(a) To receive a report summarising the findings and recommendations of the Land South of the High Street Task and Finish Group prepared by its Chair, Cllr Clive Palmer (attached).
(b) To receive a report (attached) regarding considerations Committee may wish to take into account in determining next steps (resolutions or recommendations) in respect of Land South of the High Street or any other additional workstreams outside those projects already endorsed by Council for 2021-22 onwards.
The Committee received a report from Councillor C Palmer as Chair of the current Land South of the High Street Task and Finish Group. The Group had initially been an informal working party comprising of several councillors and had later become a Task and Finish Group under the Partnership Committee. Having had several meetings and with some significant work undertaken by individual councillors as well as information from a study commissioned by Central Bedfordshire Council, the Group had now put forward a number of recommendations for consideration.
It was recognised that the Covid-19 pandemic had impacted market conditions and it was therefore unlikely that any comprehensive development options for the site would come forward in the near future. However, the Group felt that work could still continue to assess possible future uses of the site including the potential for an arts centre and/or civic uses including council accommodation, heritage centre and potential uses for a police or health related facility.
The Task and Finish Group had welcomed assurances from Central Bedfordshire Council that the 2012 development brief for the site would be revisited and that the site was identified for regeneration. As the primary (but not sole) landowner of the site, it was crucial that Central Bedfordshire Council support the proposed activity going forward.
It was proposed that the work of the Group should continue but under the remit of the Town Council’s Policy and Finance Committee. Clear terms of reference would be needed and these would help inform resourcing requirements and potential costs thereof. An accompanying report from Town Council officers set out the current workload which included day to day operations and management of services, Council endorsed objectives and priorities, actions arising from the 2021 Risk Register and actions arising from other initiatives and Motions endorsed by Council/committee. The Committee accepted that the current staffing structure had no capacity for additional, unanticipated workload and that the implications of any additional work would need further consideration.
Following some lengthy discussion, it was agreed that recommendations be put forward to Partnership Committee on 9 September and that thereafter, the Policy and Finance Committee could review the situation at its next meeting on 20 September.
RECOMMENDED from the Leighton-Linslade Policy and Finance Committee to the Leighton-Linslade Partnership Committee that:
i) The report from Cllr C Palmer summarising the work of the Land South of the High Street Task and Finish Group be formally noted.
ii) In Central Bedfordshire work streams relating to land south of the High Street (e.g. revision of the 2012 development brief, planning matters, Local Plan review), that consideration be given to potential uses of the site such as a performing arts and cultural facility, a civic facility, police accommodation and/or location for the integrated health services hub.
iii) That the Land South of the High Street Task and Finish Group be formally disbanded following completion of its initial investigations and that the work continue through a new working party to report to the Town Council’s Policy and Finance Committee with a suggested membership of Councillors: C Palmer, S Jones, T Morris, S Owen, R Goodchild, M Freeman, V Harvey and one member of the Labour group. Terms of reference and membership to be reviewed further by the group itself and approved by Policy and Finance Committee.
iv) That Central Bedfordshire Council be requested to:
a. Support the ongoing work of the working party with Central Bedfordshire Council officer involvement.
b. Explore whether S106 monies could be utilised to fund a feasibility study/business case for a civic facility on land south of the High Street.
c. Support the Town Council’s aspirations to be actively involved in any future work around the place making agenda that the principal authority may undertake for Leighton-Linslade, including land south of the High Street and the eastern urban extension sites at Chamberlains Barn, Clipstone Park and the Stearn Land.