Greenwich Council

Agenda item.

Pre-decision scrutiny on Pocket Living land disposal consultation

Members to note the work undertaken since the call in.  To comment on that consultation and the proposed recommendation of the Director of Housing and Safer Communities to help inform the final recommendation.

Minutes:

Councillor Leo Fletcher declared a personal interest as a tenant of the Council in relation to this Item.

 

Councillor Clive Mardner, Chair of the Housing and Anti-Poverty Scrutiny Panel outlined the reason for the meeting, and the format for the proceedings.  It was recognised that Cabinet, at its meeting on 28 August 2018 considered a recommendation by the Overview and Scrutiny Call-In Sub-Committee, and agreed in principle to dispose of three sites to Pocket Living Limited.

 

The Panel received the report introduced by the Director of Housing and Safer Communities in relation to the outcomes on Pocket Living Ltd land disposal consultation.

 

The meeting noted that Cabinet’s decision stipulated that the disposal of the sites should be subject to the outcomes of consultation with tenants and leaseholders, the content of which should be provided to Members of the Panel for comment prior to commencement.

 

In response to an enquiry, Councillor Chris Kirby, Cabinet Member for Housing stated that although the details of the consultation was not submitted for consideration to the Panel prior to commencement, it should be noted that Cabinet’s intention was realised.  Councillor Kirby confirmed that the consultation outcomes were influenced by contributions from residents, local amenity groups, Members of Panel, and ward councillors.

 

Speaking on behalf of residents in the Charlton Ward, Councillor Linda Perks gave a brief description of the environment and location of the Heights in Charlton, advising that she was supportive of the proposal because the site had remained unused and derelict for a number of years.  It was stated there was also no objection to the proposal from residents living at the Height.  Councillor Perks was of the view that the consultation outcome was evidence that the Council was listening, as the number of properties originally planned for development across the three sites were subsequently reduced due to concerns by local people residents.

 

In response to questions raised, Councillor Perks advised the Panel that the Height in Charlton consisted of a stable population, and that parking pressures in the area were intermittent in surround roads close to the Height in Charlton.  Councillor Perks stated that in her view, the reason for the low response to the consultation could have been a lack of residents’ association, or a group of similar nature at the Heights. 

 

Councillor Perks further advised the Panel that she was aware that the proposed developer had undertaken the necessary tests on the land.  However, further investigation might be required to confirm the stability and decontamination of the site, and the adequacy of parking provision in the area.  Councillor Perks stated that it would have been useful for the proposed development at Height to comprise of 2 bed-room properties, and that she would be suggesting a condition to prevent “buy to let” agreements as part of the negotiations with the developers.

 

Councillor Parker also addressed the meeting on behalf residents in the Charlton ward, highlighting that out of a population of approximately 120, only 14 residents at the Heights responded to the consultation, with 2 agreeing or strongly agreeing with the proposal to sell the land.  Councillor Parker also expressed a disappointment that the developer produced a model email, a website, and advertisements via other social media to promote their interests during the consultation period.

 

In response to questions raised, Councillor Parker stated that in his view, the questionnaire was not properly developed, given that the aim was for residents to “agree”, or “disagree” to the sale of public land to private developers.  Thus, the consultation should be repeated with much clarity.

 

Councillor Parker further advised the Panel that he would welcome an investigation about dealings between the Council and the developer, in order to alleviate concerns that residents’ personal data was not compromised via on-line activities during the consultation period.

 

Echoing concerns by Councillor Perks about derelict and contaminated land, Councillor Parker stated that the site in Charlton Heights had a history of anti-social-behaviour.  Furthermore, recent renovation undertaken across the estates were of a low standard.  Thus, it was likely that residents were feeling socially vulnerable and isolated.  Furthermore, commercial views and opinions by the developer during the consultation period could have influenced attitudes, hence the low-level community response by residents at the Height in Charlton.

 

Councillor Geoffrey Brighty also addressed the meeting, advising that he was speaking on behalf of residents in the Blackheath-Westcombe ward.  Councillor Brighty stated that he was satisfied that the consultation was thorough and meaningful.  However, he wished to know when the proposed review to retain the land atKidbrooke Park Close would commence.  Councillor Brighty stated that it should be noted that the majority of residents on the estate had indicated that they were not supportive of proposals to sell public land to private developers or its use for other purposes because of potential parking problems in the area.

 

The Panel made further enquiries and was advised by Councillor Kirby that the Council would continue to listen and respond to the views of local people for a mix of housing tenures.  However, in the circumstance, the arrangements were geared to supporting first-time buyers acquire homes at affordable prices.

 

The Director of Housing and Safer Communities also confirmed to the Panel that the consultation exercise was progressed via various media channels, including leaflet droppings, social media, and door-knocking.  It was stated that the Council was aware of its General Data Protection Regulations responsibilities, and had no time collated email receipts from the proposed developer, Pocket Living Ltd, during the consultation exercise.  Thus, it was unlikely that residents’ personal data was compromised.  Councillor Kirby added that he also had no discussions with the proposed developer during the consultation period, nor was he aware that officers had shared on-line personal data to influence the outcomes.

 

Continuing with his response, the Director of Housing and Safer Communities confirmed to the Panel that he had no indication to suggest that Pocket Living Ltd was no longer interested in progressing with the negotiations because of the consultation outcomes.  He advised the Panel that if the consultation exercise was repeated in the short-term, it was unlikely for the outcomes to differ, as the current situation and demography had not changed.  Notwithstanding that, residents would have further opportunity to express their views as part of the statutory planning process during final negotiations with the developer.

 

On behalf of the Panel, the Chair thanked officers for their hard work, and commented that the consultation was of a good standard, and that it would be helpful if future exercise follow the example.

 

The Panel expressed a disappointment that there was no information that other areas were investigated as options prior to proposal to develop the proposed sites.   The Panel however made the following submissions:

·                 that the community engagement policy and process applied during the consultation exercise was of a good standard;

·                 that steps should be taken to develop community spirit at the Heights in Charlton;

·                 that in addition to parking provision and concerns about land contamination at the Heights in Charlton, the proposal for 2 bedroom properties by Councillor Perks should be considered at the planning stage with the developer;

·                 that in the future, where there was a requirement to do so, consultation documentation should be circulated to Members of the Panel prior to commencement;

 

The Panel

 

Resolved

 

1.               That the work undertaken since the ‘call in’ request, be noted.

 

2.               That comments on that consultation and the proposed recommendation of the Director of Housing & Safer Communities to help inform the final recommendation, be noted.

Supporting documents: