Decisions

Use the below search options at the bottom of the page to find information regarding recent decisions that have been taken by the council’s decision making bodies.

Alternatively you can visit the officer decisions page for information on officer delegated decisions that have been taken by council officers.

Decisions published

14/01/2020 - Firepool ref: 172    Recommendations Approved

Decision Maker: SWT Full Council

Made at meeting: 14/01/2020 - SWT Full Council

Decision published: 17/02/2020

Effective from: 14/01/2020


14/01/2020 - Taunton Bus Station ref: 171    Recommendations Approved

Decision Maker: SWT Full Council

Made at meeting: 14/01/2020 - SWT Full Council

Decision published: 17/02/2020

Effective from: 14/01/2020


14/01/2020 - Access to Information - Exclusion of the Press and Public ref: 170    Recommendations Approved

Decision Maker: SWT Full Council

Made at meeting: 14/01/2020 - SWT Full Council

Decision published: 17/02/2020

Effective from: 14/01/2020

Decision:

RESOLVED that the press and the public be excluded from the meeting for the items numbered 9 and 10 on the Agenda as the items contained exempt information as defined in Paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972, and the public interest in withholding the information outweighed the public interest in disclosing the information to the public.


14/01/2020 - Receipt of Petition on behalf of My Theatre Matters (Brewhouse) ref: 169    Refused

Decision Maker: SWT Full Council

Made at meeting: 14/01/2020 - SWT Full Council

Decision published: 17/02/2020

Effective from: 14/01/2020

Decision:

Ms Val Hammond (Chair of Trustees of Taunton Theatre Association) presented the petition’s demands on behalf of My Theatre Matters which had been included within the Agenda along with a pro-forma assessing the potential approvals required;

 

Good evening Councillors I am Val Hammond, Chair of Trustees of Taunton Theatre Association, which as you know is a registered charity and which has successfully revived your capital asset The Brewhouse Theatre and Arts Centre in Taunton. The petition was originally presented to Council on the 8th October 2019 where it had been signed by over 3000 people. The petition requested an increase in funding to enable Taunton Theatre Association to sustain its high quality and accessible and diverse arts centre in Somerset’s County Town due to the planned redevelopment being put on hold by the Council’s new administration. The great majority of the signatories live in the District but some of them further afield evidencing the venues positive economic impact.

 

Taunton Theatre Association is the largest provider of arts and culture in the District, providing a rich and diverse programme at our base and increasingly working with others across the region and nationally. We’re a successful organisation, offering over a thousand events each year, six to seven days a week, day and night and with visitors now reaching 72,000 people a year. As you will recall, four years’ work with the previous Council resulted in well researched, realistic and ambitious plans for a Multi-Purpose Venue with a 750 seat theatre, cinema, studio theatre, art gallery, and cultural space. This flexible and sustainable venue would re-invigorate Taunton and benefit the whole region and its people. The project, anticipated for the Brewhouse site, could be re-purposed to provide a spectacular centrepiece for Firepool.

 

However, rather than repeat the presentation that was made to Council in October I would like to comment on the proposal before you and update on what has happened since then. I must emphasise, that the request for additional funding did not originate from TTA but was made in response to a request from the Council on 1st April 2019 to set out clearly the financial implications of the proposed Brewhouse development not going ahead as planned. On the basis of this TTA brought forward a financial proposal demonstrating the additional costs necessary to sustain its cultural programme if it were to remain in the aged and seat limited Brewhouse facility we showed both best and worst case scenarios. Best case TTA winning grants from elsewhere, worst case based on not winning any grants at all. Something we have not experienced to date, although grants are usually dependent on there also being local Council support.

 

In the papers before you tonight, the figures showed the worst case for one year, that year has been rounded up and presented as if it was the case for each year. I put it to you that although it is wise to consider the worst case, the way it is presented is misleading especially as it includes the existing grant. We anticipated negotiation on would, could and couldn’t be afforded and to be asked to taper our request accordingly. Instead there have been no discussions on this particular aspect and little engagement recently. With uncertainty surrounding the planned redevelopment and funding TTA are in limbo, uncertain if we can continue to deliver the breadth and quality of arts provision successfully developed since we re-opened the Brewhouse in 2014, and as demanded by the public.

