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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 10 March, 2014

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation

 

Holton Road Commercial Renewal Area Grant Scheme - Review and Options Appraisal

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To review the Grant Scheme and to consider options for moving the Grant Scheme forward.

Recommendations

1.         That the findings of the review of the Holton Road Commercial Renewal Area Grant Scheme be noted.

2.         That the proposal outlined in paragraph 12 (Option 3) of this report be approved.

3.         That the remaining element of the 2013/14 budget £5,065 is slipped and is included in the 2014/15 Capital Programme.  This will require Council approval.

4.         That the remaining element of the Valegate Retail Park planning obligation contribution £76,797 (Application No. 2008/00481/FUL) is included in the 2014/15 Capital Programme.  This will require Council approval.

5.         That the Director of Development Services in consultation with the Director of Resources and the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation be given delegated authority to approve grants as part of the Commercial Renewal Area Grant Scheme.

6.         That this report is referred to Planning Committee for their information.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         To note the progress being made on this matter.

2.         To enable the continuation of the Grant Scheme in this part of Holton Road, as part of a package of incentives to assist owners to bring redundant empty space back into use for residential purposes.

3.         To ensure that there is funding available during 2014/15 for the Grant Scheme to operate.

4.         To ensure that there is funding available during 2014/15 for the Grant Scheme to operate.

5.         To provide a flexible and responsive means of determining grant applications.

6.         To advise Planning Committee of the report.

Background

2.         The Local Government Act 2000 (Part 1 Section 2 Promotion of well-being) includes powers for local authorities, having regard to their Community Strategy; to do anything which they consider is likely to achieve the promotion or improvement of the economic, social and environmental well-being of their area.  Having regard to the Local Government Act 2000, Cabinet (25th July 2007, Minute C3155 refers) approved the designation of a Commercial Renewal Area on Holton Road. 

3.         The Commercial Renewal Area offers grants on a discretionary basis for small scale high quality works such as the removal of unsightly solid roller shutters and the provision of new signage. The grants have been offered up to a maximum of 50% of the total costs of the eligible external works.

4.         The Grant Scheme has been funded from 2007/08 by a Capital Programme allocation of £50,000 entitled 'Holton Road Shopfront Improvements'. The grants are administered by the Vale of Glamorgan Council and are available for commercial premises within a defined area.  An indicative boundary of the grant eligible area is attached at Appendix A.

5.         As part of the scheme applicants are required to meet the following standards by submitting:

·           Detailed drawings and schedule of works.

·           3 itemised tenders or quotations.

·           Evidence of statutory consents e.g. Planning and Building Regulations.

·           Proof of Ownership/ lease details.

·           Proof of match funding/ satisfactory credit check.

6.         Progress in terms of providing assistance for property owners in Upper Holton Road (an indicative boundary of the eligible area is attached at Appendix B) is subject to a separate report to this Cabinet.

Relevant Issues and Options

7.         The dedicated officer responsible for overseeing the Grant Scheme left the Council in July 2008.  Due to budget pressures the officer was not replaced and the work absorbed by the remaining team member.  It should also be noted that the Grant Scheme was launched in a tough financial climate (and continues to be so).

8.         There are approximately 200 commercial properties within the grant eligible area.  Since the launch of the Grant Scheme in 2007/08 the Council has received 44 expressions of interest of which 7 progressed to become detailed grant applications.  Of the 7 detailed grant applications:

·           1 was rejected due to the applicant failing to satisfy financial requirements;

·           1 was withdrawn after grant approval due to a change to the shop front design which did not comply with design standards of the Grant Scheme; and,

·           5 were approved of which 4 were implemented in accordance with Grant Scheme rules.  A fifth was also implemented but the applicant has breached scheme conditions due to the property remaining vacant after the completion of the grant eligible works.  Efforts are being made to reclaim the grant in this case.

9.         Of the original capital allocation of £50,000, £44,935 (89.9%) has funded 5 schemes which collectively has levered in approximately £273,028 of private sector investment and has created an estimated 8 jobs (4 full time and 4 part time) and safeguarded up to 7 jobs (6 full time and 1 part time).

