Recommendations of Scrutiny Committee

Reproduced below are the full recommendations of the Scrutiny Panel Task & Finish Group (SPT&FG)

As endorsed by Full Council on Wednesday 27 July 2011 at 7pm to be considered by Cabinet Members on 7 September

i. The reports approved by full Council in July 2010 and Cabinet in December 2010 appeared to lack sufficient information for sound and informed decisions to be made.

ii. Members did not take the opportunity to refer the reports back for further scrutiny and risk assessment of their implications until February 2011.

iii. The Councils strategic reports in this matter appear contradictory and therefore misinformed local communities.

iv. The Council appeared to take no action to inform residents or other parties until after the decision to move forward had been taken and as a consequence the communication stream was ineffective.

v. The Council has not given sufficient evidence that the key factors considered for the selection of the seven sites chosen for the Newcastle Development Programme were followed or applied.

The Task and Finish Group therefore recommends that Council ask the Cabinet to:-

1. Clarify and continue to monitor what housing is required in the borough, both aspirational and social, and identify numbers of units and timescales to bring them forward.

2. Review and keep up to date the Green Space Strategy to ensure that it remains fit for purpose and in particular reviews the community value and location of amenity green spaces such as the seven sites identified for disposal with a view to protecting the quality of rural and urban areas of the borough.

3. Produce for approval by full Council a sustainable asset disposal strategy and programme for the Councils greenfield land, brownfield land, buildings and property based on detailed assessments of the viability of the sites proposed.

4. Agree that having adopted a sustainable asset disposal strategy that the Council as a landowner submits its proposals for inclusion in the SHLAA before any decision of Cabinet on the proposed disposal of a site for redevelopment.

5. Agree that for each proposed disposal a detailed assessment of the site will be prepared for Cabinet by Executive Management Team involving matters such as ownership, covenants, contaminated land, wildlife and infrastructure will be prepared before the Cabinet agrees in public to an ‘in principle decision’ to possibly dispose.

6. Agree that where an ‘in principle decision’ is made that a robust public consultation process is undertaken with not only residents immediately adjacent to the site but those from the wider neighbourhood and that such a consultation process will include the opportunity to examine in detail the potential nature and development of the site.

7. Agree that the Cabinet then receive a further report on the outcome of the public consultation process before making a final decision on the disposal prior to asking officers to submit any planning applications.

8. Submit a report to full Council on the form and extent that such a public consultation process would take so that that the process for community engagement and involvement in the disposal of assets can be approved by all Members.

9. Accept that the Council failed to properly consult on the disposal of the seven sites and failed to properly consider the validity of each of the seven sites, or to seek this information from officers before taking the decision.

10. Agree that In the light of the reasons given by the Task and Finish Group for a review of the Newcastle Development Programme the proposed disposal of the seven sites should not be progressed until the above recommendations have been taken into consideration and the Council has adopted an asset disposal strategy and the Council has had the opportunity to review all Council owned land and property assets.

11. Ensure that the Member Training and Development Programme provides Councillors with adequate knowledge and skills to be able to make decisions around land and asset disposals and cross strategy decisions.