 

The re-development project, which could solve the sustainability issue, is on hold whilst The Brewhouse, the Council’s own asset further degrades, for example, during the Christmas show, The Railway Children, which was itself very enthusiastically received by very strong audiences, we had to close the Theatre to the public and cancel performances when water poured through the roof and into the main electricity board. We were grateful for the supply of the Council’s maintenance team, but must emphasise that this kind of unplanned expense is very likely to occur due to the age and structure of the building. A reason for looking seriously at redevelopment. For our part, TTA has already taken the difficult decision to close the premises on Mondays and further changes may be necessary without sufficient funding.

 

I would ask you please tonight to think carefully about your decision. It could well affect the future economic development of our County Town. As The Brewhouse is a key driver of the day and night-time economy and brings people from across the region as well as meeting local needs. The variety and scope of activities that we offer are unlikely to be delivered at any other centre on such a consistent basis across the whole age groups and cultural spectrum. We appreciate the Council has many demands on its funds and attention, but we must say that from our own hard-won experience it is harder to generate a lost theatre than to keep a successful venture going. Please support and engage with us to find a solution that works for all. Thank you.

 

Councillor Benet Allen (Portfolio Holder – Communications and Culture) responded and thanked Val for her presentation, and appreciated the work that The Brewhouse has done over the last four years. The petition did not make direct mention of the financial situation but he confirmed that there is provision in the forthcoming budget to maintain the £132,000 per annum which is the extent to which the Council currently subsidised The Brewhouse. He pointed out that there was another fairly large theatre in the District in Minehead which received absolutely no Council subsidy at all. They were quite good at fundraising and he implored The Brewhouse to look in all directions for funds. There was also an extra £28,000 in the current budget which he believed was for essential statutory maintenance to the building and to keep it running. The Council was very pleased with the TTA’s stewardship of The Brewhouse but he thought we could all agree that The Brewhouse was not in a very good physical shape and the building has got some very serious problems and rebuilding on that site may not be the easiest way forward. There was also, as he was sure everybody was aware, a rectangle on the new Firepool Development Plan marked ‘venue’ and as most people were aware there was talk about moving The Brewhouse or some theatre into that slot. So the existing building we have got wasn’t really going to do the trick. Nonetheless the current subsidy would continue and he responded as to why the previous report wasn’t brought to Full Council. Simply we had been advised by our s151 officer that there was no budgetary provision to provide the extra £1.2 million pounds being asked for over three years and the report was pulled on that basis. Since we were considering new developments over at Firepool we must necessarily keep the project on hold for the time being. TTA were asked to continue to do the excellent work that they had been doing and obviously to look for funds wherever they could find them. They would be aware that they cannot rely on the District Council as a sole source of funding and the Council had many demands on its funding and we were doing our best to allocate our funds as we could. We would continue to engage in dialogue with The Brewhouse about current operations and its long-term future.

 

Councillor Caroline Ellis made comments of support for The Brewhouse and the TTA and considered it a vital part of Taunton and the wider district. She requested access to the previous feasibility study which included the business case and plan for the redevelopment of The Brewhouse and the previous thinking of the last administration. As an organisation we needed a much better grip on arts and culture. It was a really important partnership and a better way was needed going forward of resolving this. The Brewhouse was vital for the town.

 

Councillor Norman Cavill stated that the economic impact of The Brewhouse in the last year had amounted to £2.4 million and a large amount of that had been retained in the area. If you were moving a company into the area you need that arts culture, and this was necessary to the town being a growing town. You had to have a vibrant theatre offer, that is full-time and of a size that makes it viable.

