(Report OS225 refers and Presentation)
Councillor Miller introduced the report and the presentation provided by the Head of Programme which provided an update on the scheme and set out the Outline Business Case and the next steps to be taken for the Station Approach project.
The Committee received a presentation on the progress of the scheme to date which was available to view on the Council’s website.
The Chairman welcomed to the meeting the following consultants who were in attendance to provide further advice regarding the design, delivery, economic, financial and commercial aspects of the project
· Alex Lifschutz - Liftschutz Davidson Sandilands (LDS)
· Mark Rymell - Citicentric
· William McWilliams - Grant Thornton
· Chris Cave - Vail Williams
· Simon Ward - Propernomics
In summary, Mr Spencer raised the following points:
· Winchester BID fully supports the Station Approach and Carfax scheme – it provides a fantastic opportunity for the Town. Excited and keen to see the scheme progress;
· Sends a positive message that Winchester can deliver development for the benefit of the local economy;
· Previously expressed the need for improved and adequate office space;
· The scheme will attract businesses, achieve high quality employment and enhance the public realm area of Station Road and Station Hill; and
· As previously suggested, businesses looking for Grade A office space in Winchester would also seek to secure car parking provision on site, despite central location and nearby public transport links of the scheme.
In summary, Mr Mills-Goodlet raised the following points:
· The project provides a significant improvement for the economic benefit of Winchester, without which would result in businesses vacating the City due to the high demand and need for centrally based Grade A office space;
· He suggested that the Council should consider the competition it faced for space in other similar sized locations;
· Businesses would expect the provision of parking, despite the scheme’s close proximity to the train station; and
· The Chamber confirmed that they had a list of Members that wish to become tenants at this scheme.
In summary, Councillor Hutchison raised the following points:
· Supports the scheme and the design proposals;
· Concerned to see the scheme progressed to the submission of an outline planning application at this stage;
· Recognised the support for the public realm but suggested that improvements highlighted by various parties had not been resolved i.e. access issues for pedestrians and cyclists which were matters she considered were fundamental to the scheme and loss of trees without scope to mitigate this loss;
· Detailed costings for additional wider elements of the public realm had been requested which remained outstanding, together with the provision of details regarding the Local Economic Partnership (LEP) funding contribution; and
· Consultation event took place during February 2019 - therefore considered this report to be premature as response to the comments made had not been adequately addressed or embedded into the scheme as a whole.
The Strategic Director: Place clarified that significant engagement had taken place regarding the scheme to date which had included vast input by the Design Team and the Advisory Panel comprising of Winchester BID, Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, City of Winchester Trust, Hampshire County Council and the Council’s Advisors, Councillors and the Project Team.
The Head of Programme advised that the Local Economic Partnership (LEP) Board were due to meet during the following week to make a final decision on the award of £5m funding. He emphasised that if awarded, the timetable imposed by the LEP for grant spend was by 31 March 2021. In addition, the Head of Programme confirmed that the full consultation report, including response to the recent local consultation events, would form part of the outline planning application.
The Committee discussed the content of the report in detail and the Portfolio Holder, together with the consultants and officers present, responded to Members’ questions in relation to the following matters, as summarised below:
· Technical discussions were on going with South Western Railway, Network Rail and Hampshire County Council to assess key points such as pick up and drop off points and cyclist parking and access. Alex Lifschutz highlighted that matters such as cycle issues, design and style and the use of materials would all be addressed within the detailed Reserved Matters application to follow;
· In respect of the public realm and landscaping, the Head of Programme clarified that the trees located within the car parks had been assessed and were deemed to be of low amenity quality. These trees would be replaced with new planting on street frontages where possible;
· Car Parking balance had been assessed and had reduced from initial levels. It was recognised that an element of car parking was required on site in order to make the scheme viable and secure rental levels. A minimum of 156 cycle spaces are proposed and it was considered that this, and proximity to the station and bus stops, would encourage workers to use other modes of transport;
· Outline Planning Permission – The Head of Programme clarified that this was critical in order to spend the LEP funding by the March 2021 deadline. In order to ensure substantial controls were in place as part of any outline planning consent, it was confirmed that the use, access, height and mass, as well as principles of set backs within the building, would all be part of any approval of the outline planning application., In addition, it was emphasised that the selection of the right developer for the scheme was a key factor;
· Assurances that the rents proposed were achievable, particularly as a result of Brexit? – Chris Cave clarified that development and engagement work was on going. However, discussions with prospective tenants were indicative that rents were set at an achievable level deemed appropriate for such a high quality proposal in this central location.
· The Head of Programme confirmed that the Outline Business Case demonstrated that the scheme was commercially viable;
· Strategic Case - The Head of Programme clarified that the scheme would generate in excess of 2,000 jobs, comprising of 1,000 office and retail positions, an additional 400 indirect roles and 640 construction jobs;
· Income Strip - Mark Rymell highlighted that further work regarding implication and risk would be explored going forward; and
· Management Case – In response to questions regarding the timing of development, the Head of Programme clarified that a back stop would be part of any land transfer agreement. Options were being explored to ensure this could be accommodated.
The Committee moved into exempt session to discuss the contents of the exempt appendices, before returning to open session to consider the report’s recommendations.
At the conclusion of debate, in summing up, the Chairman made the following statement:
That the Committee welcomed the potential job creation, supported the principle of development and recognised that the public realm was vitally important to the scheme.
The Committee requested to see a developed response to the recent public engagement and more information of what controls will be used to develop the scheme.
Concerns were expressed regarding the viability of the scheme, which the Committee considered would need further testing as the scheme progressed
The Committee agreed that the scheme be moved forward to obtain the outline planning permission required in order to secure Local Economic Partnership (LEP) funding and to further test viability.
In addition, it was noted that the Committee supported a leasehold disposal. .
That the Portfolio Holder note the comments raised by The Overview and Scrutiny Committee, as set out above, to be drawn to the attention of Cabinet (Station Approach) Committee,