To consider the Development of the Throop Nature Park (Hicks SANG) report scheduled for Cabinet consideration on 9 March 2022:
The O&S Board is asked to scrutinise and comment on the report and if required make recommendations or observations as appropriate.
Cabinet member invited to attend for this item: Councillor Mark Anderson, Portfolio Holder for Environment and Place.
The Cabinet report for this item is included with the agenda for consideration by the Overview and Scrutiny Board.
The Portfolio Holder for Environment and Place presented a report, a copy of which had been circulated to each member of the Board and a copy of which appears as Appendix 'B' to these minutes in the Minute Book. The Portfolio Holder and the Strategic Lead, Greenspace and Conservation, addressed a number of points raised by the Board including:
· Why was it appropriate to call the proposal a nature park when the planning consent was for a SANG (Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace)? The term ‘nature park’ implied something different and may increase concerns for local residents. The Board was advised that ‘SANG’ was a technical term which did not mean very much to the public. There were similar examples where the term ‘nature park’ had been applied and its use here reflected the Council’s aspirations for the site.
· Board members asked why the £100k of CIL resources referenced in recommendation (iii) was needed, particularly when SANGs were meant to require less maintenance. The £100k sum would rise with inflation and was needed per annum for 80 years and there were concerns that this may reduce the amount of resource available for other sites? It was explained that the £100k was needed for the maintenance of the site, including car park improvements, electric vehicle charging and ecology surveys. The Board was assured that parks maintenance was not resourced from CIL. The heathland mitigation contribution came as result of new housing development and was ringfenced for the purpose of delivering the SANG.
· Board members asked whether the new ranger to manage this site was a dedicated, full-time post as implied in the report. It was explained that the new ranger would also be supporting other SANGs and heathland projects in BCP. Members felt this should be made clear in the report, to reassure local residents and avoid any misunderstanding about the nature of the project. It was noted that the highest risk assessed was the negative views of stakeholders/local residents.
· Why was £618k needed for implementation when the land was already owned by the Council? An approximate breakdown of costs was provided, including contingency figures and project fees. A Board member challenged these figures and questioned why these costs were not included in the report for transparency.
· A Board member asked whether the £100k of CIL resources in recommendation (iii) was exclusively from the heathland mitigation element. The Portfolio Holder confirmed that it was and gave an undertaking to amend the Cabinet recommendation to reflect this.
· It was noted that the Equalities Impact Assessment accepted that the lack of toilets and lighting would impact on the ability to use the open space.
· It was confirmed that the site had a dual use as pasture and water meadow depending on seasonal conditions.
· It was confirmed that although the site would remain open all hours, the opening times for the car park were conditioned in the planning consent to avoid issues such as anti-social behaviour.
· A Board member felt the rebranding of the site took away from the intended purpose of mitigating the Winter Gardens development. He asked how the Council intended to work with the Parish Council to deliver the project when they were so opposed to it. The Portfolio Holder advised that officers were in discussions with the Parish Council. It was noted that there was also support for the project, as shown in visitor surveys.
· A Board member was concerned that the Decision Impact Assessment was only an interim report and therefore the results of biodiversity surveys were not yet known.
The Chairman thanked the Portfolio Holder and the Strategic Lead for their attendance and contributions.