To consider a request by the Resources Scrutiny Committee that the Cabinet report of 14 July 2015 (reference 15/193) be referred back to Cabinet for further deliberation and an associated urgent report of the Directors (NE and LD) attached.
The Cabinet considered a report by the Directors (LD and NE) (Reference 15/296) in respect of land at Danes Dyke, Newby. Members were reminded that the Cabinet’s original decision dated 14 July to place the land on the open market and invite tenders for its purchase subject to planning permission, had been called in for scrutiny and had been considered by the Resources Scrutiny Committee. At that meeting, the scrutiny committee had recommended that the Cabinet reconsider its decision for the reasons cited by the committee, noting in particular that the allocation of the land for a women’s refuge was required for the Borough as identified in the Housing Strategy 2013-16, and the increase in the Home Group’s financial offer for the land. The decision before Cabinet in relation to Home Group’s revised offer was of an urgent nature because Home Group would lose funding secured to support its proposed development as a women’s refuge if they were unable to meet the grant funding deadlines of the Homes and Communities Agency. In introducing the report, the Portfolio Holder for Harbours, Assets, Coast and Flood Protection, Councillor Cockerill reminded the meeting that the Cabinet’s original decision in July not only helped protect the finances of the Council, but also did not preclude any potential future development on the site. He also referred to Home Group’s initial offer for the site of £50k which was significantly below the market value. Despite some negative comments he and others had received about the Cabinet’s original decision, he believed that Home Group’s substantially increased revised offer, had in effect vindicated the Cabinet’s stance to hold out on the market value. Councillor Cockerill also referred to the recent legal action which had overturned the national planning policy changes in respect of affordable housing introduced by the Government in November 2014, thus negating the previous independent valuation of the site. Councillor Cockerill had however consulted with officers who had advised that the current valuation was still in the ball park of the original value. His view therefore was that Home Group’s new offer was a realistic one. He advised against marketing the site since this would incur further costs to the Council, may not result in an improved offer, and would delay a decision to the detriment of the current offer. Accordingly, Councillor Cockerill proposed that (i) the Cabinet accept the fiscal basis of Home Group’s revised offer as stated in the letter from Home Group dated 16 September 2015, and (ii) freehold vacant possession is available. For clarification, the qualification in the offer letter regarding the RICS valuation formed no part of his proposal, since if there had been any doubt about the valuation, then in his view, the offer should not have been submitted. Members then discussed the report. Most welcomed this positive development from Home Group, referring to the evidenced need for this new facility in the Borough, and the difficulty of the Cabinet’s decision made in July.
RESOLVED that the Cabinet:
(i) note the request of Resources Scrutiny Committee of 19 September 2015 that Cabinet reconsider its decision of 14 July 2015 (Report 15/193) in relation to the sale of 0.52 acres of public open space at Danes Dyke, Newby, Scarborough (the Land) for the reasons cited by the committee and noting in particular:
· the allocation of the Land for a women’s refuge is required for the Borough as identified in the Housing Strategy 2013-16; and
· the increase in the Home Group’s financial offer for the Land; and
(ii) as per Councillor Cockerill’s proposal, sell the Land to Home Group for the consideration set out in the appendix to the report for the development of a Supported Housing Scheme for victims of domestic violence in accordance with the Council’s Housing Strategy.
· To comply with the recommendation of the Resources Scrutiny Committee of 19 September 2015;
· to seek clarity on the future use of this land; and
· to give Members an opportunity to consider the revised offer from Home Group