Accessibility settings

In order to remember your preferences as you navigate through the site, a cookie will be set.

Color preference

Text size

Agenda item

Tewkesbury Garden Town Review - Progress Update

To consider the progress made against the 17 recommendations from the gateway review report, in particular the new approaches to engagement with communities and robust programme management; to approve the new governance arrangements, including revised programme monitoring and reporting designed to improve visibility and transparency; and to agree that the Council, as promoter, explores opportunities with developers and landowners within the Garden Town area to align their proposals for development with the developing vision and aspirations for Tewkesbury Garden Town. 

Minutes:

55.1          At its meeting on 6 September 2023, the Executive Committee considered the progress made against the 17 recommendations from the gateway review report, in particular the new approaches to engagement with communities and robust programme management, and recommended to Council that progress be noted; that the new governance arrangements, including revised programme monitoring and reporting designed to improve visibility and transparency be approved, subject to amendments to Page No. 135, Paragraph 4.1 - Membership of the Tewkesbury Garden Town Assurance Board to be updated to include three Members from the Members Engagement Forum, Page No. 136, Paragraph 4.3.1 – Reference to the Programme Board to be changed to the Project Board, and Page No. 136, Paragraph 4.6.1 – Members Engagement Forum to meet once a month for the first six months following which meeting frequency would be reviewed by the Tewkesbury Garden Town Assurance Board; and to agree that the Council, as promoter, explores opportunities with developers and landowners within the Garden Town area to align their proposals for development with the developing vision and aspirations for Tewkesbury Garden Town.

55.2          A report had been circulated with the Agenda for the current meeting at Pages No. 17-36.

55.3          As Chair of the Executive Committee, the Leader of the Council proposed that Members had already received a briefing in relation to the progress made against the 17 report recommendations but, in terms of the governance arrangements, it had been a lengthy process to reach this point and, along with the Chief Executive, he had met a number of Parish and Town Councils where it had quickly become apparent that they wanted to be part of a governance board in order to have oversight of the project which, up until now, had been missing.  The Executive Committee had recommended some minor amendments which would make the governance arrangements more robust and that had been shared with other Parish and Town Councils who had attended a meeting at the Council Offices.  He recognised that the governance structure would not restore their faith or confidence in the authority but it was an important first step to show it was intent on involving them and giving them that oversight.  The third part of the recommendation related to the need to continue to explore and work with landowners and developers and be open and transparent in relation to that.  In seconding the proposal, the Lead Member for Built Environment felt it was important to recognise the amount of work that had been done in a relatively short space of time.  The proposal would ensure that a sound framework was in place going forward and working closely with the community would be essential to the success of the project.

55.4          A Member sought clarification as to whether Ward Councillors would be invited to attend future meetings between the Chief Executive, Leader of the Council and Town and Parish Councils.  He indicated that the governance structure had been presented to Ashchurch Rural Parish Council for comment and questioned how this could represent meaningful engagement.  Furthermore, in terms of location, Ashchurch Rural was a primary site for the Garden Town and he sought clarification as to whether that was reflected in the governance structure.  He also questioned the involvement of the local Ward Councillors on the Tewkesbury Garden Town Assurance Board and asked whether the governance structure had been tested with other Garden Town projects elsewhere in the country.  In response, the Leader of the Council advised that the invitation to attend meetings with himself, the Chief Executive and Town and Parish Councils would be extended to Ward Councillors and he believed that had been the case in terms of the meeting with Ashchurch Rural Parish Council.  He stressed that work had been done at pace since the current administration had inherited the Garden Town project – it was important to establish a governance structure which involved Town and Parish Councils for openness and transparency but it could evolve and change over time if it was not working.  Whilst the local Ward Member was not specifically represented on the Assurance Board, it was intended that it would include three representatives from the Member Engagement Forum, to be nominated by the Forum. Although it was a decision for the Council in terms of having specific Members, or more Member representatives on that board, it was important the programme was manageable and it was felt that three representatives was appropriate.  In terms of Parish Council involvement, it would be up to the Parish Council Liaison Group in terms of the membership they wanted to put forward.  The decision regarding the governance structure had to stay with the Council but the Oversight Board would have an opportunity to engage and comment.

