Agenda item - Valley Gardens

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Agenda item

Valley Gardens

Report of the Executive Director of Environment, Development & Housing (copy attached).

 

Decision:

1)            Agrees that the Business Case required to secure funding from the Local Growth Fund (LGF) should be submitted to the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to enable delivery of physical improvements to the northern section of Valley Gardens (the Scheme), as summarised at Appendices 1 to 4 of the report;

 

2)            A report in relation to future project management will be brought to the next Committee and regular reports will be brought to Committee;

 

3)            Notes that a cross-sector Management Group will be established to investigate and trial innovative ways to manage and maintain the public spaces of Valley Gardens to minimise additional future maintenance pressures on the parks service.

 

Minutes:

15.1        The Committee considered a report of the Executive Director of Environment, Development & Housing that sought approval to implement a course of action that would enable improvements to the northern section of Valley Gardens to be delivered between June 2015 and February 2017.

 

15.2        Councillor Janio welcomed the report as very good news for the city. Councillor Janio asked the report author if he could identify any potential negatives in the scheme.

 

15.3        The Senior Project Manager stated that there were risks to the project as identified in the business case within the report. He added that although this was a large scale project, the individual elements were relatively straightforward. The Senior Project Manager added that whilst there was a loss of trees of 16 associated with the scheme, work was ongoing with an independent arboriculturist to improve that.

 

15.4        Councillor Cox noted that an earlier version of the project had proposed a public space outside the King & Queen pub which was now removed. Councillor Cox asked why it had been decided not to proceed with this element.

 

15.5        The Senior Project Manager stated that the March 2013 report had presented a series of options and a larger green space had been decided as the preferred option as it provided flexibility in the scheme and there were concerns about cost and loss of open space associated with rerouting the carriageway to create a public square.

 

15.6        Councillor Theobald noted that he had received an email from the chairman of the London Road Action Team that raised concerns about the level of consultation on the project and misgivings toward traffic movement should the project proceed. Furthermore, the London Road Action Team had requested that the project be rejected until an economic impact assessment for the project had been completed.

 

15.7        The Senior Project Manager replied that he was aware of the content of the email and had been surprised by some of the comments made. The Senior Project Manager noted that he understood the Team had 10 members and one had provided a statement of support for inclusion in the Business Case. The Senior Project Manager added that his team had been to several meetings of the London Road LAT to discuss the scheme with the London Road community. The Senior Project Manager added that the concerns made may be down to a lack of unfamiliarity with the scheme and that a large proportion of the Business Case was effectively an economic impact assessment.

 

15.8        Councillor Davey asked if there had been any other stakeholder engagement.

 

15.9        The Senior Project Manager stated that there had been consultation in September 2013 incorporating events around St Peter’s Church. All aspects of the project had been developed in close consultation with representative stakeholder steering and working groups and updates on the scheme had been provided to those who had previously expressed a desire to be kept informed of scheme development. The Senior Project Manager stated that a challenge had been generating interest in the project up to this stage and work was continuing to foster that.

 

15.10    Councillor Mitchell noted that it had been sixteen months since the Committee last received an update on the Valley Gardens project. Councillor Mitchell stated that she had read the report and business case and had noted the lack of detail on the impact of the scheme on the wider area. Councillor Mitchell stated that there was a lack of information on the impact in the reduction of 30% of the road space and associated displacement and the business case still appeared a concept scheme with a lot of focus on the environmental improvements but little on how the various changes would work in practice. Councillor Mitchell stated that the lack of such detail undermined the project which had to be taken in the context of other significant transport changes and problems in the city and as part of a wider package to reduce congestion in contrast to the statement in report that said this was beyond its remit. Councillor Mitchell stated that perhaps due to the significant changes in council funding, the project through its history had detrimentally moved away from a major urban realm scheme and had become an economically driven benefit scheme in order to increase the chances of being successful in the bidding process for funding. Councillor Mitchell supplemented that the report identified potential benefits to the knowledge economy in the area and that 290 training opportunities would be created however; there was no substance or detail to back up those claims. Councillor Mitchell expressed her concern for accountability of the project noting that recommendation 2.3 and 2.4 requested approval for a cross-party management group and cross-sector management group and that the terms of reference stated that only the Green Party’s communication unit would be allowed to comment publicly on the project. Councillor Mitchell stated that she was deeply concerned that these measures were being recommended to silence the Committee and take away decision making power from the opposition groups. Councillor Mitchell stated that over the course of the past sixteen months, opposition councillors should have been invited in some capacity to comment or input to the project as it progressed. Councillor Mitchell stated that the Labour Group had in 2006 come forward with this major city centre environmental regeneration and they still supported that idea in principle. However, Councillor Mitchell believed reinforcement of the Seafront Arches to be a much higher priority and the council’s effort should be firstly directed there. The Seafront Arches current state represented a much greater risk to the city’s economy and had been identified as the second highest corporate risk. Councillor Mitchell stated that the focus of the LEP bid should have been the Seafront Arches and reiterated her disappointment in proposals for Valley Gardens. 

 

15.11    The Chair referred to page 122 of the agenda which was clear that road capacity would be maintained by making the route more effective to travel. The Chair added that there was an extensive explaination of the economic case in the report too.

 

15.12    Councillor Davey expressed his disappointment that Members were prepared to withdraw support for a long-running scheme at the last minute. Councillor Davey stated that a lot of effort had been put into attracting £8 million worth of funding to regenerate a key area of the city. Councillor Davey added that it had been explained on numerous occasions that several bids had been put into the LEP including Valley Gardens, the Seafront Arches and an integrated transport system. Councillor Davey supplemented that the reason that bid had been successful was not down to lack of effort but that the LEP recognised the great opportunities in the Valley Gardens project. Councillor Davey stated that there had been cross party approval for the scheme on every occasion to this point adding that this was a once in a generation opportunity to create a fantastic city centre park.

 

15.13    Councillor Theobald stated that the project had been before Committee several times and each time was supported by every party. Councillor Theobald stated that the request was not a choice between the Seafront Arches or Valley Gardens but a choice whether to accept £8 million worth of investment to improve an incoherent traffic system in the centre of the city. Councillor Theobald stated that Valley Gardens was currently a confusing traffic system, caused widespread congestion and had a very poor public realm layout. Councillor Theobald asked if the funding would be lost if the Committee did not agree to the report and separately, if the proposal had undergone traffic modelling.

 

15.14    The Chair stated that the funding was non-transferable and would be lost of the Committee rejected the proposal.

 

15.15    The Senior Project Manager stated that the project had undergone traffic modelling that had demonstrated that journey times would be roughly the same as now for private vehicles. Furthermore, he explained that the business plan had to be compliant with DfT regulations and the economic business case scrutinised independently. The Senior Project Manager stated that he was confident the scheme would make a huge difference.

 

15.16    The Head of Transport referred to item 3.7 that was clear that the council was required to submit a business case approved by its Members by July 2014 to be eligible for the funding.

 

15.17    Councillor Cox explained that his Group believed that the Valley Gardens project would make a huge difference to the city and he found it hugely disappointing that other parties would turn down £8 million of funding for short-term electoral opportunity.

 

15.18    Councillor Robins stated that he often used Valley Gardens and had never experienced any traffic problems nor been told of such by others but had been told on numerous occasions of traffic problems along the seafront. Councillor Robins stated that the council should have focussed its efforts on the Seafront Arches alone and that he was concerned about why a cross party working group was needed as it did not appear a very open process.

 

15.19    Councillor Janio expressed his disappointment that the scheme was going to be refused by other political parties for short-term electoral gain. Councillor Janio stated that he was always told of the difficulties negotiating Valley Gardens by vehicle or on foot and he very much supported the opportunity to improve this area of the city.

 

15.20    The Senior Project Manager clarified that he fully expected the proposed cross party to decide its own arrangements at its first meeting and would conduct its work in co-ordination with stakeholders and the public.

 

15.21    Councillor Theobald asked if the cross party working group would report to this Committee.

 

15.22    The Senior Project Manager stated that if the cross party working group felt that an element of the project should be reported to Committee, that would happen. He added that it was his expectation that the business of the cross party working group would be predominately on procedural issues.

 

15.23    Councillor Janio stated that it be clear in the recommendations that major decisions on the project be taken by Committee.

 

15.24    The Deputy Head of Law stated that the Committee could add “with the exception of major design changes” to the end of recommendation 2.3 of the report.

 

15.25    The Senior Project Manager stated that in the short-term it was required to submit an approved business case to access funding for the project however, an additional report could be submitted to the next Committee with proposals for a management structure for the project.

 

The meeting was adjourned at 18.45 and reconvened at 18.55

 

15.26    The Chair moved a motion to delete the current recommendation 2.2 and 2.3 and add a new recommendation 2.2 as shown in bold italics below:

 

2.2       A report in relation to future project management will be brought to the next Committee and regular reports will be brought to Committee;

 

15.27    The motion was carried.

 

15.28    RESOLVED- That the Committee:

 

1)                 Agrees that the Business Case required to secure funding from the Local Growth Fund (LGF) should be submitted to the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to enable delivery of physical improvements to the northern section of Valley Gardens (the Scheme), as summarised at Appendices 1 to 4 of the report;

 

2)                 A report in relation to future project management will be brought to the next Committee and regular reports will be brought to Committee;

 

3)                 Notes that a cross-sector Management Group will be established to investigate and trial innovative ways to manage and maintain the public spaces of Valley Gardens to minimise additional future maintenance pressures on the parks service.

 

Supporting documents:

 


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