Economic Development, Environment and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Economic Development, Environment and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Date:
Wednesday 10 January 2018
Time:
10:30 a.m.
Place:
Spencer Room, Town Hall, Middlesbrough
 

Attendance Details

Present:
Storey, (Chair), Arundale, Branson, Higgins, Lewis, McGloin, Saunders, Walters
Observers:
M Brown, Gazette
Officers:
S Bonner, S Gilmore, L Henman, D Johnson, S Lightwing, A Pain, M McPhee
Apologies for absence:
were submitted on behalf of Councillor Hussain
Declarations of interest:

There were no Declarations of Interest at this point in the meeting.

Item Number Item/Resolution
PUBLIC
17/25 MINUTES - ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND INFRASTRUCTURE SCRUTINY PANEL - 13 DECEMBER 2017

The minutes of the meeting of the Economic Development and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel held on 13 December 2017 were taken as read and approved.

17/26 UPDATE ON ALBERT ROAD REGENERATION

In 2015 the Economic Regeneration and Transport Scrutiny Panel carried out a review of regeneration in Albert Road, Middlesbrough. As part of that review, the Commercial Property Director from Jomast provided evidence to the Panel. Jomast, was a local property development company, and owned several properties on Albert Road.

 

The Economic Development and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel had invited Jomast’s representative to the meeting to provide an update on works completed in Albert Road since 2015. Middlesbrough Council’s Head of Economic Growth and the newly appointed Town Centre Manager were also in attendance at the meeting. The Town Centre Manager had a strategic role ensuring that there was a co-ordinated approach to all the Council services and businesses in the Town Centre.

 

Prior to the meeting, the Panel had undertaken a site visit to Albert Road to view the regeneration works taking place.

 

Properties recently refurbished by Jomast included:

 

  • Boulevard, at 8 Albert Road, a two-storey bar and restaurant which was due to open next week.
  • The Sun Alliance office block at 16 to 26 Albert Road.
  • Wilson’s Courtyard - a block of nine flats which were now occupied.

 

Properties currently being refurbished by Jomast included:

 

  • Prudential House, which had been re-roofed, had new windows fitted and the frontage was being given a facelift with a thorough clean. The scaffolding was due to be taken down by the end of January 2018.

 

  • 15 to 25 Albert Road, a total of four buildings, were similarly getting a full clean, new roof and new windows. The scaffolding was due to be taken down by the end of March 2018.

Copies of architect’s drawings detailing the front elevations of 15 to 25 Albert Road and the floor plans for those buildings were tabled at the meeting. From the front, the buildings would look complete, however there was still work required to complete the insides. A row of garages along the back of the buildings had been demolished and some parking spaces would be created. Access was required for refuse vehicles.

It was anticipated that the ground floors would be let as office space. Several companies that had outgrown the nearby BOHO development were looking for suitable premises. Other retail and leisure uses, such as smaller operators similar to those in Bedford Street might also be attracted. However, the aim was not to move existing businesses from Baker and Bedford Street to Albert Road.

 

The upper floors would be divided into seven two bedroomed flats. Whilst Jomast had a standard fit out for this type of accommodation, they would remain as shells for the time being until the market was right to let them. Jomast’s plan was to lift the street scene by renovating the buildings’ frontages and ensure the ground floors were ready for occupation by Quarter 3 this year.

 

The ground floor units would consist of serviced boxes with four white walls so that they could be tailored to the client’s needs. This section of Albert Road was in an Enterprise Zone and support was available, particularly for Digital businesses, in the form of financial packages for broadband and reduced business rates.

 

Reference was made to the units under the A66 next to Exchange Square and it was confirmed that those properties were currently in private ownership.

 

It was noted that it had taken longer for the refurbishment work to start on Jomast’s properties than had been planned in 2015. It was explained that the main reason was due to the building of the nearby £5.5 million Premier Inn which was due to open in a few weeks’ time. Negotiations between the Council and the Premier Inn had taken a lot longer than expected to complete. In addition Jomast was working on a new building for Marks and Spencer in Northumberland. Jomast operated throughout the north east and works had to be planned, funded and prioritised.