10.      A desktop review of all grants has also been conducted, and where the grants were awarded and the works completed, attempts were made to contact the recipients to gauge their views on the scheme.  The main findings of the review are as follows:

·           That 2 vacant units had, with the assistance of the grant, been brought back into beneficial use as new businesses and that 2 units which were existing businesses benefited from a shop front refurbishment.

·           That all of the grant recipients felt that the outcomes and benefits matched their expectations in terms of refurbishment and confirmed that the benefits to the shop fronts were still prevalent and had improved environmental quality.

·           In terms of job creation, it was noted that the units that hosted new businesses were able to deliver the desired outcomes.  However, the existing businesses did indicate that although the existing jobs were safeguarded the possibility of new jobs had to be reconsidered due to the economic climate.

·           Although the Grant Scheme had been gratefully accepted by those who had utilised the grants, it was suggested that the scheme would have been more favourably received if a higher grant intervention rate was made available to businesses in the grant eligible area.

11.      There are a number of lessons that can be learnt from this Grant Scheme:

·           Where the grant was utilised it has achieved its aim of improving environmental quality and within the new businesses has created jobs.  However, the overall impact on the area is limited due to the scale of activity.

·           Although the grant conditions were clear, there were still cases where the conditions were breached; the grant offer had to be withdrawn; and, the grant application had to be rejected.  In order to minimise such an outcome it may be necessary on future schemes to provide further pre-application advice.

·           It may also be necessary to review the terms and conditions of grant payments and consider the option of retaining a percentage of the grant until all the forecast outputs and outcomes have been achieved.   

12.      As a result of the review the following options are available for the Grant Scheme:

·           Option 1: stop the Grant Scheme due to diminishing budgets; the low take up rate; and, the limited overall impact on the street scene.

·           Option 2: Subject to funding, extend the Grant Scheme and continue to offer grants up to a maximum of 50% of the total costs of the eligible works.

·           Option 3: Subject to funding, expand the Grant Scheme to offer two distinct grant products.  The first grant product, Commercial Improvement Grant, would continue to support the eligible works supported by the current Grant Scheme but at a higher grant intervention rate of up to a maximum of 65% of eligible costs.  The second grant product, Town Centre Living Grant, would provide assistance for external works to create separate entrances to access vacant and redundant space above shop frontages to assist owners to bring that space into use for residential purposes (subject to any necessary planning permission).  The proposed grant intervention rate for Town Centre Living Grant is up to a maximum of 75% of eligible costs and would form part of a package of incentives available from the Council by combining with the Houses into Homes Loan Scheme for internal works.

13.      The Options have been appraised having regard to the following policy considerations:

·           Welsh Government's regeneration framework, 'Vibrant and Viable Places' and the policy emphasis on supporting the regeneration of town centres;

·           the Council's Town Centre Framework in relation to this part of Holton Road; and,

·           the need to manage and meet demand for investment in housing in Castleland Renewal Area, an area of demonstrable housing need. 

Option 1 is not favoured as it would be contrary to the Welsh Government's regeneration framework, 'Vibrant and Viable Places' and the policy emphasis on supporting the regeneration of town centres; and, the Council's Town Centre Framework in relation to this part of Holton Road.  Option 2 is not favoured as the grant intervention rate of 50% is unlikely to improve the take up rate.  It is also considered that Option 2 would be a missed opportunity for the Council to take the lead and bring benefits not just to the main shopping area on Holton Road in terms of additional footfall but to the general housing needs of the area.  Option 3 is therefore favoured and recommended for approval.  That said Options 3 is subject to budget decisions to ensure that there is funding available during 2014/15 for the Grant Scheme to operate.  The remaining element of the 2013/14 'Holton Road Shopfront Improvements' budget £5,065 would have to be slipped.  There is also scope for further funding of £76,797, which is the remaining element of the Valegate Retail Park s106/ planning obligation contribution (Application No. 2008/00481/FUL).  This sum is identified for public realm works in Barry Town Centre (Cabinet 3rd February 2010, Minute C757 refers) and could therefore be included in the Capital Programme 2014/15 for the Grant Scheme as described in Option 3.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