 

Councillor Federica Smith-Roberts (Leader of the Council) responded that she partly echoed Cllr Allen’s points and appreciated that it has taken time to get to this point. The Leader advised that there had been difficulties since coming in as a new administration in May 2019 when the Transformation Programme did not survive impact with reality. There are many things we have had to initiate to ensure that basic services are stabilised such as grass cutting, telephone calls answered and bins are collected. That stabilisation has been the paramount focus of the Council, and along the way we had advised TTA that the new administration does value arts and culture, but despite what may have been said by the previous administration, there were not the funds available to build a new building or provide the £1.2 million request which was not in the budget in October. The Council would be continuing to provide a grant, which is one of the biggest grants that the Council gives out and is proposed to continue in budget setting and is for Council to decide and dialogue would of course continue. The Leader personally reiterated her belief that TTA did great things, with her own family and friends seeing shows recently and there were really great opportunities for all of us including local children to go. TTA did a fantastic job, unfortunately there are so many different pulls on our services the Council just needed to spin all those plates, and whilst it’s just taking a little bit of time to get there we are going as fast as we can.

 

The Chair drew the item to a close, and as no motions were forthcoming by default the Council decided to take no further action.


23/01/2020 - Appointment of External Auditors ref: 177    Recommendations Approved

Decision Maker: Taunton Charter Trustees

Made at meeting: 23/01/2020 - Taunton Charter Trustees

Decision published: 14/02/2020

Effective from: 23/01/2020

Decision:

RESOLVED that the Charter Trustees for Taunton approved the appointment of external auditors PKF Littlejohn made under the central appointments regime The Smaller Authorities’ Audit Appointments (SAAA).


23/01/2020 - Mayor Making for 2020/21 ref: 176    Recommendations Approved

Decision Maker: Taunton Charter Trustees

Made at meeting: 23/01/2020 - Taunton Charter Trustees

Decision published: 14/02/2020

Effective from: 23/01/2020

Decision:

Following the meeting of the Charter Trustees on 7th August 2019, where the presumption was supported that the person taking up the Mayor of Taunton role was presumed to serve in the role for two consecutive years, it was requested that the Charter Trustees were content with not undertaking a wider nomination process in February 2020 but to confirm the presumed nominees at this meeting. The Mayor Making ceremony where these nominations would be voted on would still take place at the Annual General Meeting or Mayor Making in May/June 2020.

 

Both Councillors Smith and Sue Lees declared that they would wish to continue in their roles for a second consecutive year.

 

Councillor Prior-Sankey proposed that Councillor Francesca Smith be nominated to take up the role of Mayor of Taunton for the municipal year 2020/21. This was seconded by Councillor Coles.

 

The nomination form was thus signed by the proposer and seconder.

 

Councillor Coles proposed that Councillor Sue Lees be nominated to take up the role of Deputy Mayor of Taunton for the municipal year 2020/21. This was seconded by Councillor Booth.

 

The nomination form was thus signed by the proposer and seconder.

 

 

 


23/01/2020 - Taunton Charter Trustees Budget 2020/2021 ref: 175    Recommendations Approved

Decision Maker: Taunton Charter Trustees

Made at meeting: 23/01/2020 - Taunton Charter Trustees

Decision published: 14/02/2020

Effective from: 23/01/2020

Decision:

The Mayor introduced the item which set out the proposed Budget for the forthcoming year.

 

During the discussion of this item, Members made comments and asked questions which included:-

 

·       A question was raised as to whether Somerset West and Taunton Council was intending to continue to raise Special Expenses on the Unparished Area (whilst separate from this Budget) would enable the Unparished Area to still benefit from projects on a smaller scale that a Town/Parish Council usually provided?

·       The Clerk to the Charter Trustees clarified that the budget paper before Councillors only dealt with the costs associated with the Charter Trustees which were mainly around the Mayoralty and Civic Function. The discussions around the decision as to whether levy Special Expenses were still ongoing and this would be ultimately decided at the SWT Budget Setting meeting on the 19th February 2020. Officers were in negotiations with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to investigate this.

·       Cllr Smith-Roberts clarified that as Leader of SWT the administration had supported Officers to investigate precepting for Special Expenses on the Unparished Area of Taunton with MHCLG, as previously undertaken. MHCLG had been told that with the advent of the Charter Trustees Special Expenses were no longer going to be levied as Officers had originally understood Charter Trustees to be able to be able to precept for things much like a Town Council which they cannot do so. Secretary of State Approval was still being awaited for approval but it was envisioned this would be resolved before Budget Setting at the District level.

