To consider verbal progress reports on ‘Task and Finish’ reviews (Scarborough Town Centre Strategy and Supporting Volunteers).
Members received progress with the two current ‘task and finish’ reviews.
The Scarborough Town Centre Strategy aimed to create a sustainable, buoyant centre for all ages and to become the leading visitor / wider economy for the Yorkshire Coast by 2025. Seven strategic themes had been identified:
Cllr David Jeffels, who was chairing the Town Centre review, explained that the review was needed now given the national picture of struggling high streets especially with many retail shop closures. Scarborough was better than average but ‘no action’ was not really an option. Furthermore, Government had announced a national Future High Streets fund of £675million with up to £25million available for areas successful in bidding.
The review had been focusing on consultation feedback on the Strategy from commercial, community and public stakeholders as part of good engagement with a wide range of people. Two well-attended consultation events, around 150 people in all, had been held at the Royal Hotel late 2019.
The events were an opportunity to present the background to why a Strategy was needed and to get people’s ideas. Attendees had been enthusiastic recognising the need for a dynamic strategy with real actions to be delivered through partnership working and numerous practical ideas were generated.
Cllr Jeffels reported that the seven themes in the Strategy were broadly supported by the consultees and the review group, especially trying to encourage empty properties above shops back into use and in particular for residential accommodation.
He added that developing retail and leisure opportunities, as part of a wider ‘mixed use’ offer needed to be pursued working with other sectors.
Some specific other (delivery) suggestions were made by consultees. The main new suggestions were to have a Town Centre Manager to promote, co-ordinate and drive forward activity including investment opportunities.
Alex Richards, Regeneration Services Manager agreed that the consultation events had been highly productive with an impressive range of ideas and involvement. It had been useful to get business and public endorsement for the Strategy including the seven themes at this early stage. He added that as well as a proposed Town Centre Manager, an independent partnership of key private, public and voluntary/community sectors was proposed to lead on delivery of the Strategy and would also include the Council.
He reported that the Local Enterprise Partnership was keen on seeing Scarborough take the town centre mantle to drive development of the Yorkshire Coast potential. A meeting of regeneration leads across the sub-region would be meeting in early February 2019 to work collectively together.
In response to Members’ comments, he explained that the proposed Designation Business Improvement District could complement other work/opportunities.
Members were informed that the Scarborough Chamber of Trade would also be discussing the proposed Strategy at its next meeting early February 2019.
The review group had also agreed that some ‘quick wins’ would be needed to demonstrate real action, e.g. safe and attractive lighting in Bar Street. Other notable consultation comments included development of a cinema and creating a town centre square (‘focal’ point) at the old Argos building site.
Members wanted to solve the issue of empty properties in the Town Centre. They were informed that this was not an unusual problem in any town centre and challenging with absent landlords many of whom were institutional / international investors particularly given that the Council owned few properties in the locality, i.e. limited powers.
Nevertheless, the Council / partners could assert pressure on landlords and it was noted that speculative property values might decrease / other charges increase, i.e. which could naturally ‘force’ landlords to be more constructive.
Regenerating empty properties was a particular concern. It was suggested that the Council could use its relatively new strategic investments approach to acquire some properties and ‘start the ball rolling’ to encourage other property investors to regenerate properties and offer affordable rents to businesses and residents. Regeneration provided economic, health and wellbeing and social value opportunities. People needed to live in towns to create a more dynamic environment including the night-time economy.
Members agreed that it was important to create a dynamic and unique Scarborough brand and market itself effectively.
The Town Centre ‘Task and Finish’ Group’s recommendations, including any changes / additions suggested for the Strategy, would be made to the Overview and Scrutiny Board on 6 March 2019 and then onto Cabinet on 12 March 2019 to consider as part of agreeing the final version of the Strategy. This would then allow officers to submit a stage one ‘expression of interest’ bid to Government for funding from the Future High Streets fund.
The Supporting Volunteers review had been looking at promoting volunteering to get the best support outcomes for people and communities.
Cllr Colling, as one of the review members, explained that they had recognised that volunteering was a significant area involving numerous individual volunteers and groups with themes cutting across a wide range of services. Support was offered by Council services to various volunteering activities and people. Review members had recognised the need to really refine the focus of their work so practical outcomes could be delivered.
It was important to establish a robust picture of volunteering across the Borough - who volunteered (demographics), what they did, why they took part, how much commitment was involved, what worked well, opportunities, issues and what support would be useful.
This would then allow members to refine the scope of the review with clear outcomes sought, e.g. whether the Council raised awareness of volunteering benefits & opportunities, acted as a support resource, considered the potential for its own ‘pool’ of volunteers and, in particular, helping ensure that volunteers were valued.
Review members had decided that the first step was to seek the views of active volunteers, people who might be interested in volunteering and people who had barriers to volunteering. Parallel to this community-facing survey, would be a similar survey for staff recognising that some staff volunteered or might want to so consideration and support needed to be given to this.
Members would review the consultation findings from both surveys early March 2019. These would help form ‘key lines of enquiry’ for the review.
Meetings would then take place with some key stakeholders later in March 2019, e.g. Community First and Coast & Vale Community Action (both umbrella organisations for volunteers) and public sector partners.
The review work would be in stages, i.e. work before the May 2019 elections would lead to some recommendations and/or identify what more extensive work should take place after May.
Resolved - That the progress reports be noted and planned work endorsed.