the following reply:-

 

“Thank you for allowing me to answer this question I will answer in two parts if I may. The Covid pandemic has provided the Council with an opportunity to really understand the challenges that the pandemic has created around the High Street. The opportunity has been brought about by the distribution of the business grants and the provision of business advice and the reopening of the High Street project itself.

 

 It must be remembered although the recovery is still in a very early phase, Officers will still continue to engage with the business community to both shape and respond to the challenges as they emerge.

 

Madam Mayor, re-opening the High Street project and the wider regeneration works that the Council is currently undertaking, it's given us the following, given us the strong and collaborative two-way relationship with landowners and a better understanding of what's going on in terms of tenancies and units, something that we've not had before and also allowed us to improve and develop stronger relationship intelligence and engagement within the business community.

 

 In the past it's been difficult to get into some of those and the business community have found it difficult to get into the Council so we are now in a better situation to understand that. It’s also given us the opportunity to renew and drive forward positive relationships with stakeholders in the Town Centre and I will mention Ankerside as an example.

 

Second part of my answer relates to the second part of the question that Councillor Clements has raised, later on this evening the Council will consider the final business plan submission to Government under the Future High Street fund initiative, this is an opportunity to intervene in a current trajectory of the Town Centre and make it fit for purpose for the people of Tamworth. As

Part of the submission to Government the Council has completed a detailed COVID-19 agendum highlighting mitigating specific risks of the pandemic to the project; these are very much public realm works and mitigations to allow for social distancing, whatever that becomes, and that flexibility. Whilst the full implications of COVID-19 on the economy of the High Street cannot be fully understood as we sit here this evening we are confident that our plans to improve and change the Town Centre will be future proofed, the reason we are confident includes that they are in line with the Government spending agenda around skills, education and change of use and updated infrastructure. Our project is not heavily private sector focused, our project focuses on bringing significant footfall and day time use back into the town centre to support the wider economy, our project encourages wider social use and more flexible commercial spaces so that can cater for small businesses, start-ups, like as we have seen in the Enterprise Centre.

 

We are also removing a large vacant retail floor space, redundant buildings and replacing them with attractive, active use of buildings. The Town Centre will become a mix economy of leisure, education, retail, office space, food, drink and other activities aimed at increasing the volume in the Town Centre.

 

Madam Mayor I hope this brief summary has given members some reassurance that the team are working extremely hard to understand the High Street not just with the COVID-19 pandemic but also going forward. Thank you Madam Mayor.”

 

 Councillor T Clementsasked the following supplementary question-

 

“Thank you Madam Mayor, Would the Portfolio Holder agree we cannot just look at the now, we need to look at the next Ten, Twenty years and even further to safeguard our town and its businesses?”

 

Councillor J Oates gave the following reply -

 

“Thank you Madam Mayor. We can all look at the past and learn from it so we don’t make the same mistakes in the future, and this is something we are very keen to make sure this is something we don't do. Tamworth was changed significantly in the sixties and seventies, before my time and since then as a Council and as a Community we have regretted the direction the Town Centre has gone in. I am adamant we need to build a Town Centre fit for purpose and  as Councillor Clements has said not just for the next few years but going forward for the next Ten years and the next Twenty years we need to build back into the Town Centre our identity and I don't want to go into too much detail about the report as the confidential nature of it, but this gives us a broad mix of all the things that are the entity of Tamworth whether its spending time together or celebrating our heritage, or working and shopping in the town centre. It’s about bringing the essence of Tamworth back. Thank you.”

 

QUESTIONS FROM MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL NO.2

 

Under Procedure Rule No 11, Councillor Dr S Peaple will ask the Leader of the Council, Councillor D Cook, the following question:-

 

“At the recent LGA Conference, held virtually, the Leader of the Conservative Group reaffirmed the Conservative manifesto commitment to re-organise local government. There is an emerging consensus that new unitary authorities with a minimum population of around 400,000 are to be created. In the case of Staffordshire, this would mean two authorities, with Tamworth being part of a new “South Staffordshire”. What steps does the Leader believe the Council should take to protect Tamworth’s interests going forward?”

 

Councillor Dr S Peaple was provided with the following written answer from Councillor D Cook.

 

“To confirm there has been a figure of 350,000 – 400,000 populous given to form a unitary, no detail given but logically this could mean a northern/southern split across Staffordshire.

 

There is no detail available at present however a white paper is likely to be published in the autumn around the time of the Conservative Party conference.

 

Whatever is contained within this paper it is vital that the council does everything it can for the benefit of Tamworth and its residents, to ensure its continued success as a thriving town.

 

I look forward to working cross party when we have sufficient detail to debate this matter at council. We need to approach this together and ensure the continued protection and enhancement of our assets and public services. This really will be the time to park politics in Tamworth for a while”.

 

 

QUESTIONS FROM MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL NO.3

 

Under Procedure Rule No 11, Councillor Dr S Peaple will ask the Portfolio Holder for Heritage and Growth, Councillor J Oates, the following question:-

 

“Following the government’s decision to exclude Tamworth and the other shire districts from receiving any of the £66M capital funding awarded to the GBSLEP, what steps is he taking to ensure that all the projects put forward by Tamworth are being considered for the much smaller amount of £22m awarded to the Stoke & Staffordshire LEP?”

