The Chair to advise the Committee of any items on which members of the public have requested to speak and advise those members of the public present of the details of the Council’s public participation scheme.
For those members of the public who have submitted any questions or statements, please note, a three minute time limit applies to each speaker and you will be asked to speak before Councillors debate the issue.
Temporary measures during the Coronavirus pandemic
Due to the temporary legislation (within the Coronavirus Act 2020, which allowed for use of virtual meetings) coming to an end on 6 May 2021, the council’s committee meetings will now take place in the office buildings at the John Meikle Room, Deane House, Belvedere Road, Taunton. Unfortunately due to capacity requirements the Chamber at West Somerset House is not able to be used at this current moment.
Following the Government guidance on measures to reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19), the council meeting rooms will have very limited capacity. With this in mind, we will only be allowing those members of the public who have registered to speak to attend the meetings in person at the office buildings, if they wish. (We will still be offering to those members of the public that are not comfortable in attending, for their statements to be read out by a member of the Governance team). Please can we urge all members of the public who are only interested in listening to the debate to view our live webcasts from the safety of their own home to help prevent the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Chair invited Mr House to speak.
Mr House made the following statement and asked the following question with regard to agenda item Draft General Fund Revenue Budget and Capital Estimates 2022/23.
The Victoria Park Action Group has been campaigning for improvements to our Park Pavilion and safer external public toilets since 2015. The current toilets have been closed but the council are trying to reopen. The key issue is becoming a need to create perhaps two safe and maintainable public external park toilets like those appear on the side of the Coach Building to serve the Park and Sports Facilities. This would allow space within pavilion south pyramid to be upgraded to form a proper Community Hall minimum 75 sq m area, perhaps as an objective of a future town council.
Elsewhere in the town centre there are currently closed or demolished toilets that will require to be replaced if we wish to attract more visitors to support shops and hospitality venues.
At Fire pool an amphitheatre has been proposed, at Coal Orchard a waterside boating feature is being built and at the bus station a proposal for a first changing rooms toilet for Taunton, a higher standard toilet to benefit arrange of people with disabilities and their Carers. I could make a similar case for funding to replace the produce market house on Firepool which in 1974 was thriving.
Since I asked this question last year we are now firmly set to have a new Somerset Unitary Council from April 2023 who will wish to transfer all expenditure on the non-statutory provision of public toilets to a Taunton Town Council.
From the experience of the Unitary changes in Dorset effecting the new Weymouth Town Council in the January meetings before their inception in April 2019:
Work was underway by the outgoing Weymouth and Portland Borough Council to construct new seafront toilets at Weymouth for the new Town council to operate once finished after the due transfer date. So a useful precedent for our park and town centre public toilets.
That month the Dorset Shadow Unitary Council meeting reports show by this time six donor council capital programmes had been merged into one. A task the newly elected Somerset Unitary Councillors will do next year in lieu of a SWT budget process.
This year is the last chance to include district wide funding for rebuilding our public toilets. The new Weymouth Council had to increase its first precept by 10% for the first two years in order to build up its new capital reserves. A similar case for Taunton Town will restrict it from raising capital funds for Toilets at the outset.
Appendix C - Can the Capitol budget line Community Development showing £500,000 allowance from CIL receipts be allocated to Taunton Public Toilets, clearly a third tier council responsibility, so that funding can be established and pass-ported through to help our Park and perhaps other schemes. Can Scrutiny consider if this month is the last chance for local funding schemes to be set and advise the next Council Executive meeting so.
The Portfolio Holder advised that they would provide a full written response to Mr House after the meeting. Chris Hall, the Director of Development and Place responded that all the CIL allocations were currently made to strategic infrastructure projects so the CIL line seen in the budget was fully allocated and therefore from that particular budget there would be no available resources. The service area had also updated that there is currently no plan or live bid for capital resources for the expansion or large-scale refurbishment of public toilet facilities. A full and in-depth response would be provided in writing.
The following written response was provided to Mr House after the meeting.
In response to your request for CIL funding to support improvements to the Victoria Park toilet facilities it is important to set out the existing infrastructure funding commitments and future infrastructure funding challenge. At present Somerset West and Taunton has approved CIL allocations totalling £16,262,100 to provide match funding to support infrastructure delivery, this includes the new primary school at Comeytrowe, cycle and pedestrian improvements, flood protection measures, Taunton town centre regeneration and the provision of new community facilities and green infrastructure projects. These CIL allocations can only be honoured if sufficient CIL receipts are collected for the period to 2025/26.
To date the Council holds £10,460,000 in CIL receipts for strategic infrastructure and the neighbourhood proportion has provided £2,395,000 to local communities. Projected CIL income for the Council was estimated to be in the region of £55m between now and 2032, although given the impact the phosphates issue is having on planning applications and site delivery, these projections and timescales may not be achieved in the timeframe initially hoped.
There are many infrastructure funding calls on what is a limited strategic CIL pot, including the significant infrastructure cost associated with the delivery of new schools to support the quantum of housing growth in Taunton and the critical need to improve strategic flood defences, in view of the Climate Emergency. In this challenging infrastructure funding context it is unlikely that Strategic CIL funds will be available to support improvements to the Victoria Park toilet facilities. There are currently no allocations made to Victoria Park toilets from the CIL receipts and all money held and anticipated is already allocated.
Community Infrastructure Levy is charged on all new dwellings (with the exception of self-build and affordable housing) and Somerset West and Taunton Council is required to pass on a proportion of CIL receipts collected in each parish to the relevant parish council. In the case of the Taunton Unparished Area a total of £121,770.93 CIL funds have been collected to date and are held in the Taunton Unparished Area CIL fund. At present the Taunton Chartered Trustees have supported the allocation of £107,062.07 CIL funds towards the provision of cycle and pedestrian improvements within the town centre. The balance of CIL receipts in the Taunton Unparished Area CIL fund (£14,708.86) are the only funds that could be bid against for the project you have highlighted.
Outside of the CIL budget there are no plans within the service, or capital bids approved, for replacement or large scale capital alterations to public toilets.