·       The Clerk to the Charter Trustees confirmed that the precepting power of the Charter Trustees was separate to the SWT power to request to precept for Special Expenses.

·       Comment was made that Somerset West and Taunton had expected that Charter Trustees for Taunton were going to be in many regards like a Town Council when in fact the restrictions imposed on what Charter Trustees could precept for meant it was not. The Special Expenses would be able to achieve some things but could not fund the full breadth of activities that a Town/Parish Council could with the amount expected and the District had to be cognisant of that and take steps to remedy in the short-term. The residents of the Unparished Area would continue to be significantly disadvantaged until then.

·       There was a current amount of around £22,000 in the biddable pot and this would be clarified if this could be carried forward for future years to be distributed by the Standing Committee of the Charter Trustees.

·       The Mayor requested that the Budget report and the Accommodation line was amended to reduce the number of Standing Committee meetings was reduced from eight to four.

·       The Clerk to the Charter Trustees clarified that this would reduce the amount precepted for from £2640 to £1760 for accommodation and the total figure reduced from £52,020 to £51,140 and from £3.40 to £3.34 on a Band D Property.

·       Councillor Marcia Hill seconded the Mayor’s proposal and Councillors supported the amendment.

·       Comment was made that the charging of a commercial rate for accommodation was an aspect that could be considered unfair and was being used to push undue costs onto the Charter Trustees.

·       It was suggested that the start times of the meeting could be changed so that a Security Guard would not need to be used as is the case for all evening meetings at The Deane House.

·       Concern was raised of the difficulty of forging a separate identity whilst still holding the meetings in the District Council’s offices.

·       The costs of the hire of The Deane House were comparable to the Albemarle Centre and other commercial room hire facilities in the town. The removal of the security guard costs would equate to only £360 for the year.

·       Councillors requested a more detailed understanding of the Mayoral Activities and Events Budget line.

·       Officers had investigated the spend associated with the former Mayor of Taunton Deane in previous years to come up with an estimated cost for the forthcoming year. The budget set this year for this had been set at a prudent £15,000 but this was likely to be underspent. A further report on the final spends for the 19/20 would be brought back in due course after the end of the financial year.

·       A query was raised as to the elimination of a potential Mayoral Small Grants pot that had been included in previous versions of the paper?

·       This had been included but following feedback at the meetings in advance of this one had been removed, as its purpose seemed vague and the Special Expenses was felt to be the priority to ensure was kept.

·       The Mayor also mentioned that the Alderman Spear’s Contribution to the Mayor’s Christmas fund for the needy of Taunton at Christmas could fulfil this role.

·       A further report would be brought back to a meeting of the Charter Trustees detailing this fund and its proposed future.

·       It was raised that it would be beneficial if the Charter Trustees could in some way reward young people in the town for their contributions. It was requested that the Civic links and the Civic Dinners with the Twinning Groups involved young people. Bridgwater and Taunton College catering students could be involved in catering for these dinners which would involve young people and also reduce the costs.

·       The Mayor encouraged that this idea was communicated to the Twinning Groups.

·       Cllr Lisgo requested that the concerns expressed were recorded and communicated to the rest of SWT Council.

 

Councillor Marcia Hill proposed the main motion which was seconded by Councillor Prior-Sankey.


RESOLVED that the Charter Trustees for Taunton set a precept for the financial year 2020/2021 at the amount of £51,140, to be collected on their behalf from the Unparished Area of Taunton ratepayers by Somerset West and Taunton as the billing authority. This is equivalent to £3.34 expenditure per Band D property.


23/01/2020 - Minutes of the previous meeting of the Taunton Charter Trustees ref: 173    Recommendations Approved

Decision Maker: Taunton Charter Trustees

Made at meeting: 23/01/2020 - Taunton Charter Trustees

Decision published: 14/02/2020

Effective from: 23/01/2020

Decision:

(Minutes of the meeting of the Taunton Charter Trustees held on 2nd October 2019 circulated with the agenda)

 

RESOLVED that the minutes of the Taunton Charter Trustees held on 2nd October 2019 be confirmed as a correct record.


