To consider the report of the Principal Project Manager Strategic Infrastructure.
The Principal Project Manager (Strategic Infrastructure Planning) presented the report onseeking Members’ approval to allocate a relatively modest amount of unallocated New Homes Bonus receipts towards the (primarily waste management related) costs that the St. James Community Trust Ltd would incur. The Trust would assume the 125 year lease of Queen’s Crescent Garden from the City Council, subsequent to the impending completion of the compulsory purchase of the Garden by the Council. The Garden had been neglected for decades, but had the potential to become a valued local resource. The grant would also allow initial work to deal with a number of urgent tree works as a priority task. Improving Queen’s Crescent Garden was also identified as a priority in the St. James Neighbourhood Plan. The approach by the Trust had the potential to offer a future model for other communities who wished to manage their own open spaces.
Following further clarification by the City Solicitor and Head of Human Resources, a revised recommendation was presented which reiterated that the grant was to be a one off payment, and investment evidence would be required before any finance was released to the Trust. The Principal Project Manager (Strategic Infrastructure Planning) stated that the process included a thorough check of the documentation, and he would continue to ensure that the right procedures were in place. The investment was likely to be implemented through the Church, Charities and Local Authorities (CCLA), which was a dedicated financial institution used by those sectors.
One of the Ward Members for Duryard and St James was pleased that the Trust had pursued the commitment to take on the space. He confirmed that he was not a trustee of the St James Community Trust and was able to speak at City Council meetings on this issue. He was grateful to the Principal Project Manager (Strategic Infrastructure Planning) who had facilitated this work and helped the project to come to fruition. A Member championing community development also wished to support the project, but mentioned the need for a holistic approach to any transfer of community assets going forward. He hoped that the project would continue to be well thought through, including support for the governance and financial arrangements, whilst still allowing for an element of initiative. He noted that the New Homes Bonus funding would be used as intended to enhance the city and was not taken from service delivery budgets.
Place Scrutiny Committee supported the report and requested Executive to recommend approval by Council of the following:-
(1) £50,000 of unallocated New Homes Bonus receipts be allocated to Exeter St. James Community Trust Ltd as a grant, (as a one-off payment, and subject to satisfactory confirmation that the monies would be appropriately invested) to address immediate and ongoing liabilities associated with the Trust taking on the lease of Queen’s Crescent Garden, and
(2) £5,000 of unallocated New Homes Bonus receipts be allocated for the purchase and installation (by Exeter City Council’s Public Realm) of three new rubbish bins outside the Queen’s Crescent Garden walls.