Agenda item

Asset Review and 3Rs (Decision: 110613)


Councillor Coxshall introduced the report and stated that it outlined the next tranche of the 3Rs policy of release, reuse or retain. He felt that the Council should not own any assets that were not needed to deliver good services, and where possible assets not needed by the Council should be returned to the open market. He stated that in 2019 all Councillors had signed up to the policy of fewer buildings, better services, and this report worked to implement this policy. He explained that this report proposed that some assets were released as part of the community asset transfer scheme, and would ensure that community buildings were operated for long-term future needs. He added that numerous village halls had already requested the freehold for the building, and this report would allow this to happen, and in some instances would be given for free. He added that once the asset had been disposed of to village halls and scout groups, these groups would be able to access grants that they currently could not, and would free up their time by removing the necessity for lease renewals.

Councillor Hebb thanked Councillor Coxshall for his report and felt that community groups could operate these sites better than the Council, as they had more experience. He felt that the Council should not own buildings such as pubs, and the report was well-timed. He added that he had attended the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee where the report had been discussed and had felt pleased to hear from a representative of the Scout Association in Thurrock that they supported the Council’s disposal of the scout hut sites, as it would remove current conflicts of interest and would allow them to access more grants. Councillor Hebb also felt pleased to see the Stanford-le-Hope Children’s Centre within the disposal list as he felt it was an underused and large building. He asked what the plan for this site would be if the site was released under the scheme. Councillor Coxshall replied that the site would be released, although this did not mean it would be sold on the open market, and could be reinvented as a community site through public discussion. He agreed that the Council should not own assets such as pubs and scout huts, and this report outlined the first stage of the process to ensure transparency.

Councillor Maney supported the recommendations in the report. He felt that Thurrock had a thriving voluntary and third sector, and could run buildings such as village halls better than the Council. He felt it was an important step in the right direction and would ensure the buildings continued to be important community hubs. Councillor Huelin echoed Councillor Maney’s comments and asked if a covenant would be in place when the freehold was transferred to ensure the building remained for community use. Councillor Coxshall stated that a covenant would be in place for the freehold exchanges to ensure they were not used for residential development. He added that the village hall committees would be able to sell the properties if they wished once the freehold had been transferred, but they would have to provide community assets in an alternative location as outlined in their covenants. Councillor Abbas supported the recommendations and felt it would be good for the assets to be fully controlled by the relevant community groups and forums. He asked how assets such as Purfleet Children’s Centre would be transferred to community groups. Councillor Coxshall explained that the sites would be released to a community group or forum and assessed in line with policy, and groups could approach the Council if they wanted to take the building over.

The Leader stated that this was the largest release of sites by the Council and felt it was an open and transparent process. He agreed that the Council should not own sites such as pubs or care homes, and felt it would be better for operators of the care homes to own their own sites to reduce conflicts of interest. He added that he had spoken to community groups who were willing to take over the freeholds of some of the sites so they could access business rate relief and additional grants. Councillor Coxshall highlighted that some of the pictures in the appendices were generic photos, for example the HWRC site and Daiglen Drive, and did not show in detail the sites being proposed for release.

RESOLVED: That Cabinet:

1. Noted the success of the 3Rs program in generating capital receipts totalling £9.3m in the financial year 2021/22.

2. Noted the success of the previous review of operational properties in delivering revenue savings and identifying potential sites currently being developed by TRL and HRA.

3. Declared the operational properties in section 6.2 of this report surplus to requirements and receive a report back, where applicable, on the future of the sites and any alternative delivery consideration.

4. Declared surplus the properties as shown in Appendix 1, 2, 3, and 4; and approved the release or re-use of the properties as outlined.

5. Subject to agreement to release the assets in Appendix 1, 2, 3 and 4, delegated authority of the disposal to the Corporate Director of Resources and Place Delivery, in consultation with the Leader and the completion of a delegated authority decision report.

Reason for decision: as outlined in the report
This decision is subject to call-in

Supporting documents: