Bridge Street, Stourport
The consultation period has been extended, the date to submit comments by is Monday 20 July 2020
Plans to develop the temporary car park site in Bridge Street, Stourport-on-Severn into much needed short-term residential accommodation, were submitted on Tuesday 26 May by Wyre Forest District Council and Public Sector Plc.
The accommodation will consist of 18 en-suite rooms and will also include office space for staff. The property will have a garden and its own car parking facilities as well as retaining some spaces for public car parking in the town centre.
A planning application for the site is expected to be considered by the Planning Committee in August.
Frequently asked questions
A radar survey of the Bridge Street site took place on Friday 3 July. This is part of the normal site investigations that developers go through and often takes place before a planning application is submitted or decided. We need to carry out this sort of survey to develop the site for whatever it is used for in the future due to its previous use.
The planning application is due to be decided in August and we have extended the consultation period. You can now submit comments up until Monday 20 July.
The council did not have to rely on the compulsory purchase order as terms were agreed by the owner who withdrew their objection.
The site was not acquired for a prescribed development that was “set in stone”. The council has tried to deliver a redevelopment which reflected the intentions of the 2005 Supplementary Planning Document, but for the reasons set out below this has simply not been possible.
The council adopted the Bridge Street Basins Link Supplementary Planning Document in 2005. The intention for this site and indeed adjoining sites along Bridge Street was to undertake redevelopment that better connected the town through to the basins area so that there were more opportunities to use the wider basins area for visitors to the town.
After the council acquired the site in 2009 there was a national economic recession which reduced the attractiveness of the site to the wider market to support a commercial redevelopment. The council commissioned agents to scour the national market for a variety of users including retail, food and beverage and hospitality but there was no interest shown in the site.
The council tried an alternative route: in 2011 it undertook a procurement exercise to appoint a development partner who could bring forward a development. Although a partner was successfully appointed, after a considerable period of opportunity for the development partner to bring forward a scheme, it became clear that no real progress was being made, so the council ended that relationship in 2014.
The council then pursued the potential for partnering with the Canal and River Trust as adjoining landowner in order to bring a suitable development forward, but this too proved unsuccessful and would have displaced their tenant, which the Trust wanted to avoid.
In 2018 the council, having established its own Capital Portfolio Fund to bring forward the redevelopment of its land, evaluated a number of development proposals that the Council itself could undertake. This included commercial use, residential use and a combination of the two: unfortunately none had the financial viability to be pursued.
Finally, working through PSP Wyre Forest Limited Liability Partnership with Public Sector Plc, the council has now found the proposal for the provision of temporary accommodation to be the only financially viable proposal for the development site and it retains the possibility that access could be achieved across the Canal and River trust land at some time in the future whilst providing a positive redevelopment of the site now.
There has clearly been a considerable amount of officer time put into developing a solution for the site over many years. In terms of actual costs to the council, whilst nothing has been paid out to the previous development partner, the council demolished the former garage buildings on the site and commissioned reports on site conditions and a topographical survey which would amount to over £100,000. That sum does not include the most recent design works and the submission of the planning application through the work with PSP.
The procurement process for a development partner was decided by the then Cabinet at a meeting on 15 March 2011. Following lack of progress by the development partner, the then Leader of the council decided in February 2014 to approve demolition of the garage buildings and the laying out of a temporary car park (subject to council approval of the capital programme and obtaining planning permission).
The more recent decision-making process has been as follows:
The Overview and Scrutiny Sub-Committee consisting of Councillors Hart (Chairman), Desmond, Edginton-White, Griffiths and Totty met on 30 July 2019 and unanimously recommended to Cabinet that the proposed investment should proceed.
A Sub-Committee of the Cabinet comprising Councillors Ballinger (Chairman), Helen Dyke and Thomas met on 31 July 2019 and approved the business case for the use of £1.78m from the council’s Capital Portfolio Fund to fund the costs of constructing the new temporary accommodation unit.
The minutes of these meetings have been published but do not give any details that would allow identification of the development. The meetings considered a lengthy and detailed report on the proposed investment which was not published at the time because, in accordance with legislation governing local authority decision-making, it contained “information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information)”. This includes information that is commercially confidential because it would assist any tenderer undertaking the construction work that will be required as part of the proposed development. The council is now making available a redacted copy of the report considered by the Cabinet Sub-Committee, which means that the commercially confidential information has been removed, so that everyone may see the information that was available to Councillors when the decision was taken.