 

In the previous review it was recommended that improvements to the public realm were considered and that street cleansing standards were improved. The Head of Economic Growth informed the Panel that the Council was currently looking at re-landscaping this section of Albert Road and implementing improvements such as replacing the trees, removing unnecessary signage and installing new litter bins. In relation to cleanliness, the Vice Chair reported that following the site visit she had contacted the Director of Environment and Commercial Services and requested that a deep clean of the pavements in that area as a matter of urgency. The Vice Chair suggested that business owners could be requested to keep the area in front of their own properties clean and litter free.

 

Reference was also made to the lack of car parking available on Albert Road. The Panel was informed that a Car Parking Strategy for the whole of Middlesbrough was currently under development. Phase one of the review would consider all the car parking available and what improvements could be made in terms of the environment and technology. Phase two would consider the impact of new office developments. The Strategy was due to be completed by the end of March 2018.

 

Exchange Square, at the end of Albert Road and near to the Rail Station was cited as a potential area for providing additional car parking. However, it was also noted that the Zetland Car Park was within a short walking distance of Albert Road and spaces were always available during the day. It was also important to consider the journey from the car parks to the main thoroughfares in terms of a safe, well-lit and pleasing environment.

The Council had recently worked with Splash Utilities, a company who had moved into Middlehaven House, and assisted them to provide season passes for car parking for their employees. Another potential initiative was to offer employees’ season passes with a guaranteed parking space - for example on the top floor of the Zetland Car Park.

 

It was acknowledged that Albert Road was one of the main bus routes through the town centre but that it would benefit from less traffic and more paved areas to encourage new businesses such as restaurants and cafes. It was also suggested that pedestrianising the area could be considered as an option. The Town Centre Manager explained that as part of her role she was in discussion with bus operators regarding bus routes and there were no drop off or pick up points on that stretch of Albert Road.

 

On behalf of the Panel, the Chair thanked the Officers and the Commercial Property Director from Jomast for attending the meeting and invited him to attend Panel at some point in the future to update Members with regard to other Jomast developments in the Middlesbrough area.

 

AGREED that the information provided was received and noted.

17/27 TVCA STRATEGIC TRANSPORT PLAN INCLUDING BUS FRANCHISING - DRAFT FINAL REPORT

The Scrutiny Support Officer presented the draft Final Report of the Economic Development and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel on Tees Valley Strategic Transport Plan Including Bus Franchising.

 

The aim of the scrutiny investigation was to examine the best options for Middlesbrough in terms of bus franchising/enhanced partnership to enable recommendations to be made to the Tees Valley Combined Authority in preparation for the publication of the Strategic Transport Plan.


The Panel discussed the draft conclusions and recommendations for inclusion in the Final Report.

 

AGREED as follows that:

1. The following conclusions were included in the Final Report:

 

a) TERM OF REFERENCE A  - To examine the TVCA’s proposals and timescale for implementation of the Connecting the Tees Valley Strategic Plan and in particular the Bus Strategy.

 

  • The TVCA’s transport vision for the Tees Valley 'is to provide a high quality, quick, affordable, reliable and safe transport network for people and freight to move within, to and from the Tees Valley'.

 

  • The TVCA Transport Committee has approved a timescale for the Tees Valley Strategic Transport Plan. External consultation is scheduled to commence in February 2018. The Bus Strategy is one of a number of supporting strategy documents feeding into the Strategic Plan, which allows more detail on a given mode or subject to be provided and can be updated as necessary.

 

  • The TVCA Transport Committee has specified that all options provided for in the Bus Services Act 2017 will be investigated before deciding on which is the best route for the Tees Valley.

 

b) TERM OF REFERENCE B - In light of the Bus Services Act 2017, to consider the options available to the TVCA and Middlesbrough Council in relation to bus franchising and/or enhanced partnership schemes by investigating examples of similar schemes already in use in England.

 

  • The options available to the TVCA under the Bus Services Act 2017 include: Franchising, Advanced Quality Partnership Schemes (AQPS) and Enhanced Partnerships (EP). (Voluntary Partnerships can also be established although these are not included in legislation).

 

  • An example of Franchising is the bus services in London which are currently governed by Transport for London (TfL). Franchising enables a local bus network to be purposefully designed with the best service levels and maximum economic and social value. It also removes the potential for excessive profit to be extracted, thus enabling re-investment into the network. Franchising also provides opportunities for both large and smaller operators to provide services.

