To consider the Council’s interim priorities and a request that the Westmorland and Furness Shadow Authority considers the priorities and proposals set out in Appendix 1 to the report in developing the Policy Framework for the new authority.
Councillor Jonathan Brook, Leader and Promoting South Lakeland and Innovation Portfolio Holder, presented the report which was concerned with South Lakeland’s legacy. It sought to make sure that, in the Council’s final year, during the transition to the establishment of Westmorland and Furness Council, efforts were focused on critical areas of delivery which would be a strong legacy and provide firm foundations on which the new authority could build. It sought to ensure that the Westmorland and Furness Shadow Authority gave full consideration to the vision and priorities of South Lakeland and its communities in developing its strategy and policy framework. The report highlighted the method and criteria, which involved a Project Portfolio Management Approach which had been adopted in prioritising the Council’s work during the remainder of its existence.
Councillor Brook drew attention to a number of key priorities which were intended to be completed by vesting day:-
• the final few stages of the Customer Connect project including the completion of the final phase of the refurbishment of South Lakeland House;
• Covid response including Track and Trace and the distribution of grants;
• the master plan for the GSK site in Ulverston;
• the completion of the roundabout at Cross-a-Moor, Swarthmoor;
• the completion of works to New Road and Gooseholme Bridge; and
• Phase 1 of the provision of EV charging points.
Councillor Brook took the opportunity to confirm that the suite of legal agreements for the Cross-a-Moor junction improvement project had been completed on the previous day. Together with the Growth Deal Funding Agreement from 2021, the suite comprised three agreements for the Council’s receipt of external funding and one agreement for the outgoing contribution to National Highways. All agreements had required skilful negotiation because of their interdependencies and the need to manage the risks in the project’s delivery. With the completion of the agreements, the Council will receive external funding of £5.2m and contribute up to a maximum of £6.3m to National Highways. National Highways will contribute £4.9m towards the scheme. Councillor Brook thanked all the officers involved in this complex process and for work with the Council’s partners. South Lakeland District Council had been fundamental in assembling the funds without which the scheme would not have proceeded. Once completed later this year, it would unlock the allocated development sites, enabling the delivery of around 1,000 homes of which 355 would be affordable. Councillor Brook felt that this was a great example of the ambition of this Council to deliver the best outcomes for its communities and for its tenacity in seeking to deliver those ambitions, even when there were significant challenges. It was exactly this spirit and ability that the Council wanted to see transfer to the new Westmorland and Furness Council.
Some other projects likely to be completed included disabled toilet improvements at Millerground and Cartmel, Kendal Market Lift, the conversion of redundant premises at Ellerthwaite depot to offices, improvements to Rothay Park toilets, flood alleviation works at Windermere Road, Grange and energy saving measures at Ferry Nab.
There were also a number of projects and programmes which were likely to be handed on to Westmorland and Furness Council for continuation and/or completion. These included:-
• the final completion of works to Grange Promenade and Lido;
• completion of the South Lakeland Local Plan to include a review of the Infrastructure Delivery Plan and the Community Infrastructure;
• delivery of the Homes England site at Croftlands and the wider Croftlands development;
• the Affordable Housing programme including schemes promoted through the Community Housing Fund and proposals being developed for use of Right to Buy receipts;
• Cumbria Choice;
• the Disabled Facilities Grants programme;
• work to promote financial inclusion and establishment of a Poverty Truth Commission;
• participation in National Park and AONB partnerships;
• measures associated with delivering Fairer South Lakeland including a Poverty and Truth Commission;
• implementation of the Carbon Reduction Action Plan;
• arts and events funding and improvements to Abbot Hall;
• completion of Kendal Flood Defences;
• implementation of recommendations of Kendal Parking Study and future of Westmorland Centre car park;
• Ulverston Place Programme;
• Ulverston Leisure Centre associated with the GSK master plan; and
• Economic Development Strategy.
Councillor Brook believed that, overall, South Lakeland District Council would leave a long legacy for the future and he moved the recommendations contained within the report and was seconded by Councillor Robin Ashcroft, Economy, Culture and Leisure Portfolio Holder.
Councillor Giles Archibald referred to Appendix 1 to the report and a conflation in the priority between biodiversity loss and climate change, pointing out that the Council had been very clear on the fact that these were separate issues. He, therefore, proposed an amendment to the recommendation for that priority so that it read, “Recommend to WCF that demanding climate change targets for Westmorland and Furness be adopted and that innovative and far-reaching action plans for both the climate and biodiversity crises be implemented.”
Both Councillors Brook and Ashcroft, as proposer and seconder, were willing to accept this amendment as it sought to clarify the basis of this section. The Chairman confirmed the agreement of the meeting to this.
Councillor Roger Bingham expressed concern with regard to the future of the Cumbrian archives and Councillor Brook explained that this would be examined and addressed by the appropriate work stream moving forward. Councillor Brook undertook to try to provide an update in order to reassure Councillor Bingham. Councillor Mark Wilson questioned whether the key priorities listed followed on promises made and felt disappointed at aspects of the Masterplan for the former GSK site in Ulverston, concerned that those promises may not come to fruition. Councillor Archibald thanked the Chairman, officers and Cabinet for their tremendous work this past few months and years in terms of responding to pandemic and doing all they could to keep residents safe. He felt he spoke on behalf of all Members of the Council in thanking officers who were working under a lot of stress and referred to all of the work being carried out. Councillor David Webster referred to the projects likely to be handed on to the Westmorland and Furness Council for continuation and/or completion and in particular to Ulverston Leisure Centre associated with the GSH Masterplan. He appreciated that GSK would give the Council £2 million to put towards Phase 1 but pointed out that by using the land at GSK for industrial purposes, the Council was increasing health inequalities. He expressed strong disappointment that the Council was not going to progress phases 2 and 3; and that this would be left up to the new council. Councillor Brook said that he did not recognise the picture that was being painted by Councillor Webster, reminding Members that this item would be discussed in detail later on in this evening’s Agenda. He pointed out, however, that the Council was pushing ahead with investment in a way that it was able to manage within the circumstances that had presented themselves and was moving forward in a way that would enable commencement of works to start. Clearly those works would take some time as had been mentioned and that timeframe might be longer than the length of South Lakeland District Council but rather than passing the buck, the Council was taking action. Councillor Brook felt that Councillor Webster should take some comfort from this.
A vote was taken on the substantive motion and it was
RESOLVED – That
(1) the interim priorities set out in 3.8 to 3.10 in the report and outlined above be approved;
(2) the Westmorland and Furness Shadow Authority be requested to consider the priorities and proposals set out in Appendix 1 to the report in developing the Policy Framework for the new authority; and
(3) the recommendation for the Climate Change and Biodiversity Priority at Appendix 1 to the report be amended to read, “Recommend to WCF that demanding climate change targets for Westmorland and Furness be adopted and that innovative and far-reaching action plans for both the climate and biodiversity crises be implemented.”