Call in - Cabinet Item 10. Joint Working with Ebbsfleet Development Corporation (EDC) in respect of Potential Housing Development Sites
The Director (Housing & Regeneration) highlighted the report that was presented to Cabinet which detailed ongoing discussions with Ebbsfleet Development Corporation (EDC) to bring forward housing development within the borough and sought Cabinet authority to progress this work beyond the discussion stage.
The Director (Housing and Regeneration) advised that EDC was charged with delivering a total of 15,000 homes which cannot be achieved within the area covered by the organisation. Therefore, EDC officers have been working with officers from Dartford and Gravesham Borough Councils to identify potential sites within their ‘area of influence’ where their assistance could bring forward further housing to assist in delivery of that target.
To enable an open discussion of potential options for joint working, officers shared with EDC details of its own landholdings, together with details of ‘stalled’ sites where their abilities to become involved in a way not open to local authorities might assist in moving permitted, or previously permitted, schemes forward.
As part of this exercise, as well as the potential for using EDC funds to undertake feasibility work, with repayment occurring when the site is sold or developed, officers have worked together to identify other funding for such purposes, e.g. One Public Estate (OPE).
Two sites have been identified for initial consideration, both of which have previously been identified by Members in 2014 for inclusion in the Local Plan ‘call for sites’ exercise. Those sites include General Fund land at Milton Place, including the corner site owned by Fairview Homes and the site of the Shears Green Community Centre (HRA), which costs the Council more to maintain than it receives in income and which will have major repair requirements in the near future.
A number of other GBC-owned sites are considered potentially suitable for a further phase of this work, but initial investigations will be undertaken by officers to identify potential ‘show stoppers’ before being progressed further. Initial thoughts have highlighted the following sites to consider as a second phase, which were also included within GBC’s submission in the ‘call for sites’ or are ‘stalled’:-
· Rembrandt Drive, Gravesend;
· Dering Way, Gravesend; and
· Canal Basin Regeneration Area, Gravesend.
Members were informed that the Homes and Communities Agency had been rebranded to Homes England and tasked with taking a more active role in relation to compulsory purchase, by working closely with local authorities to use their compulsory purchase powers to support the development and regeneration of land for housing.
Cllr Anthony Pritchard, Cabinet Member for Housing fielded questions from the Committee and highlighted the following:
- The Cabinet are against any inappropriate development of green belt land.
- No decision has been made on the two sites yet (Milton Place and Shears Green Community Centre) they are just being considered.
- The Cabinet Member for Housing explained that he is happy to put the case to rebuild and not rebuild the Shears Green Community Centre, the options need to looked at very carefully.
The Director (Housing & Regeneration) fielded questions from the Committee and highlighted the following:
- There is a need to better understand the site and usage of Shears Green Community Centre in order to select the best option going forward.
- Highways England and EDC are looking to work with GBC to find solutions for the Canal Basin. If EDC decide to become directly involved with the Canal Basin; GBC won’t be involved, it will be between EDC and the private sector.
- The Milton Place site is part owned by Farview. EDC has an exclusivity agreement with Fairview and are proposing one with GBC, but officers have explained that the Council would only pay a fair proportion of any costs that relate to GBC land.
Members of the Committee highlighted the following concerns:
- There should be engagement with the wider community on the future of Shears Green Community Centre.
- Shears Green Community Centre should be clearly advertised on the Councils website.
- The Community Cabinet Committee should consider and review the Shears Green Community Centre.
- Any future development at the Canal Basin / Riverside should maintain the canal restoration and retain the use of the river front for boating etc.
The Chair requested that the above-mentioned concerns of the Committee are noted, the Shears Green Community Centre be considered and reviewed by the Community Cabinet Committee and the final decision on this matter go to Cabinet so it is available for call in by the Overview Scrutiny Committee.
Resolved that the decision by Cabinet on Joint Working with Ebbsfleet Development Corporation (EDC) in respect of Potential Housing Development Sites be noted
Note: Cllr Anthony Pritchard, Cabinet Member for Housing spoke with the leave of the Chair on this item.