To review the Cabinet’s Forward Plan (reference 19/152) attached.
The Cabinet considered the Forward Plan (Reference 19/152). In respect of Item 14 on the Plan, Futurist Development Phase, the Chairman reminded the meeting that were three decisions to make, each involving different decision makers: (i) the decision if the development by Flamingo Land was right for the site was for the Planning and Development Committee which was legally independent of this Council whilst its members were bound by law to be independent of their political group; (ii) the decision ‘if Public Open Land in St Nicholas Gardens was transferred to a private development’ was a separate ‘S123’ decision and not for this Cabinet; (iii) the decision that this Cabinet and full Council would be asked to make was to finalise the agreement initiated in September 2014 when the then Cabinet agreed to make Bidder B, later identified as Flamingo Land, the preferred bidder for the then Futurist site. The Chairman further advised that the Forward Plan they had inherited was that this year’s September Cabinet and Council meetings would appraise that final agreement after seeing an outline of the terms, the valuations, the business plan, the benefit and risk analysis etc. That timing might be overambitious. He added that in May he had promised to look at concerns expressed about that original September 2014 Cabinet preferred bidder agreement. These were not concerns with Flamingo Land per se but with the deal the Cabinet agreed in 2014. He had not yet had all those concerns addressed. The Council Leader at the time of the September 2014 decision assured councillors that further reports to address their diligence concerns would follow. Because the Chairman would expect that every member of the Council would also want those diligence concerns addressed before proceeding, he added that this Forward Plan should reflect that there may need to be additional scrutiny, whether Audit Committee or Overview and Scrutiny Board involvement or some other checks. He reminded the meeting of his own key concern: the Cabinet gave preferred bidder status to Flamingo Land before £4m was spent demolishing the Futurist Theatre and preparing the site. Others had expressed interest in the cleared site but were not included in the 2014 preferred bidder status process. Why was the site not marketed as ‘once cleared’? He also commented that there were several other unexplained concerns to which answers must be sought before moving to the agreement decision. Even if these concerns were not answered, there was also the concern raised by Councillor Donohue-Moncrieff at the Council meeting earlier that month: was the Council locked into a legal agreement following its granting of preferred bidder status? He was therefore seeking clarification on this and the implications of the later decision to spend £4m demolishing the Futurist Theatre and preparing the site. For all these reasons, he proposed that the Forward Plan reflected that additional scrutiny may need to be undertaken before proceeding to a decision on the final agreement.
RESOLVED that, subject to the above, the Forward Plan be approved.