Committee round-up: Communities Committee 30.3.17

Updates from the housing service, details of two major school campus projects and funding awards for sport and physical activity groups were among matters discussed at the latest meeting of Aberdeenshire Council’s Communities Committee.

Interim review of Housing Business Plan discussed

An interim review of Aberdeenshire Council’s Housing Business Plan is to take place over the next few months ahead of a full review of the document in 2018. 

A report before the committee explained the plan is comprehensively reviewed every three years to ensure the council’s housing revenue account can remain viable over a 30-year period. It also takes into account Aberdeenshire’s local housing strategy priorities and rent affordability.

A report before councillors explained that social landlords are expected to meet the Scottish Government’s Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing by December 2020, and that Aberdeenshire is to embark on an ambitious programme of works to achieve this.

It went on to add the service will continue to provide new affordable housing as well as maintaining rents at an affordable level.

It was agreed that all elected members should be invited to the review process workshop on June 15 and that area committees should also be involved as part of the review process itself.

Housing capital programme forecasts considered

The committee was updated on the planned investment in new build housing, improvements to existing housing stocks and other matters for 2017/18, with forecasts showing that just under £28million will be spent locally.

A report before councillors explained the plan will be funded through a variety of methods, including borrowing and house sales. It was agreed that the committee should continue to receive updates on the implementation of the capital programme.

In a following report, proposed spending of more than £213million under the council’s Social Housing Improvement Programme (SHIP) over the next five years was outlined to councillors.

A report on tenders for a four-year SHIP contract is to be brought to a future meeting of the committee for consideration.

Update provided on development of affordable housing

The progress of the latest phase of the development of affordable housing was brought before the committee.

Aberdeenshire Council is now in its sixth phase of its new build affordable housing programme, which will see the development of 137 units across a range of communities.

Between April 2016 and March 2017, a total of 220 new affordable homes have been developed across Aberdeenshire. This has involved 135 homes for social rent, 48 for mid-market rent, and 37 for low-cost shared equity. A further 14 households were able to purchase their homes at an affordable rate through the resale of existing low-cost shared equity properties.

Work is now underway to deliver a further 359 housing units for social rent, 20 for mid-market rent, and 12 for low-cost shared equity.

The committee sought assurances that regular updates would be provided to area committees so that members would be kept well-informed on developments within their own wards.

Funding awarded to sport and physical activity groups

Funding totalling £74,000 has been awarded to three sport and physical activity organisations operating in Aberdeenshire.

The committee agreed to grant £20,000 to the Aberdeen Football Club Community Trust, which runs activities in 10 Aberdeenshire locations; £24,000 to Ellon Meadows, which attracted more than 100,000 attendees last year; and £30,000 to the Garioch Sports Trust, which drew almost 250,000 attendees.

Approving the grants, the committee asked that future reports should include details of the benefits achieved in local communities and if the grants were adding value.

The committee also asked that an information bulletin be issued to councillors to advise them of grants available for Aberdeenshire communities.

Options for Peterhead Learning Estate outlined to councillors

Two potential sites for a new Peterhead Community Campus were brought before the committee, ahead of further development of the project.

The committee noted that option one, for a new community campus at Kinmundy Road including sport and community facilities, a 350 capacity primary school and provision for additional support needs, had emerged as the preferred option for the project.

This option would include a new primary school and nursery on the existing Peterhead Academy site to replace Peterhead Central School, along with a re-zoning of the Peterhead network.

The second option would be to rebuild Peterhead Academy on it current site on Prince Street on a phased basis, again including a 350 capacity primary school and support for additional support needs.

This option would also include off-site community provision at Catto Park and Barclay Park and would again involve re-zoning of the Peterhead network.

The committee heard that the proposals had drawn 208 comments, with most supportive of the first option, although some expressed concerns about the potential impact on the town centre.

The committee agreed to instruct the heads of service for resources and performance, and lifelong learning and leisure, to conduct further community engagement regarding sport and leisure facilities at the Kinmundy site and other locations in the town.

The project was previously considered by the Education and Children’s Services Committee, which asked that the head of service for resources and performance carry out similar work regarding options for pre-school, primary and additional support needs provision at the Kinmundy site.

The committee agreed that officers should continue to explore both options and present a detailed analysis following further consultation.
 
Pool size discussed as part of Inverurie Community Campus project update

The size of swimming pool that will form part of the new Inverurie Community Campus was the focus of discussion as part of a project progress report brought before the committee.

The council must complete the facility by March 2020 to meet the requirements of a £24.8million contribution from the Scottish Futures Trust, and has been drawn up on the basis of having a six-lane swimming pool. 

As part of the discussion, the committee agreed to hear from David Adams on behalf of the 8 Lanes for Inverurie Swimming Pool campaign group.

Mr Adams talked of the group’s efforts since September 2015 and the group’s frustration that an eight-lane pool was not being considered as a viable option for the development.

He said an eight-lane pool could draw six regional swimming events to the area each year, generating £1million for the local economy. Mr Adams suggested the council could modify or delay other capital projects to afford the additional investment needed for the larger pool.

Responding to the presentation, councillors queried whether the professional focus might impact on access by the local community, and questioned the practicalities of increasing the size of the pool within the layout proposed for the development.

Officers were asked what consideration had been given to the community’s call for a larger pool, and in response it was stressed that there were a variety of competing priorities regarding sports provision in the project and that the 6-lane proposal already represented a 50% increase in capacity from the existing 4-lane Inverurie pool.

Head of Lifelong Learning & Leisure John Harding said: “We think this is the design that best meets the competing demands for resources in Inverurie.”

He added that the proposal to move from four lanes to six would increase capacity by 35% but moving to eight lanes would require a significantly bigger tank that could as much as double the amount of space required to store water

The committee went on to agree that the design of the new campus is based on the existing proposed building footprint, which features a six-lane pool.

Councillors also noted that all reports on projects should include a section on risk so that members can consider them in terms of their governance responsibilities, and sought assurance that this would be raised with the council’s senior leadership team.

It was agreed that a further report be brought forward to the appropriate committee as the project advances.

Officers have also been asked to bring reports back to the Communities Committee if required in connection with the effective delivery of the project and particularly concerning resources, risk and deliverability.

Satisfaction figures discussed as part of latest performance report

The committee discussed the latest performance information relating to Education and Children’s Services.

The committee was told that satisfaction had fallen with regards to sports facilities and that the services was taking the issue very seriously.

As a result, the service plans to seek additional feedback from customers within the facilities they are using.

Other matters

• Discussing updates to a minute of the former Social Work and Housing Committee of January 12 this year, it was agreed that the non-residential charging policy for 2017/18 take effect from April 1, 2017.  It was also agreed that an informal session with members of the committee, Police Scotland, and Scottish Fire and Rescue will now take place after the local government elections in May.
• The Education and Children’s Services Service Plan for 2017-20 was approved, and is to be presented to area committees. In addition, an appendix to the report is to be used as part of the induction for new councillors after the upcoming election, and a briefing document is to be prepared for councillors on looked after children.
• The full public reports considered by the committee can be found via http://committees.aberdeenshire.gov.uk