07/02/2020 - Electric Vehicle Community Charge Point Fund - decisions ref: 168    Recommendations Approved

Decision Maker: Climate Change Portfolio Holder

Decision published: 07/02/2020

Effective from: 15/02/2020

Decision:

Cllr Peter Pilkington (Portfolio Holder for Climate Change) has decided to award a grant to the following organisation, for the installation of two electric vehicle community charge points:

 

Stoke St Gregory Parish Council - £1,500

 

The application will be funded from a dedicated one-off sum of £20,000 in the 2019/20 budget, set aside by the Council to support the installation of electric vehicle community charge points.

 


05/02/2020 - Council response to the Government's consultation on the Future Homes Standard ref: 167    Recommendations Approved

Decision Maker: Planning and Transportation Portfolio Holder

Decision published: 05/02/2020

Effective from: 05/02/2020

Decision:

Endorse the submission of the appended Council response to the Government consultation on the Future Homes Standard: changes to Part L and Part F of the Building Regulations for new dwellings.

 

The Council’s response consists of a letter from SWT and a joint response produced by the Somerset Building Control Partnership (SBCP) on behalf of SWT, Sedgemoor and Mendip. It makes good sense for the SBCP to prepare a joint response as the consultation goes into technical detail beyond the detail that the Council’s own planning team or strategy function would be capable of responding on. However, the strategic relevance of the topic area and proposals in relation to the climate emergency work and Local Plan Review should not be lost and as such the strategy team has prepared a letter to accompany that joint response.

 

The SWT Framework Carbon Neutrality and Climate Resilience Plan refers specifically to responding to this consultation “to encourage greater national action at an earlier date and/or retaining the ability for local authorities to go above and beyond the minimum standards of Building Regulations. The appended briefing note contains the SWT letter at Appendix A, the SBCP response at Appendix B, and a summary of the consultation proposals at Appendix C.

 

In summary, the key points of the SWT letter can be broken down to the following:

- The Future Homes Standard should be brought forward before 2025 if at all possible, and if this is not possible then it should deliver zero carbon homes from 2025. The technology and knowledge exists to go further and faster, but requires regulation to drive wide-scale take-up and delivery.

- The Government is relying on decarbonisation of the grid to progressively deliver the 75-80% carbon reduction proposed by the Future Homes Standard into a net zero carbon emissions over time. This pushes the problem elsewhere rather than tackling at source which would be preferable and ensure that buildings do not require future retrofit. There is no guarantee that the grid will decarbonise as quickly or as fully as might currently be anticipated.

- In time, new build homes should move towards being carbon negative to make the most of the opportunities available through new build, and to compensate for the difficulties around retrofitting much of the existing building stock.

- The 2020 uplift proposals are not ambitious enough and through the removal of the Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard (FEES) could lead to worse fabric energy efficiency than is currently allowed through the existing Part L 2013. A focus on fabric efficiency is paramount as this can reduce heat and electricity demand as well as costs to the occupier and can negate the need for costly fabric retrofit in the future.

- Of the two uplift options, requiring a headline 31% carbon reduction over existing Building Regulations would be preferred, but this option must be tightened to require greater emphasis on improving the building fabric ahead of reliance upon solar PV. Higher-still carbon reductions would be preferred;

- The 2020 uplift proposals reflect to a greater or lesser extent what local authorities are able to require by way of energy performance of dwellings through planning policy anyway, but this is insufficient;

- The Council is extremely concerned with the proposal to remove the ability for local authorities to set more ambitious local standards above and beyond Building Regulations, and strongly request that this ability is retained and unambiguously stated by Government;

- The Council welcomes the Government’s acknowledgement that there is currently an issue with developers “locking in” compliance with out of date regulations, and the proposal to address this to an extent on new developments. However, the proposed approach needs to be accompanied with advice as to how this should be considered in terms of development viability in the planning process but also greater focus on identifying potential ways to introduce improved requirements for large development sites with extant planning permissions.

- The Government should bring forward further proposals to ensure all new dwellings are also resilient to the climate change that is already in progress.

The consultation response is being publicised through a Portfolio Holder’s decision.