Issue - meetings
Meeting: 20/07/2021 - Cabinet (Item 7)
Cabinet received a progress report of the Future High Streets programme in High Wycombe. A further report to establish the programme and governance would be submitted to Cabinet in September 2021.
(1) That the Leader, in consultation with the Cabinet Members for Finance, Resources, Property and Assets and the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Planning and Regeneration, and the Section 151 Officer, be authorised to submit the offers to purchase the properties listed in Annex 1 (confidential), subject to the exchange of contracts being conditional upon Future High Streets grant first being received by the Council from MHCLG.
(2) That the Section 151 Officer be authorized to sign the MHCLG Future High Streets grant offer agreement, as set out in paragraph 5, and to draw down on the first year’s allocation.
(3) That the Service Director for Property and Assets be delegated to appoint the external consultants to undertake development management, valuations, due diligence and lettings, to be funded by the Future High Streets grant.
(4) That the Leader, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Finance, Resources, Property and Assets, and the Section 151 Officer, be authorised to exchange contracts and complete on the proposed acquisitions set out in the Cabinet report.
(5) That the Service Director for Property and Assets, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Finance, Resources, Property and Assets, and the Section 151 Officer be authorised to undertake the tendering, selection and appointment of buildings contractors to undertake the refurbishment (subject to planning, if required) of acquisitions, once purchases have been completed.
Councillor John Chilver, Cabinet Member for Finance, Resources, Property and Assets introduced a progress report of the Future High Streets programme in High Wycombe, which requested approval to progress with the first tranche of spend for the grant (outlined in Appendix 1 to the Cabinet report). The Council was about to receive the first tranche (£6.7m) of MHCLG’s Future High Streets Fund (FHSF) grant (totalling £11.8m over three years). The grant was based on a specified development programme and for 2021-22 involved a series of proposed property acquisitions. Delegated approval was required from Cabinet to progress the acquisitions, in order to meet the FHSF delivery programme and thereby ‘secure grants for subsequent years’. A further report on the programme and its resourcing/governance arrangements would be made to Cabinet in September.
Following the submission of a successful expression of interest and award of feasibility funding to Wycombe District Council in 2019. A full bid had been made by Buckinghamshire Council to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) in July 2020 for £17.2m of capital funding for FHSF for High Wycombe. On 26 December 2020, an announcement had been made by MHCLG that funds were allocated to the High Wycombe bid at a level of 69% of the total ask, amounting to £11.8m (or a total programme of £15.4m). In order to receive the smaller allocation, the Council had been required to revise the bid to match the reduced funding envelope. A summary of the revised bid was set out in the confidential appendix to the Cabinet report.
The intervention projects set out in the confidential appendix were not the usual commercial property investment propositions, and were primarily regeneration schemes (with socio-economic outcomes), so standard risk/reward commercial returns did not apply. The Cabinet report included information on how each project would be appraised, with the indicative projects having already been through the MHCLG’s Green Book Treasury appraisal process and already carried MHCLG sign-off.
The funding would be released in early June/July, subject to the Council having signed a Grant Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding. The latter would include annexed documents comprising (a) Spend Profiling (b) Work Plan and (c) Risk Register.
As the programme largely depended on acquiring properties, there was the potential for individual projects to change or be substituted for other opportunities as they arose. In parallel with the property acquisition programme, work would commence on working up detailed designs and procuring refurbishment works.
During discussion of the item it was agreed that it was important for Members to have oversight, and give final approval, for the offers to purchase properties and prior to the exchange of contracts and completion on the proposed acquisitions. As such, recommendations (1) and (4) of the Cabinet report were updated to reflect this.
(1) That the Leader, in consultation with the Cabinet Members for Finance, Resources, Property and Assets and the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Planning and Regeneration, and the Section 151 Officer, be authorised to ... view the full minutes text for item 7