In line with usual arrangements in the council, all agendas and reports for meetings of committees, including confidential reports such as this one, were sent at the time to all members of the council. Therefore all Councillors were able to see in July 2019 the full detail of the development that is now the subject of a planning application. Under local government legislation and the code of conduct, Councillors are not allowed to divulge the content of confidential reports such as this one – which explains why none of them made public comment about the proposed development at that time.
Following the Cabinet’s approval of the business case for the proposed development, the following subsequent decisions were taken:
- Sitting as the council’s representatives of the PSP Wyre Forest LLP Partnership Board on 5 August 2019, Councillors Ballinger and Oborski together with the Chief Executive and representatives of Public Sector plc signed off the project as a project to be developed by the LLP.
- On 13 November 2019 a decision was published by Councillor Oborski to agree an exception from Contract Procedure Rules to enable the procurement of design team and construction contractor.
- During the design work council officers worked with PSP to draw up the detailed agreement between the Council and the LLP to deliver the project. The formal Agreement was signed on 20th May 2020.
The decision will be taken by the Planning Committee because the proposed development is on land owned by the council – this is always the case for any planning application on land owned by the council. The Planning Committee will be invited to take a decision after the current consultation, which will allow statutory consultees, such as the County Council as highways authority and the Town Council, and local residents the chance to submit their comments on the planning application.
The planning process is entirely separate from the decision-making process on identifying a development for the site and is governed by separate legislation: this is a legal requirement in all councils and the Planning Committee is separate from the Cabinet.
It is difficult to say with any certainty as we are still waiting for many of the statutory consultations to be returned. They may raise issues which require further amendments to the plans and which may also require further consultation; but if that isn’t the case, then it is envisaged that the application might be available for consideration by the council’s Planning Committee at its August meeting.
The council has wide ranging duties to help meet the housing needs of its residents. In Wyre Forest we have in excess of 3000 households on the Housing Register and more than 10,000 approaches a year for housing advice. We also have legal duties to accommodate people under the Housing Act 1996 and Homelessness Reduction Act 2017. It will be for these homeless households that we will be using the new accommodation at Bridge Street.
The residents in Bridge Street will primarily come from Wyre Forest and will need to have a local connection to our area. The only exceptions are for victims of violence who have a legal right to approach another authority (for safety reasons) or for children leaving care who have a right to be accommodated anywhere in the county. Our households are made up of families with children as well as elderly or disabled people, those with serious medical issues, care leavers and those fleeing domestic violence. One third of our households become homeless due to their private rented sector accommodation ending through no fault of their own. The majority of the remainder become homeless due to relationship breakdown with their partner or family and friends.
The length of time households remain in temporary accommodation varies depending on their housing needs and the supply of more permanent accommodation for them to move into. Households in our short-term accommodation usually wait between 3 and 6 months but it can be longer if they have very specific needs such as a property adapted for use by a disabled person.
No. That is a false rumour.
There will be a manager and a part time support worker on site during the day. The office can also be used by other services depending on the needs of the residents and by contractors. The council’s other short-term accommodation currently has support provided from other services including financial inclusion, employment advice and counseling when required.
The council does not own any other sites in the district that can accommodate this development and where the delivery of the project would remain economically viable for the council to fund.
The council uses independent Bed and Breakfasts and Hotels to provide accommodation, mainly in Kidderminster and Droitwich, when we have a duty to accommodate a household, but this is in short supply and is very expensive for the Council to use. It also doesn’t provide ideal accommodation when households are waiting to be rehoused, as access to private space is limited. The council is therefore keen to provide a safe and comfortable space for those households in acute need of housing.
Public Sector Plc partners with the public sector to help deliver value to the community and its local authority partners from publicly owned land and assets. Public Sector Plc has 16 partnerships with Councils across England. Wyre Forest established a Partnership with Public Sector Plc (PSP Wyre Forest LLP) in 2017 and the LLP has been supporting the Council in exploring a variety of development opportunities to help create socio-economic benefits and support the council’s climate emergency agenda. Public Sector Plc employs a small team of 19 people based in Birmingham, Manchester and London.
Redacted report considered by Cabinet Sub-Committee, 31 July 2019. Please note this report may not be accessible to users of assistive technology. If you require assisitance please contact us.
Important note: the report sets out information that was correct at the time. Financial information will have changed and will continue to change, for example as the price of construction is settled: a business case can look at an estimate of costs and income only at a point in time, and includes sensitivity analysis to demonstrate the financial viability based on differing assumptions. One significant change that has occurred since July 2019 is that it was possible to include only 14 public car parking spaces in the public car park, rather than 24 as mentioned in paragraph 4.1. This change had to be made following detailed design work.