55.5          A Member indicated that she found the diagram at Page No. 32 of the report confusing.  She sought clarification as to who was on the Assurance Board, how many Members were on the Project Board and who else was on it. She expressed the view that the Ward Members in the locality of the Garden Town were those who knew the most about the area, including Tewkesbury Town Council, and she would like to see more clarification before she could vote in favour of the governance arrangements.  The Leader of the Council indicated that membership of the Assurance Board was set out at Page No. 29, Paragraph 4.1 of the report.  He felt that it was a fair point in terms of the three local Members having the most knowledge about the area and he would be happy to support that they be included within the membership if that was the majority view.  In terms of the Project Board, this was detailed at Page No. 29, Paragraph 4.3.1 of the report which set out that it would be responsible for managing the project plan and fulfilling the promoter role on behalf of the Council; it would have no decision-making powers unless they were delegated by the Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) and the board would be chaired by the Project Lead Officer, supported by the Project Manager, and comprised of technical officer leads from finance, communications and legal and others as required as the project progressed.  With respect to the diagram, the Chief Executive indicated that some changes had been made following initial engagement with Town and Parish Councils to demonstrate changes to colleagues and those had inadvertently become embedded into the diagram.

55.6          A Member acknowledged the amount of hard work which had been done in a short period but his position remained unchanged and he felt both Members and the public would benefit from a record of the Executive Committee meeting where this had been discussed in separate business - he felt it was important that the public were aware of the broader views of the Council rather than simply seeing a resolution in favour of the recommendations.  In terms of the engagement plan, he asked who was involved in terms of businesses and community group and how those meetings would be publicised.  He noted the comment that the governance structure could be reviewed at any point but asked how this would be scrutinised to establish whether it continued to fit with what the Council wanted to achieve.  In response, the Leader of the Council advised that he hoped that having local Ward Members on the Assurance Board would give that broader view.  He indicated that the Council had made a commitment to a Garden Town in that area long before the elections in May and the time for debate as to whether or not it should go ahead had now passed; it was now about securing quality developments and retaining control to ensure the project’s success.  This was a starting point and would continue to change and evolve going forward – that was the whole point of engagement.  In terms of the make-up of groups, substantial work had been done to obtain feedback from Members and Town and Parish Councils on which community groups should be included and he provided assurance that any which had been missed could still be involved.  The Interim Executive Director: Place advised that the community liaison groups list was available for Members to scrutinise and he undertook to ensure that was circulated following the meeting.  The first community engagement sessions would be with businesses and the Growth Hub had inputted into that list.  He apologised if any had been missed but was confident that most of the people Members would want to see on those groups would be receiving invitations.

55.7          A Member drew attention to Page No. 29 of the report which referred to the membership of the Assurance Board and asked if it would be politically balanced; she supported the view that the three representatives from the Member Engagement Forum should be local Ward Councillors.  The Leader of the Council indicated that, following the Executive Committee meeting, an amendment had been made to include the Lead Member for Community within the membership; this was in addition to the Lead Member for Built Environment and the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council.  As it currently stood, the make-up was three Liberal Democrats and one Green and therefore was not politically balanced; however, someone had to take ownership of the project and be held accountable for its delivery and he was happy to do that.

55.8          In terms of consultation with schools and young people, a Member sought assurance this would go further than the naming competition referenced in Recommendation 13 at Page No. 26 of the report.  She noted this recommendation was green and Appendix 3 to the report suggested the workshop format had been finalised so she asked whether this had been properly examined and what had been decided upon in that regard.  In response, the Chief Executive clarified that engagement would be with three secondary schools including Alderman Knight School and they could be named in the document.  He would be happy to meet with the Member to go through the proposed methodology for engagement and, should the governance structure be approved, this would go to the Assurance Board to be tested.  Whilst primary schools were not included, he provided assurance that the views of parents of primary school age children needed to be captured.  In response to a query regarding Workshop 1 on Thursday 5 October 2023, as set out in the Cratus Engagement Timetable at Appendix 4 to the report, the Leader of the Council clarified that this was for all Tewkesbury Borough Councillors and confirmed that all Members had been invited to attend.

