To receive Report No. 18/2019 from the Chief Executive.
The Chairman announced his intention to allow Mr Hemsley 15 minutes to present the report after which any Councillors wishing to respond would be allowed five minutes each. Points of order could also be asked for and would not be included in the allocated time. If at 9.30pm the Council was still in debate then in accordance with Procedure Rule 58, the Chairman would ask that the time for the meeting be extended by 30 minutes.
Report No.18/2019 was received from the Chief Executive, the purpose of which was for Council to consider the recommendations approved by Cabinet (Report 234/18) relating to the evolving Masterplan for the St George’s site and the associated Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) Business Case.
Mr Hemsley introduced the report and moved the recommendations. Mr Brown seconded the recommendations and reserved his position to speak later in the debate.
During debate the following points were raised:
· Mrs Stephenson, commented that Rutland was undergoing a huge period of change and that Rutland would evolve was certain but that how it did that, was not. The timing of the paper was unfortunate but necessary as investing in infrastructure from the outset was logical and necessary. Missing out on the HIF bid would leave the Council vulnerable to being in debt for a long time.
· Mr Conde felt that there had been a good level of public engagement and therefore Ketton Parish Council had decided to keep an open mind as they appreciated that this was a long term phased project, rather than about the number of homes in the next five years, and that the vote was about initial infrastructure funding rather than the final plan.
· The comments of Mrs Stephenson and Mr Conde were endorsed by Mr Begy who warned of the dangers of the Council stagnating unless it kept its options open and did not close doors at this early stage.
· Mr Oxley reminded Councillors that in the past developers’ promises on the number of affordable homes had failed to materialise. Having an opportunity to be involved from the very start of the project was important because of the scale and number of homes being proposed and would ensure that the correct infrastructure was put in place. It would also enable the Council to influence the design so that it complemented existing Rutland villages.
· Mr Wilby commented that the St George’s project had been subject to a great level of scrutiny and would continue to be so. The project offered the chance to get in early to organise transport and build a properly equipped school.
· Mrs Burkitt felt that the decision Councillors were being asked to make was not an easy one. If they did not vote for the HIF bid submission then there was a danger that unchecked developers’ schemes would lose Rutland’s identity but equally she recognised residents’ concerns that Rutland communities had evolved over a long time and that the proposed development threatened this.
· Mr Lammie was the only member who was under the age of 35 and who did not own his own home. The HIF bid and the St George’s project would offer an opportunity for many younger people who grew up in Rutland to return home.
· Mr Baines recognised that all Councillors acted in the best interests of Rutland but he felt there was a democratic deficit and flaws in the process. The views of his electorate were that the development was too large and the plans were not based on sound information.
Mr Baines therefore proposed an amendment which read as follows:
Council recognises and supports the need to develop the St George’s Barracks site. It therefore resolves that the Project Board explores all options or proposals which reflect Rutland’s values. It also asks that without delay, representatives of the villages in the Normanton and Martinsthorpe wards are co-opted to the Project Board.
The amendment was seconded by Mr Cross who reserved permission to speak later in the debate.
The Chairman adjourned the meeting at 9.03pm to consult with the Monitoring Officer following requests from Members to clarify the amendment and its implications for the HIF bid.
The Chairman reconvened the meeting at 9.08pm.
· The Monitoring Officer outlined to Councillors that the amendment was an alternative to recommendation 2 of the report and that the implication therefore was that the HIF bid would not be submitted at this stage.
· Mr Baines defended his amendment stating that the project was referred to as an evolving plan and that it was unfortunate that Councillors had not heard what was happening to the officers mess site and its potential use for job creation as it would be better to have jobs first and then houses. Additionally there may be alternative funding to the HIF monies at a later stage.
· Mrs Stephenson could not support the amendment as she felt that the HIF bid must be submitted. If the terms of the bid were not right the newly elected Council could amend them as it saw fit to do so at a later date.
· Mr Cross told Councillors that the amendment was an opportunity to revisit the proposal and listen to the view of residents and their passion for the County, rather than just accepting the government foisting the project on Rutland.
The Chairman proposed that the meeting be extended by 30 minutes in accordance with Procedure Rule 58 and this was seconded by Mr Gale.
Mr Walters understood the passion and goodwill of Mr Baines but felt that the amendment wasted time and achieved nothing but more debate on the original motion. Mr Walters moved that the amendment now be put and this was seconded by Mr Begy.
Council voted on the motion to put the amendment to the vote.
1. Council voted in favour of the motion to put the amendment to the vote.
The Chairman invited Mr Baines to speak before the vote was taken on the amendment.
Mr Baines asked Councillors to think very carefully about their vote and to consider abstaining if they were unsure. The level of interest in the proposal had not been seen in Rutland since the debate on whether Rutland lost its County status and the amendment reflected the views of many residents who were uneasy about the scale of the development.
Mr Gale requested a recorded vote on the amendment and this was supported by four other Members in accordance with procedure rule 11.
1. Upon being put to the vote, the AMENDMENT was DEFEATED.
The voting was as follow:
FOR THE MOTION: (8)
Baines, Burkitt, Cross, Dale, Gale, Mann, Parsons, Waller
AGAINST THE MOTION: (14)
Arnold, Begy, Brown, Callaghan, Conde, Foster, Fox, Hemsley, Lammie, Lowe, Oxley, Stephenson, Walters, Wilby
ABSTAINING FROM THE MOTION: (1)
Debate returned to the ORIGINAL MOTION
· Ms Waller addressed the Council not just as the Ward Member for Normanton in which the St George’s site was situated but also as someone who was charged to represent the interests of all Rutlanders. Not putting the bid forward would not prevent the Council working with the MOD but the Master Plan would mean that all development until 2036 would be at the new site unless more than the required 160 new houses a year was built, thus affecting the modest and sustained development seen in our other towns and villages. It also gave the green light to future town developments on other brownfield sites.
· Ms Waller argued that approving the HIF bid was, barring a dramatic change of grant conditions, the same as agreeing the project as the Government had outlined the grant conditions and RCC had invested significant time and money putting the grant together. The Council would lose a great deal of credibility if the grant was not accepted. Ms Waller wished to see the site developed but developed in a manner in keeping with the scale and style of Rutland.
· The Chairman, Mr Bool, addressed the Council in his capacity as Ward Member for Normanton. Mr Bool echoed previous comments that voting in favour of the motion would effectively commit the Council to a development the size of a third market town. The Council had a strong local plan and did not require a development of the size proposed. The creation of a village of circa 400 homes could be done over the next 3-5 years and could be supported by existing infrastructure whereas the HIF guidance invited ambitious plans. Mr Bool feared that the new development would become a dormitory town and unlike Uppingham and Oakham, without the public schools that pumped £600m funds into the local economy and provided leisure and sporting facilities, and the churches that added so much to the community. The fear that if the vote was not approved the MOD would walk away from their memorandum of understanding (MOU) was unfounded as a Government body would be prepared to continue co-operation to achieve a positive outcome. Mr Bool urged Councillors, as custodians of the County, to carefully consider their vote.
· Mr Brown, in closing the debate and having listened to the deputations earlier, made the following points
- On the issue of affordability mentioned by Mr Cummings, OS Statistics looked at averages and in Rutland we are not talking about averages but the people who cannot afford these houses.
- There was not going to be another version of the bid and this had been stated quite clearly by Homes England and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. The HIF bid was already over committed and was very competitive.
- The masterplan was not being approved despite comments by Cllr Waller. The building of 2,215 homes would be a decision in the future.
- Jobs had been created in the Council. In the last twelve months 80 jobs had been created at the Kings Centre and there was a demand for a lot more.
- There had been numerous opportunities for Councillors to engage in the process with a number of briefing sessions and presentation at scrutiny and other Council meetings.
- The viability of the Woolfox proposition has been discussed but to date, detailed reports on minerals, traffic and environment etc. had not been forthcoming, nor financial viability models. It had taken two years to get to this point alone with St George’s.
- The proposal of a smaller development of 350 homes including those at the officers’ mess would still require demolition costs in excess of £15 million and just did not work financially, especially when it had to be policy compliant on 30% affordable homes.
The Chairman invoked his powers as Chairman to bring the meeting to a close and went to the vote.
Mr Gale requested a recorded vote on the motion and this was supported by four other Members in accordance with procedure rule 11.
1. To NOTE the St. George’s Evolving masterplan attached at Appendix 3 to the report.
2. To APPROVE the recommendation from Cabinet to submit a business case for Forward Funding under the Housing Infrastructure programme based on the evolving masterplan.
FOR THE MOTION: (12)
Arnold, Begy, Brown, Callaghan, Conde, Foster, Hemsley, Lammie, Oxley, Stephenson, Walters, Wilby
AGAINST THE MOTION: (11)
Baines, Bool, Burkitt, Cross, Dale, Fox, Gale, Lowe, Mann, Parsons, Waller
ABSTAINING FROM THE MOTION: (0)