Cllrs to consider potential new civic centre at Otterpool Park

Updated 06/10/20 @14:10

Location, Location, Location and the location for a potential new civic centre at Otterpool Park is to be considered by Cllrs on the Overview & Scrutiny Committee (O&S), at 7pm, on the 6th Oct. (Watch on Youtube)

For those of you who are not aware, Otterpool Park is a proposed development of up to 10,000 homes, 9,000 jobs, extensive green space and other amenities required for a vibrant and sustainable community.

The O & S Committee will scrutinise Agenda Item 5,

This presentation asks Cllrs to consider Otterpool Park as a location for a potential new district-wide civic facility.

The O & S Committe can only recommend to Cabinet the District Councils Office be relocated to Otterpool Park.

As such, the proposal is in its formative stages.

Being so, we remind the Council and the Cllrs of the committee, of their responsibility under Section 3 Local Government Act 1999, which places a Best Value Duty on Folkestone & Hythe District Council, over its mooted project.

This Best Value Duty imposes a Duty to Consult with the residents, businesses and the voluntary and community sector.

The parts of the Duty can be summarised as:

Continuous improvement in functions

Having regard to a combination of:

a. Economic value

b. Efficiency

c. Effectiveness

Under the Best Value Statutory Guidance our council should consider overall value, including economic, environmental and social value, when reviewing service provision or project.

Folkestone & Hythe District Council must make provision for the organisation, service users, and wider community to put forward options on how to reshape a service or project.

As the council have mooted the idea of relocation; and Cllrs are to consider and recommend the possibility of building and moving to a new civic centre at Otterpool Park, this engages the best value duty to consult at this formative stage.

Tonight, at 7pm, (Watch on Youtube) the O & S Committee will scrutinise and discuss item 5 on the agenda.

In this presentation the Council and the Climate & Ecological Emergency Working Group, set out the background such as:

  1. Increasingly moving council services online

  2. Climate emergency motion

  3. Impact of the pandemic

  4. Civic facilities can be drivers of positive change

On the 24 July 2019, Cllr Georgina Treloar (Green Party) brought a motion to declare a Climate & Ecological Emergency.

Cllr Treloar‘s motion won council approval. It included the clear strategic intent to:

  • “Commit to reduce Folkestone and Hythe District Council’s estate and operations to zero net carbon by 2030.”

Research undertaken by Laser, commissioned in 2020 by the Climate & Ecological Emergency Working Group, has demonstrated that:

  • There are opportunities to reduce the Council’s carbon footprint by making changes to its own estate and operations.

However, the Laser report has NOT been made public, as all discussions held by the Climate & Ecological Emergency Working Group have been behind closed doors. The Chairman of the group is Cllr Lesley Whybrow (Green Party).

Next the presentation sets out the next steps, such as:

  • Consider potential location options at a strategic level

  • Explore opportunities for a joint approach with partners

  • Prepare a high level feasibility study then, if supported, a more detail business case which includes disposal of the current civic centre.

Proposed budget & timescales:

  • Feasibility considered for a decision in principle – by January 2021

  • Up to £250k needed for work undertaken through 20/21 and 21/22 Operational access point in Folkestone Town Centre – 2021/22

  • Occupy a new carbon efficient building by 2023/24

Then the presentation sets out a list of questions for Cllrs to consider, a sample of which can be found below:

  • How important is connectivity to public transport ?

  • What else should we prioritise in the location search?

  • What facilities and location considerations should be included in any proposed civic facility ?

  • The potential to consider Otterpool Park for the district-wide civic facility.

So it’s clear it IS a project.

It IS clear it’s an environmental project with an economic cost.

As such, the best value duty is definitely triggered and the council must consult, at this formative stage, with residents, businesses and the wider community.

Cllr should be minded to scrutinise the council’s estates and operations green house gas emissions.

There will though be little to scrutinise.

The council do not produce annual green house gas emission reports for its estate and operations.

Without knowing their past and current green house gas emissions, they cannot compare this to any new potential civic centre building.

As such, the Council cannot know, if any reductions in emissions will be achieved by building a potential new Civic Centre at Otterpool Park, or elsewhere.

As an aside, Ashford, Dartford, Dover, Gravesham, Maidstone & Thanet have published their green house gas emissions for their estate and operations.

Although there may be a lack of green house gas emissions reports and data for the council’s estate and operations, that is not true of it’s utility costs.

Between Apr 2015 and July 2020, Folkestone & Hythe District Council paid £3.5m to 13 different utility companies, or agents, across its estate.

At least they can ask for predicted utility costs, knowing they have something to compare it to.

Tonight the O & S Committee must recommend

  • The release of the Laser Report which has shaped and formed the the formative stages of this proposal.

  • That under s3 of the Local Government Act 1999 the Council consult with the residents, businesses and wider community as per the Best Value Statutory Guidance about a potential new civic centre at Otterpool Park.

So far, £37.8 million has been paid for land and property assembly at Otterpool Park.

Add in the contracts awarded value for Otterpool Park was £8.5m, as of July 2020.

Plus the £100 million they council gave itself permission to borrow for Ottterpool.

And finally, the £5m of short term borrowing and £30m long term borrowing for Otterpool recently.

This puts the approximate costs of Otterpool Park between £146m and £181m, to date.

We all need to be reassured we will receive Best Value for a new civic centre, and Otterpool Park come to that, especially after the recent loss of £1.5m, for NOT obtaining Best Value on the former gas contract with  P & R.

The Shepway Vox Team

Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful

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1 Comment on Cllrs to consider potential new civic centre at Otterpool Park

  1. Lean Dipstick // October 6, 2020 at 10:53 // Reply

    Proposing a civic centre at Otterpool is a not so bright way of introducing a parking problem (that will ultimately need a permit scheme) in a residential area that hasn’t been built yet.
    One wonders if any analysis of where council staff live and how they travel to work has been undertaken, I’m guessing not. To even ask if public transport should be a consideration is telling in itself. Carbon footprint? LOL

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