 

Councillor J Oates gave the following reply:-

 

“Thank you Madam Mayor, Councillor Peaple rightly raises the issue of the greater Birmingham Solihull LEP and the other Two LEPS in the West Midlands combined authority area have been informed that there is £66 million capital funding allocated following the call for projects that the Government announced last month and has to be spent within the constituent member areas and not in the Shire districts, now Tamworth sits geographically within the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent LEP area and the Borough Council has representation on the boards of both the GBSLEP and the SSLEP.

We have responded to the call for projects by submitting Two different projects to each LEP, whilst we know from the information the project submitted to the GBSLEP is unlikely to receive any funding we are still waiting to hear any news on the outcome of the Staffordshire and Stoke LEP on the project we have submitted. In direct response to Councillor Peaples question I have pushed and promoted the locality subgroup panel of the Staffordshire and Stoke LEP and also at full board meetings at the Staffordshire and Stoke LEP and I will continue to push for our share of the £22 million awarded, I believe it's at the stage now where submissions have been made by the LEPS and are awaiting Government sign off. I do not have the details of those Madam Mayor.”

 

Councillor Dr S Peaple asked the following supplementary question -

 

“Thank you Madam Mayor can I ask the Portfolio Holder informs all members of the Council as soon as there is a decision reached rather than waiting for the next Council meeting, assuming it comes before then, given that we've got the normal sort of gap in meetings over August. So if I can ask him to assure us that we will be informed as soon as possible thank you Madam Mayor.”

 

Councillor J Oates gave the following reply -

 

“Thank you Madam Mayor I have no problem in doing that, I’m quite disappointed I am not in a position to give you a straight answer in terms of the outcome of that this evening as soon as I get the decision I will forward it to all members thank you Madam Mayor.”

 

 

 

QUESTIONS FROM MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL NO.4

 

Under Procedure Rule No 11, Councillor P Standen will ask the Portfolio Holder for Regulatory and Community Safety, Councillor S Doyle, the following question:-

 

“Does the Cabinet member believe the planning policies set out in the local plan adopted by the council on 23rd February 2016 are still fit for purpose?”

 

Councillor S Doylegave the following reply:-

 

“Thank you Madam Mayor / Councillor Standen, to answer Councillor Standen’s Question, yes the plan requires updating.

 

In context, the plan is frequently reviewed and updated, last report regarding the review was 19th March 2020 and previous to that was 5th July 2018.

Also a review has been called for by the Local Plan Working Group which I believe myself and Councillor Standen are part of? And is documented in the minutes from the Local Plan Working Group meeting on the 20th February 2019 in which the Leaders of both the Opposition and Ruling Group where present.

 

The Cabinet report for March 2020 also states the following:

 

“Since the current plan was adopted, a number of national policy changes have been implemented, particularly in relation to biodiversity and climate change.

 

Having reviewed the plan, it is clear that to varying degrees some of the policies contained therein are out of date.”

 

 *(Cabinet Report March 2020)

 

Part of the Recommendations from that Cabinet meeting was that work commence on a New Local Plan.

 

Appendix 1 of the Cabinet report from March contains details on the changes to the relevant policies and procedures within the Local Plan.

 

There were three options in the report considered by Cabinet that point to the current plan as approaching the end of its life cycle and will be replaced in due course, for reference Cabinet chose option 3.

 

I’m happy to forward a copy of the Cabinet report to Cabinet to Councillor Standen after the meeting? Although the Cabinet report is freely available to anyone via the Tamworth Borough Council Forward Plan Portal.

 

I hope this answers your question in enough detail.”

 

Councillor P Standen asked the following supplementary question -

“Thank you Councillor Doyle for your response I'm glad you modified it to a straightforward yes I think I'm actually going to agree with him that that there are many policies that need amending I must admit as a member of the Planning committee at the last meeting I felt like somebody who had been sent out to bat for England and had been given a toothpick instead of a cricket bat due to the lack of the policies that were suitable for some of applications. Would the Cabinet member agree with me that the best members of this Council to actually advise on what needs changing or updating on the Local Plan are the members of the Planning committee itself who have had issues actually dealing with these policies that we currently have at the moment thank you Madam Mayor.”

 

Councillor S Doyle gave the following reply:-

 

“Thank you Madam Mayor and Councillor Standen there is always an opportunity for not just members of the Planning Committee but other  members of the Council to feed in their input to any of the policies and procedures that we produce. Officers have been challenged with going away and looking at current legislation and seeing how that reflects on the Local Plan and identifying what needs updating. If there is instances were in planning something is identified or needs review or is questionable, this is why you have the committee to forward it on and say “look this needs to be addressed can somebody look at it” Thank you Madam Mayor.”

 

 

QUESTIONS FROM MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL NO.5

 

Under Procedure Rule No 11, Councillor P Standen will ask the Chair of Planning, Councillor P Thurgood, the following question:-

 

“Does the Chair of the Planning committee believe that all Councillors when speaking on an application placed before the Planning committee for consideration either as committee members or speaking as a ward Councillor should have a clear understanding of the planning policies upon which the committee is required to make its decision?”

 

Councillor P Standen was provided with the following written answer from Councillor P Thurgood

Thank you Madam Mayor and I thank Councillor Standen for his question.

Yes I totally agree with Councillor Standen that all Councillors when speaking on an application placed before the Planning committee for consideration either as committee members or speaking as a ward Councillor should have a clear understanding of the planning policies upon which the committee is required to make its decision along with an appreciation of the Planning process from start to finish and of course having read thoroughly before the meeting the Planning report submitted by the Planning officer. Thank you, Madam Mayor.”