 

  • An EP can set standards including: frequency of services, type of vehicles used and ticketing products. However, an EP needs to have the support of all bus operators affected and cannot be implemented without their agreement. An EP cannot specify the bus operators’ own fares or force them to run services and therefore the network has to be designed with the bus operators in mind.

 

  • Under the new Advanced Quality Partnership Scheme (AQPS) there is no longer a requirement for local Transport Authorities to provide new infrastructure. AQP Schemes can now be based on other bus improvement measures such as parking or traffic management policies. The requirements that can be placed on operators have been expanded and can compel them to market their own services, tickets and fares.

 

  • Having carefully considered the options available, the Panel concludes that the best option for achieving a world class transport system is to implement franchising.

 

  • A franchised bus system will enable the TVCA to deliver its ambition of providing a sustainable, effective and efficient transport network that improves connectivity, facilitates economic growth and regeneration, and provides social and environmental benefits. With the opportunity to franchise the buses, the TVCA will be in a position to determine and implement the services needed in the Tees Valley to meet new economic imperatives.

 

c) TERM OF REFERENCE C - To examine Middlesbrough’s Local Implementation Plan (LIP) prior to submission to the TVCA.

 

  • The TVCA has issued a template for the LIPs and each Local Authority will develop their own local plan. At the time of this scrutiny investigation, the timetable for the issue of the draft Strategic Transport Plan for consultation is early 2018. Since the outcomes of the draft Strategic Transport Plan will influence Middlesbrough’s LIP, it is currently under development. Therefore, Term of Reference C, cannot be fulfilled at the present time.

 

d) TERM OF REFERENCE D - To investigate how Middlesbrough can work with the TVCA and local bus operators to support the local economy through improved bus service provision and community involvement including environmental implications and with specific reference to other best practice models.

 

  • The success of any partnership arrangement depends on establishing good working relationships with bus operators. The TVCA wants to fully understand how the current bus network operates in the Tees Valley before deciding which option is best and a dedicated Officer has been appointed to carry out this work.

 

  • Merseytravel’s Bus Alliance successes to date includes the development of a multi-operator ticket for young people. The ticket, which is a simple any bus all day ticket costing £2 was launched in 2014. The Bus Alliance has extended the ticket across the region rather than just being a Merseyside ticket and it is now valid for young people until their 19th birthday. Stagecoach, has also adopted the scheme elsewhere in the UK. Other initiatives include: 24 hour bus routes, free Wi-Fi and USB charging points on all buses as standard, a concessionary system for ticketing with a single smartcard for the region and investment in new vehicles including 12 new electric buses, 15 hybrid and 15 bio-methane.

2. The following recommendations were included in the Final Report:

 

a) That in order to achieve the TVCA’s transport vision for the Tees Valley and provide commuters, residents, and visitors with a world class public transport system, specifically with regard to the Bus Strategy and the powers provided by the Bus Services Act 2017, the TVCA should implement a franchised bus network.

 

b) That the TVCA should ensure that the franchised Tees Valley bus network is efficient, affordable, reliable and safe for all users and there are opportunities for both small and larger operators to tender for services or routes.

 

c) That the profit achieved by implementing bus franchising is re-invested directly into the network for initiatives including ticketing schemes with concessions for the young, elderly and unemployed; a single smartcard for the Tees Valley region; 24 hour bus routes, investment in new vehicles, free Wi-Fi and USB charging points on all buses.

 

d) That any investment in new vehicles for the network, whether by operators or the Transport Authority, should have regard to environmental implications and options such as electric, hybrid or bio-methane buses selected.

 

e) That Middlesbrough’s Local Implementation Plan (LIP) aligns with the priorities in the TVCA’s Strategic Transport Plan.

3. The report would be submitted to the Overview and Scrutiny Board for consideration.

17/28 LED LIGHTING - DRAFT FINAL REPORT

The Scrutiny Support Officer presented the draft Final Report of the Economic Development and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel on LED Lighting.

 

The overall aim of the scrutiny investigation was to examine the implementation of the LED lighting scheme in Middlesbrough.

 

The Panel discussed the draft conclusions for inclusion in the Final Report. Following discussion, the Panel determined that some additional information in respect of the tendering process was required prior to agreeing the recommendations. The Chair undertook to obtain the information required and circulate it to the Panel, along with the draft recommendations.

AGREED as follows:

1. That the following conclusions were included in the Final Report:

a) TERM OF REFERENCE A - To consider progress made to date with Middlesbrough’s LED replacement lighting scheme.

 

  • Phase 1 of Middlesbrough Council’s LED replacement lighting scheme has been completed and delivered within budget. 13,251 existing lamp units have been replaced with LEDs over a twenty four month period. This equates to approximately 70% of all light fittings provided by Middlesbrough Council. Phase 2 of the LED replacement programme has been costed at £3.924 million to replace 8,692 lamp units. Funding for Phase 2 of the programme is not yet in place.

b) TERM OF REFERENCE B - To examine the existing budget provision and actual and projected savings.

 

  • The budget for required for Phase 1 of the scheme was £5 million, which was allocated as follows: £4.1m from capital receipts and £0.9m from prudential borrowing. There are no individual loans taken out by the Council for specific schemes or interest costs allocated to capital schemes. Instead, the Capital programme operates on a holistic basis through a combination of external borrowing and use of internal reserves in lieu of external borrowing.

 

  • Based on current energy prices and taking into account inflation, £438,687 on-going annual savings have been achieved including carbon tax and maintenance savings. The savings that the Council is making from the replacement programme are solely from the reduction in costs that the Council incurs. There are no direct interest costs apportioned to the LED scheme due to the holistic nature of the borrowing in place.

 

  • The total annual on-going savings are slightly lower than the targeted savings (£438,687 instead of £445,532). Several factors have impacted on reducing the levels of savings realised as follows:

 

- Changes to level and scope of funding due to a number of iterations of bid submissions. This altered the savings targets.
- Delay in approving the funding bid resulted in delay in instructing delivery partner to proceed. A 3 month turnaround on receiving stock further delayed progress.
- Loss of key staff and knowledge/assumptions on calculations/anticipated savings to be made.
- Outdated calculation variables (based on data from before the funding was approved).
- Changes in government Carbon Tax rates (increased rate means less savings to be made).
- Estimated energy consumption levels used for CRC (Carbon Reduction Commitment) calculation submission as opposed to actual data.

- In terms of energy, the annual saving is 3,203,245 KW/h. Without the replacement scheme the anticipated energy bill would have risen by £64,570, based on consumption in 2014/2015. The total projected on-going annual saving once Phase 2 is completed is £357,000.

- For Phase 1 of the scheme, the cheapest fittings that provided the best return on investment were purchased. Due to improved technology, more efficient units are now available and will be purchased for Phase 2. However the newer fittings are more expensive than those used in Phase 1.

- Phase 2 of the project will replace the rest of the stock, the majority of which includes larger units costing approximately £750 each as well as some of the smaller units costing £350.

- The original scheme was costed at £7.5 million and was split into two phases due to the unavailability of the total funding required. Phase 1 of the scheme has been implemented at a total cost of £5 million and Phase 2 of the scheme is estimated to cost £3.924 million, bringing the revised total for the whole scheme to approximately £9 million.

 

c) TERM OF REFERENCE C - To assess the potential impact of the new lighting with regard to community safety.

 

  • Whilst there is no legal obligation for highways authorities to provide street lighting, benefits can include reducing traffic collisions, increasing road safety and reducing the fear of crime and actual crime. No issues have been reported to Middlesbrough Council in terms of community safety to date.

2. The Democratic Services Officer would circulate the recommendations to Panel Members by email for comment.

 

3. Subject to the inclusion of the recommendations, as approved by the Chair and Vice Chair, the report would be submitted to the Overview and Scrutiny Board for consideration.

17/29 ANY OTHER URGENT ITEMS WHICH IN THE OPINION OF THE CHAIR, MAY BE CONSIDERED

The Chair reminded the Panel that the next meeting of the Panel would be held on Wednesday 7 February 2017.  As previously agreed, the Panel would commence its next scrutiny review on Housing Development and Associated Infrastructure.

 

Following on from today's update on Albert Road, the Chair suggested that the Panel should receive an update on the regeneration of The Crown in Linthorpe Road.

 

AGREED that the Panel would receive an update on the regeneration of The Crown at the next meeting.

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