This matter is the responsibility of Executive Portfolio Holder for Housing, Councillor Francesca Smith.
The report recommends the approval of funding for all future phases of the Project.
The North Taunton Woolaway Project is the flagship regeneration project of the SWT’s housing development programme which set out to tackle some of the Council’s worst performing homes in one of the most socially deprived areas in the County.
The Report recommended the approval of funding for all future phases of the Project as set out in Appendix A. The budget for Phase A and Enabling Works for Phases B-E totalling was approved in February 2019. This included the purchase of owner occupied properties and decanting tenanted properties. A confidential financial summary was included at Appendix D for the purchase of the private property, which was within Phase C of the Project.
The Project set out the demolition of homes in Phase A and would start building 47 new homes with the first of these properties completed by August 2021 with Phase A estimated to complete by September 2022.
To ensure a smooth transition between all future phases and to quicken the pace of regeneration, permission was being sought to approve the budget to fund the regeneration of the remaining Phases B–E.
The Project would deliver new Council homes and was an essential part of the Council’s commitment to offer a choice of good quality homes for residents, whatever their age and income, in communities where support is available for those in need. The proposals identified in the Report would identify the funding and assist the progression of the remaining Phases (B–E) in a timely manner and provide certainty and security to the North Taunton Woolaway Project tenants.
During the discussion the following points were raised:-
· The low carbon ambition as opposed to zero carbon were questioned.
· The scheme was based on building regulations, these were the requirements in terms of specification.
· Under the pre-contract agreement the contractor would consider efficiencies to deliver maximum low carbon benefits.
· There were challenges around the amount of low carbon changes in the construction.
· There were more opportunities in future phases for additional carbon reduction measures in the construction, this would be reported to members.
· Further details on the specification would be provided before the Executive report. Information would be modelled to ensure the right balance. This would be assessed within the next 2-3 weeks.
· The contingency fund was built into Appendix A, this could be balanced between fabric and technology depending on the benefits of the carbon reduction and the comparable cost.
· Impact on recent developments of phosphate issues as part of the planning application were considered. This was anticipated to be a short to medium term impact.
· Provision of affordable homes were encouraged. Tenants returning can retain their social rent agreement. The affordable rent arrangements were considered along with the percentage split.
· Reducing the carbon impact of construction was considered. More information was requested over the energy use of the residents.
· Heat pumps and insulation were encouraged on the projects. The same Zero carbon standard was the ambition with all the projects to be considered in the agenda.
· Feedback from the residents was very positive and residents were looking forward to the development and their future homes.
· The specification for phase E had not been agreed, it was anticipated that this would be complete around March 2021.
· The committee were positive to see the ambition from the three project and the progress of the zero carbon ambitions and positive responses.
· The resident’s feedback and ensuring a positive impression was an achievement and progress had made on the positivity and public perception of the project. Those living in the houses and the surrounding area were supportive of the scheme.
· Councillors praised the community involvement with the contractor repainting the local community centre after it was damaged by fire.
· EIA and Legal implications of the Woolaway project was considered.
· The impact assessment from February last year was included. It was questioned if a full up to date EIA would be provided. An updated EIA could be provided by the end of the year.
· Disabled facilities grants were considered, a full response in relation to these would be provided outside of the meeting.
· Calculations had been undertaken with engineers to ensure the flood risk was fully understood.
· The expense of the zero carbon improvements were considered contrasting their benefit.
· Councillors commended officers for their community engagement.
· It was questioned if the land value had been factored into the capital development cost. This has not been factored in but could be provided with planning permission.
· Costs around phosphate had not been factored in, this was determined as too early to tell what the impact would be.
· The sustainability of the projects were questioned with the reliance on borrowing. Calculations had been undertaken on the benefits and the cost of the borrowing repayments. The project would be a 60 year lifespan guarantee.
· This was considered as affordable as set out and included in the HRA business plan and HRA debt during the planned period.
· Fluctuations in the construction index were discussed. It was determined there was a good amount of contingency in the budget.
· The increase of regeneration costs of north Taunton was considered high. Inflation was recognised as a factor alongside the potential of a shorter timescale of the project.
The Scrutiny Committee recommended the purchase of the private dwelling as set out in confidential Appendix D.
The Scrutiny Committee supported the following recommendations to Full Council:-
1. To allocate a total scheme budget and borrowing requirement for Phases B-E and the conclusion of the regeneration scheme as set out in confidential Appendix A.
2. Delegate authority to the Section 151 Officer to determine the final funding profile for each future phase once the finalised designs have been received for Phases B-E and any relevant planning approval and contract costs have been received.
3. To approval the decant of tenants within Phases B which will allow Gold band status in the Homefinder Somerset allocations system for tenants in this Phase and allow those who wish to move outside the regeneration area sufficient priority to move home.
4. Delegate authority to the Director of Housing and Communities in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Housing authority to approve future decanting and demolition for future phases.
5. All new build properties (Phase A-D) will be set at affordable rents in line with the 2020 Rent Setting Policy. The affordable rents will be set to ensure scheme viability at between 60% and 80% of market rates. However, all NTWP SWT secure tenants who lived within the NTWP (Phases A-D) at February 2019, when the Council made its decision to regenerate the neighbourhood, will have their rents capped at the equivalent social rent if being rehoused in the new NTWP development. These rents will remain with the tenant as long as they retain their tenancy. No current NTWP SWT tenant will be required to pay above the equivalent social rent and service charge for their home in line with the Council Shadow Full Council approval to allow existing SWT tenants to remain on a social rent level.