14.      The Grant Scheme has been funded from 2007/08 by a Capital Programme allocation of £50,000 entitled 'Holton Road Shopfront Improvements'.  There is currently a balance of £5,065 remaining from the original allocation.  If the Grant Scheme were to continue as recommended in paragraph 13 (Option 3) then the remaining element of the 2013/14 budget £5,065 would have to be slipped to ensure that there is funding available during 2014/15 for the Grant Scheme to operate.  This will require Council approval.  Similarly the remaining element of the Valegate Retail Park planning obligation contribution £76,797 (Application No. 2008/00481/FUL) would need to be included in the Capital Programme.  Again to ensure that there is funding available during 2014/15 for the Grant Scheme to operate.  This will also require Council approval.  This would give a combined budget for 2014/15 of £81,862.  In future it may be possible to add to the budget allocated for this Grant Scheme from other s106/ planning obligation funds; funds from the Vibrant and Viable Places programme; and, funds from the Capital Programme.

15.      Grants can only be awarded up to the level of available funding within any financial year.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

16.      Regeneration has implications for the sustainability of traditional shopping areas, especially when integrated with planning and housing issues.  The market trend in traditional shopping areas has seen the demand for commercial premises fall while the need for affordable and rented homes has grown.  This Grant Scheme seeks to assist owners to bring redundant commercial space back into use for residential purposes, thereby adding to footfall in the town centre whilst at the same time providing accommodation for those who work in, or require being close to, the town centre.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

17.      Section 2 of the Local Government Act 2000 gives every local authority a power to do anything which they consider is likely to achieve the promotion or improvement of the a) economic well-being of their area; b) the social well-being of their area; and, c) the environmental well-being of their area.  This power can be used for the benefit of the whole or any part of a local authority’s area or all or any persons resident or present in a local authority’s area.

18.      Agreements in relation to this Grant Scheme will be drawn up between the Council and the successful grant applicants.  Terms and conditions will also apply to the grant aid e.g. grant claw back, for a period of 5-years further to the award date of the grant.

Crime and Disorder Implications

19.      The Grant Scheme is an opportunity to assist owners to either remove unsightly external roller shutters or replace with internal shutters or if not possible integrate shutters within the shop front behind the sign fascia.  This is in keeping with the Council's good practice guidelines for shop frontages and the principles of 'secured by design'.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

20.      There are no specific equal opportunities implications associated with this particular report, although successful regeneration can lead to improved access to services and facilities and foster community cohesion.  

Corporate/Service Objectives

21.      The regeneration of a traditional shopping area such as Holton Road requires broad action across a range of Departments and Service Areas and this is reflected in the content of both the Corporate Plan and Service Plans.

Policy Framework and Budget

22.      Part of this report should be referred to Council because it is contrary to and not wholly in accordance with the budget.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

23.      Grant recipients were contacted to determine their views of the scheme.

24.      The Castleland and Buttrills ward members have been consulted on the report.  The following comments have been received:

Councillor Egan (Buttrills Ward) - I am happy with the proposals.

 

Councillor Elmore and Councillor Drake (Castleland Ward) - Cllr Drake and I are in full support.

 

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

25.      Economy and Environment.

Background Papers

Cabinet Report - 25th July 2007 (C3155 refers)

Grant application files

Cabinet Report - 3rd February 2010 (C757 refers)

 

Contact Officer

Dave Williams - Principal Regeneration Officer - Tel: 01446 704753

 

Officers Consulted

Principal Lawyer (Property and Contracts)

Accountant (Resource Management)

Countryside & Economic Projects Operational Manager

Principal Officer (Business and Employment)

Development & Building Control Operational Manager

Principal Planner (Development Control)

Planning & Transportation Policy Operational Manager

Senior Planner (Conservation and Design)

Principal Housing & Pollution Officer

Strategy & Supporting People Manager

 

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas - Director of Development Services