To consider any questions by Members under paragraph 19.3 of Part 2 (The Council and District Council Members) of the Constitution, notice of which have been duly given.
One question had been received from a Member in accordance with paragraph 19.3 of Part 2 (The Council and District Council Members) of the Constitution.
Question 1: Cllr. Hogg
“As it is now well over two years since the District Council evicted Age Concern from their Meeting Point venue in Swanley High Street and its acquisition of Swanley Working Man’s Club, could the Leader explain to the people of Swanley why it has taken the Council so long, except for the demolition of the Club, to take any action in developing these sites?
What is the cost to the council of securing and maintaining these sites?
Could he also explain why the Working Man’s Club was purchased without any firm plans for the site or predicted income from it, counter to the Council's property purchase policy?
When are the people of Swanley going to see any action?”
Response: Leader of the Council
I thank Councillor Hogg for his question about the Meeting Point building and Working Men’s Club in Swanley.
The District Council acquired the Working Men’s Club in February 2015 and spent £1.437 million on its acquisition, demolition and erection of the hoardings. The Council acquired the property to enable the regeneration of this key gateway site in the town and to generate either revenue income or capital receipts from its redevelopment. The regeneration of this site, together with the former Meeting Point building, formed a key part of the Swanley Mastervision, which the Council consulted on in late 2016 and was debated in Cabinet in February 2017.
The feasibility work that we have been undertaking since the completion of the Mastervision reflects the aspirations for both sites together to form a landmark at an important location in the town including residential development together with retail and restaurants on the Bevan Place site, the potential for start up business space and the diversity of the Town Centre, all of which were supported in the consultation.
The costs for the Meeting Point building, since it became vacant, are for the building insurance, £5224.16, and business rates, £40,324.15, together with £200 for securing for rear of the property.
The feasibility work will be concluded within the next couple of months. There will then follow meetings with local members prior to any proposals being made public.
It is however important that any proposals that the District Council have for the redevelopment are both deliverable and provide the appropriate level of required financial return to allow us, with the White Oak site included, to fulfil our stated ambition to provide Swanley with new leisure facilities.
In response to Cllr. Hogg’s supplementary question, the Leader of the Council stated that at the Development Control Committee an application to regenerate Swanley Town centre had been unanimously rejected. The Council was not a slum landlord as there were no tenants. That it had been an acquisition in order to safeguard and provide a gateway to Swanley at such an important junction, and that it had formed part of the Master Vision which residents had been consulted on and it was the wishes of the people of Swanley to bring these sites into use.
In accordance with the Constitution, no further discussion was allowed.