55.9          During the debate which ensued, a Member indicated that his concern, as he had raised at the Executive Committee, was with the third recommendation regarding the Council exploring opportunities with developers and landowners within the Garden Town area to align their proposals for development as at no stage had the public been consulted on the Garden Town process and it had not formed any part of the strategic plan – the Cheltenham, Gloucester and Tewkesbury Strategic and Local Plan approach had a step by step process and it did not form part of that.  The SLP was the right place to identify preferred options and that stage was 18 months away; however, this was telling developers there would be a Garden Town in this location which was predetermining the outcome of the SLP in his view.  The Garden Town would have a profound impact on the nature of Tewkesbury Borough but that debate had not been had.  There was an assumption that the Garden Town must go ahead but he felt people should have the right to influence where they lived – the Garden Town was something being “done to” the public rather than with them and this undermined the democratic process so he would not support the motion.  Another Member indicated that she would also be voting against it.  In terms of recommendation 3, it was still unclear what the Garden Town area was.  Originally, Members had been advised that 10,000 houses were required to achieve Garden Town status but at the last Council meeting it had been suggested that it did not necessarily need to be that many.  None of the developers working on sites south of the A46 which had either had been granted planning permission, were being constructed or had already been built were aligned to the Garden Town principles; others which would make-up the Garden Town would not come into being until 2028 at the earliest and she raised concern as to what might happen if the market turned and developers found the demand was no longer there – they had no commitment to wait for the Council to put a Garden Town in place and she did not believe they would wait.  As long as the Council did not have a five year housing land supply, planning permission would be granted. 

55.10        With regard to the threshold of houses to be built in this location to qualify as a Garden Town, a Member indicated that this hinged on the provision of new access onto the M5.  The strategic outline business case for the A46 scheme had been submitted to the Department for Transport in January 2020 and three and a half years later that continued to drift on.  A report on further funding for the M5 Junction 9/A46 scheme had been considered and approved by Gloucestershire County Council on 27 March 2023 and he had attended a recent Gloucestershire Economic Growth Scrutiny Committee where the Executive Director of Gloucestershire County Council had suggested that, if it was not achieved quickly, future funding would not be available/would be withdrawn/would be difficult to achieve.  In that scenario there would be no Garden Town and any control over what would be built in that location would be lost.  The Leader of the Council felt this was an excellent point and part of the case for the holistic approach was to work with partners to secure the additional infrastructure needed.  He could not speak for what had happened in the past but since taking office a significant amount of work had been done at speed and there was renewed impetus.  The Garden Town was part of the basis of funding for transport infrastructure in that area and without that there would be continued piecemeal development without the support needed.  In summing up the debate, matters had been raised which had been talked about previously and the principle of continuing with the Garden Town was not what was being considered tonight.  The matter being discussed was the approval of a body to have oversight of what was happening; that had been a vital missing component to date and could only be a positive thing in his view.  He did not disagree with comments that the Garden Town project had started from the wrong place in terms of community engagement but that could be addressed through the proposed governance structure.  Development of some description would happen in this area with or without a Garden Town and, given the lack of a five year housing land supply, planning permission would continue to be granted for development which did not adhere to the Garden Town principles.  In his view, this approach needed to be taken to make the best of the situation for residents of Ashchurch and Northway and give them oversight of the process moving forward.  He stressed that this would be a valuable start to, not the end of, a journey.

55.11        Having been proposed and seconded, a recorded vote was requested and, upon receiving the appropriate level of support, voting was recorded as follows:

For

Against

Abstain

Absent

N D Adcock

C F Coleman

J P Mills

E M Dimond-Brown

L C Agg

P A Godwin

J K Smith

M A Gore

H J Bowman

E J MacTiernan

C E Mills

T J Budge

M G Sztymiak

 

E C Skelt

C L J Carter

P W Workman

 

M R Stewart

C M Cody

 

 

 

S R Dove

 

 

 

D W Gray

 

 

 

S J Hands

 

 

 

D J Harwood

 

 

 

A Hegenbarth

 

 

 

M L Jordan

 

 

 

G C Madle

 

 

 

J R Mason

 

 

 

H C McLain

 

 

 

P D McLain

 

 

 

P W Ockelton

 

 

 

K Pervaiz

 

 

 

G M Porter

 

 

 

P E Smith

 

 

 

R J G Smith

 

 

 

R J Stanley

 

 

 

H Sundarajoo

 

 

 

R J E Vines

 

 

 

M J Williams

 

 

 

G I Yates

 

 

 

55.12        Accordingly, it was

RESOLVED          1. That progress against the 17 recommendations from the gateway review report, in particular the new approaches to engagement with communities and robust programme management, be NOTED.

2. That the new governance arrangements, including revised programme monitoring and reporting designed to improve visibility and transparency, be APPROVED.

3. That it be AGREED that the Council, as promoter, explores opportunities with developers and landowners within the Garden Town area to align their proposals for development with the developing vision and aspirations for Tewkesbury Garden Town.

Supporting documents: