(Report OS223 refers)
Councillor Miller introduced the Report which had come forward at the request of the Committee in order for the latest progress made with the Asset Management Plan to be reviewed.
The Report provided a review in respect of the Council’s assets, the latest progress with the Council’s major projects, the refurbishment of the Tourist Information Centre and the Civic Offices, the replacement Surgery proposals and the Bishops Waltham Depot.
The Corporate Head of Asset Management reported that there had been a significant improvement with the Council’s commitment to reducing Carbon emissions by 20% by 2020 and that this target had now been achieved by adopting a variety of new energy saving measures including energy efficient lighting at Council buildings, car parks etc. Together with the Portfolio Holder, Councillor Miller, they responded to detailed questions. In summary, the following matters were raised by the Committee:
(i) An enquiry into what was good practice in terms of property investment between retail and industrial. In response, the Corporate Head of Asset Management advised that the Council’s portfolio was reasonably balanced at present.
(ii) The Committee welcomed the Council’s intent to invest in smaller industrial units, particularly in the southern parishes, to enable greater employment opportunity for residents to work where they live in the future;
(iii) Carbon reduction target – The Corporate Head of Asset Management reported that, although the current target had been achieved, work was on going to introduce energy saving measures wherever possible. Technology was advancing and in the Council’s case pay back on PV had reduced and would be installed on the Civic Offices, the Deport, the new car park on the Vaultex site and the Leisure Centre in due course. Furthermore, additional resource had been identified to have a particular focus on environmental matters
The Committee suggested external benchmarking versus good achievable examples from other local authorities as a way forward to progress any future carbon reduction target.
(iv) The Guildhall – It was noted that the Council had invested heavily in the Guildhall with the installation of a new boiler and lagging to valves. Furthermore, double glazing was to be installed to areas of the West Wing offices which would considerably improve insulation in this area. However, glazing proposals to main areas of the Guildhall had been refused by English Heritage so opportunities for improvements to insulation in these particular areas where single glazing remained present would prove limited;
(v) Replacement Surgery (Upper Brook Street) – The Corporate Head of Asset Management reported that works had commenced on site in order to make a material start on the development before the planning consent expired at the end of March 2019.Planning officers had confirmed that they were satisfied that the works being undertaken would constitute a material start on the development;
(vi) Abbey House – Abbey House was a Grade II Listed Building and the Council was responsible for maintaining the structure to comply with listed building obligations. Some essential works would be undertaken in 2019;
(vii) Review of Public Conveniences (Market Lane) – The Corporate Head of Asset Management advised that the lease on these particular public conveniences was due to cease in approximately six years. At present, a peppercorn rent was paid, however, the owner was seeking significant rental payments for any future lease going forward and this matter would be reviewed further in due course;
(viii) In response to queries regarding access to the Asset Management List, the Corporate Head of Asset Management confirmed that this list had been retained within the Uniform system. The Committee considered that it would be beneficial for Members to also have access to this list via the Members electronic library; and
(ix) Asset Management Forum – It was noted that the Council was in regular liaison with other partners including the County Council, Universities, NHS and the Civil Service to establish possible opportunities to purchase, lease or sell property and to keep fully appraised of the situation.
At the conclusion of questions and debate, the Committee thanked officers and commended the report and the Chairman summed up the specific points that had been raised by the Committee, as follows:
(a) The Committee expressed a desire for the Council to further assess employment opportunities in other areas of the District and encouraged the provision of smaller industrial units;
(b) In meeting its existing carbon reduction requirements, the Council should now undertake work to investigate potential further reductions to carbon footprint carried out by other local authorities and in the wider area;
(c) The need to continually monitor and receive regular updates on Brexit timescales;
(d) That there had been considerable debate regarding possible renovation, repair and refurbishment works to Abbey House;
(e) The Committee requested that internal signage in the City Council Offices be improved; and
(f) That a suitably redacted list of property assets be made available in the Members electronic library
That the Portfolio Holder note the comments raised by the Committee, as set out above.