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The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Cabinet Meeting: 15 June, 2015

Joint Report of the Cabinet Member for Housing, Building Maintenance and Community Safety and the Cabinet Member for Visible and Leisure Services

The Lodge, Penarth Athletic Field

Purpose of the Report

1.    To declare The Lodge at Penarth Athletic Field surplus to the requirements of the Parks and Grounds Maintenance Division but to retain the property and to transfer asset ownership to the Council's Housing Department. 

Recommendations

1.    That Cabinet authorise the appropriation of the property and land shown hatched in Appendix A from the Park and Ground Maintenance Department to the Housing Services Department for the purpose of the property becoming a part of the Council Housing Revenue Account Housing stock.

 

2.    That the Director of Visible Services and Housing in conjunction with the Head of Legal Services be authorised to enter into a formal secure tenancy agreement with the current occupants of The Lodge, Penarth Athletic Field and that the allocation of the tenancy be made in line with the Council's adopted allocation policy.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.    To enable better management of the housing related asset and increase the supply of affordable housing in Penarth.

 

2.    To regularise and formalise the tenancy.

Background

2.    Penarth Athletic Field Lodge is a 3 bedroomed House located on the edge of Penarth Athletic field sport facility and is in the ownership of the Council. Until 1996 the Parks section employed a groundsman to maintain and provide security to the site whilst living in the Lodge on the perimeter of the ground. When the groundsman left it was decided to reconfigure his workload and the property was left vacant.

 

3.    However in 1988 following a number of instances of Anti-Social Behaviour and property was reoccupied by a member of the parks staff.

 

4.    The property is still occupied by the original employee and his family, who have no other alternative accommodation.    

Relevant Issues and Options

5.    In 2013 the occupiers made application to the Council for a Disabled Facilities Grant to provide adaptations to the property to cater for their disabled son. A prerequisite of an application requires the householder to prove legal occupancy of the property.  This led to an internal review of the existing and future management arrangements for the property.

 

6.    The Director of Visible Services and Housing in conjunction with Head of Legal Services has, sought Counsel's opinion to clarify the complex legal issues regarding security of tenure, and contract law in this unique case and to examine the options open to the Council in terms of dealing with the matter and also resolving the technical issue of the occupancy of the property and whether or not it was in fact a secure tenancy. The legal advice received has been to the effect that the tenancy is not a service tenancy and is on balance deemed to be a secure tenancy.

 

7.    As such options for recovery of the property, disposal and future maintenance would be determined by a number of rights and obligations which, the Council as Landlord would be obliged or compelled to follow.  

 

8.    The initial enquiry established that the occupiers would be able to apply for a Disabled Facility Grant in the same way as any other resident in the Vale of Glamorgan so long as landlord permission was granted.

 

9.    In considering this position and the implications for future management arrangements, Senior Officers have revisited the need to provide accommodation in this location and it is indicated that alternative security arrangements would be considered should there be an escalation of vandalism and anti Social behaviour in the grounds surrounding the Lodge.

 

10.    The property itself is accessed separately from the rest of the Athletic Field itself and any arrangement of tenure would have no implication for the future management of the recreational facility.

 

11.     In the event that the property remains in the Council Fund the property will still be required to be maintained in line with Landlord and Tenant legislation.

 

12.    There are implications for the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) in regularisation of the current position. Whilst the transfer of the property to the Housing Department would result in an addition to the existing council housing stock, the property would be subject to improvement to ensure that it achieves the Welsh Housing Quality Standard and could be subject to a future right to buy sale. However any future sale price would be limited to a discounted market valuation of up to a maximum of £16,000 based on the current Right to Buy legislation. This position would be the same regardless of whether the property remained in the Council Fund or HRA.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

13.    The appropriation of the asset will be actioned via a transfer of debt from the Councils fund to the HRA.  This will require an adjustment of the Capital Financing Requirement (CFR) resulting in reduced debt to the Council Fund but increased debt to the HRA. It will be necessary to undertake a current market valuation of the property to account for this adjustment.   Following the exit from the HRA subsidy system in April 2015 the HRA CFR must keep within a specified `limit of indebtedness'.  The appropriation of the property is not currently projected to breach this limit, however, close monitoring will be required to ensure that the HRA stays within the required limits in the future.   

 

14.    The appropriation of the property to the Housing Department would see any capital receipt through the Right to Buy retained by the Council but in the Housing Revenue Account and not the Council Fund. The market value could be discounted up to a maximum of £16,000. The cost of adaptation to the property and improvements associated with the WHQS would fall on the HRA and not the Council Fund but can be met from within the existing resources identified within the Housing Business Plan. Due to the lack of suitably adapted accommodation and the shortage of houses in the area any investment would be deemed to be sustainable.   

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

15.    Improving the property to the Welsh Housing Quality Standard would not only secure the long term future of the asset but would also contribute to the improved financial position of the residents by reducing fuel poverty through the use of energy efficient products in the refurbishment and an increase in SAP ratings.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

16.    Before the property can be allocated in accordance with the Council’s allocation scheme, it will be necessary for the property to be appropriated to the Council’s Housing Stock.  It will be necessary for a written secure tenancy to be entered into by the current occupiers.  A secure tenancy will attract costs associated with bringing the property up to usual Housing Stock Standards and in particular the WHQS, and will, as indicated in the body of this report, enable the tenant in due course to acquire the property under the housing legislation Right to Buy provisions.

Crime and Disorder Implications

17.    The continued occupation of the property will by implication provide a presence in the area of the Penarth Athletic field and reduce or mitigate Anti-Social Behaviour.  

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

18.    The Council is required to make reasonable adjustments to its homes to ensure that they are accessible to all Housing Applicants and tenants. The necessary adaptation of this property is deemed to be reasonable as few alternative suitable properties exist in the area and would prevent potential homelessness.

Corporate/Service Objectives

19.    Housing:
Vale of Glamorgan residents have access to affordable, good quality suitable housing and housing advice and support.

Policy Framework and Budget

20.    This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

21.    Relevant Cabinet Members have been consulted on this report.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

22.    Housing and Public Protection.

Background Papers

None.

Contact Officer

Mike Ingram, Operational Manager, Housing Services. (01446) 709788

Officers Consulted

Committee Reports

Accountant Housing

Head of Finance

Audit

Group Estates

Responsible Officer:

Miles Punter - Director of Visible Services and Housing.