The apparent determination of your Chief Executive to move the council’s functions, in all or in part, to the edge of the industrial estate on the A64 is causing increasing concern.
The Government has consistently made it clear that a council should, when making decisions, act in a manner which is compatible with planning policies and considerations. The Scarborough Local Plan has a strategic objective to “maintain and improve the vitality and viability of the town centre as a focus for shopping, business, leisure, community and related activities for both residents and visitors, and to maintain and increase related employment” (paragraph 7.13a). In addition the National Policy Framework (March 2012) urges LPA’s to pursue policies to support the vitality and viability of town centres which need to be recognised as being at “the heart of their communities” (paragraph 23). It would clearly be irresponsible of Scarborough Council to make a decision to relocate the Town Hall to a fringe location on the edge of the industrial estate in flagrant disregard of its own policies and of national policy frameworks.
The basis for the relocation option appears primarily to be that, apart from dubious cost savings, it will lead to enthusiastic developers rushing forward to take over all the council’s liabilities for maintenance, renewal and redevelopment of, by Scarborough standards, a huge block of property from St Nicholas Street to Foreshore Road.
It is time, surely, for councillors to introduce a little sobriety into the consideration of these plans. The place to start could well be a review of projects and liabilities already entered into, or in an advanced state: in short an audit of potential liabilities before the council enters into further adventures.
A sum of £3m appears to have been transferred by the HCA (Homes and Communities Agency) into a Scarborough Borough Council account which is ring-fenced to facilitate the development of the Futurist site and adjacent land where the HCA has acquired property assets. The HCA regards itself as a lender, a banking facility to assist the council to develop. The HCA has no brief to assist the council to relocate to an out of town location. The relocation plan is entirely that of the council’s executive. We suggest that the use of the HCA £3m to facilitate council office relocation is quite unacceptable because it is not in the long term interests of the community. The executive have described the relocation as a ‘bold’ move, implying that ‘bold’ means admirable. Bold, however, can equally well be reckless and irresponsible, as in this case. The charge of the Light Brigade was ‘bold’.
The Chief Executive has produced no evidence that the redevelopment of the St Nicholas Street to Futurist area is likely to attract commercial interest in the present economic circumstances, or in the medium term. Lacking any reputable commercial feasibility, the Chief Executive’s financial case lacks elementary credibility.
We would urge Councillors to instruct Mr Dillon to instigate an examination of how to meet the council’s requirements and liabilities in the town centre, and appoint independent and authoritative private consultants, or project managers, (ie Jacobs Babtie: Leeds office) to explore solutions, if necessary by incremental developments in accordance with a proper master plan.
It is much to be hoped that the councillors will be in a position at Full Council to restrain executive intemperance in the interests of the community at large.
Former Head of Scarborough Council Planning Services
David Green, former Senior Planning Officer for the Whitby Division
Gordon Somerville, former Head of Scarborough Council Planning Services
David Williams, former Forward Planning Manager for Scarborough Borough Council
Tony Wilson, former Head of Development Control, and National Planning Inspector
(Signed by Jonathan Allison on instructions from all signatories)