Agenda and minutes

Venue: Town Hall - Bridge Street, Bideford, EX39 2HS. View directions

Contact: Mary Richards, tel 01237 428705  Email:

No. Item


Apologies For Absence


Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Langmead.


Minutes pdf icon PDF 65 KB

Confirmation of the minutes held on 19 December 2017.


It was proposed by Councillor S Inch, seconded by Councillor James and –




That the minutes of the meeting held on 19 December be agreed and signed as a correct record.


(Vote: For 7, Abstentions 4)


Action List pdf icon PDF 45 KB


Minute 41 – Cornwall County Council Rolling Investment Fund


Cllr James advised that his contact at Cornwall County Council was off but he understood the rolling investment fund was currently still work in progress.  However, he was anticipating doing some work with the Commercial & Leisure Services Manager to see what could be done to drive forward community projects in Torridge.


Declaration Of Interests

Members with interests should refer to the agenda item and describe the nature of their interest when the item is considered.



Members were reminded that declarations of interest should be made as and when the specific agenda item to which they related was under discussion.



Urgent Matters Brought Forward With The Permission Of The Chair


There were no urgent matters brought forward.


Agreement of Agenda Items Part I And II


Councillor Davis queried why item 14 - Options report for the Avon Lane Tennis Courts site with Appendices – was in Part II.  The Chair responded that the report contained financial information and the agenda as circulated was agreed.


Council Tax Support Scheme

To receive an update from the Customer Services Manager and to agree membership of the Task & Finish Group.


The Benefits Team Leader briefed the Committee on the current scheme which had replaced Council Tax Benefit abolished in 2013.  The Government had given local authorities the power to promote their own schemes.  TDC had been working together with the other councils in Devon to create new schemes and the other councils in Devon had introduced their new schemes in April 2017.   However, in 2016 changes to  TDC’s scheme had been brought to Full Council but had not been approved.  Therefore, the exiting scheme had been rolled over. 


With Universal Credit coming into full service, it was imperative to get the new Council Tax Support scheme adapted to make it simpler.  In December it had been suggested that a working group be set up to look at implementing the changes.  The Strategic Manager (Resources) confirmed that other teams had been assessing different aspects of the scheme but they were now ready for membership of the Task & Finish Group to be determined.


Universal Credit had been pushed back to go live in Bideford in July and in Exeter (which included some areas of Torridge) in September and the full effects would not be felt until the following financial year.


Feedback from other authorities had indicated that the changes coming through from Universal Credit which would therefore lead to the need for a number of much simpler schemes and the majority of authorities were looking at income banded schemes for working age customers. 


The Committee discussed the information and felt that, as the details given in December were different because the dates for the introduction of Universal Credit had changed, adoption of the scheme should be deferred until the full impact of Universal Credit could be evaluated.


The Benefits Team Leader clarified that the full service would be introduced in one go and would apply to all customers.  A lot of work was still required in respect of the transition period but it was important not to lose time in adopting the Council Tax Support Scheme.


It was proposed by Councillor Simmons, seconded by Councillor Davis and –




That the scheme be referred back to Full Council for further consideration.


(Vote: For 5, Against 4, Abstentions 2)


Empty homes Strategy

To receive a verbal update.


The Environmental Health and Community Safety Manager gave details of her role in enforcement.  She worked with the Housing Enforcement Team and the Lead Member for Housing.  The Team held a master list of empty and potentially empty properties.  Last year an Environmental Health Officer had spent some time looking at and visiting properties.  There were approximately 200 properties on the list. 


The first stage of the process had been to gather information to determine the status of properties and ownership.  Once in place a policy and a plan would be drawn up.  The next step would be to determine an approach and to contact owners.  A number of properties on the list were the subject of planning and building control issues and the suggestion was that those properties be transferred to the relevant departments to deal with.  It was important to try to understand why properties were not being used and to give support to owners.  A number of schemes were available which might assist and the Team could provide owners with contact details of estate agents, renovation companies, auctioneers and property developers.  If this failed, there were various enforcement options:


Enforced sale - For certain types of property a charge could be imposed on the property and if not paid the authority could enforce the sale of property.


Empty Dwelling Management Orders – EDMOs could be served enabling the council to take over the management but not the ownership of a property, renovate the home, rent it out and recover costs from the rental income.  Any profit made had to be paid back to the owner.


Compulsory Purchase - TDC did not currently have a strategy.  It was acknowledged that a strategy was needed.  However, this could involve a considerable outlay and involve a lot of work.


In the meantime, TDC offered low cost loans through Wessex CIC and ways were being explored to progress the scheme either on a project basis or shared with other local authorities.   Negotiations were underway with neighbouring local authorities.


In response to questions, the Customer Support Manager provided the following information:


·         As at 24/01/2018, 72 properties were exempt from Council Tax due to major structural works. 

·         325 properties were subject to a 3 month discount  as they were unoccupied and unfurnished

·         182 long term empty properties paid a full charge

·         94 properties paid a premium as they had been empty for more than 24 months.

·         AT the end of last summer, the Council Tax Team had run a project to reduce the number of empty properties - 210 properties had been identified, of which 145 were paying 100% and 65 were paying an additional premium; 174 owners had been contacted and 53 properties had been removed from the long term list which had in turn also attracted New Homes Bonus funding. 

·         The policy of exemption and 3 month discount had been agreed locally by this council in April 2013 and if councillors were minded to change the local discounts, something would have  ...  view the full minutes text for item 70.


Update on Economic Strategy

To receive a verbal update from the Commercial & Leisure Services Manager. 


The Commercial & Leisure Services Manager stated that, whilst an economic strategy did exist in northern Devon, certain elements were out of date.  Over the past 12 months, there had been changes nationally with the launch of the industrial strategy and regionally with the launch of the productivity plan.  The services of an officer from ND+ had been engaged over the next financial year to make sure the strategies were in full alignment.  He was currently pulling together a tourism strategy and a framework had been launched at the Tourism Conference hosted by North Devon Marketing Bureau.  The framework had been signed and endorsed, and the officer would now work with the Marketing Bureau to produce the strategy.


Questions were invited and the following responses provided:


The Commercial & Leisure Services Manager was confident that the ND+ officer had in-depth and detailed knowledge of the area and was more than capable of producing the strategy from his home office. 


Rising productivity and subsequently increased wages were key factors in the strategy and TDC would work with ND+ and DCC to put together the brief for the document; Petroc was also a key provider.  Advanced engineering, digital knowledge based industry, the marine sector and increasing productivity in tourism were key areas too.  Additionally, agriculture and specialisation within agriculture would feature.  In terms of inward investment strategy, the trend was moving more towards the investment and growth of existing businesses rather than drawing larger companies to the area but nobody would be turned away.


The strategy would not specifically reference sites, rather teams. Cultural and heritage tourism were likely to be a key strategy within the tourism policy.


The ND+ officer had not yet started on the economic strategy.  However, it would almost certainly follow the same methodology as the tourism model, where there had been a lot of consultation, business surveys, desk research and talks with the industry.


It was anticipated that the ND+ officer would start on the economic strategy in April and it would take 6 months to draft, consult and re-draft.   An adopted document should be available towards the end of the year.






Income Generation

To receive a verbal update from the Task & Finish Group.


The Strategic Manager (Resources) updated the Committee.  The Task & Finish Group had not convened.   Two items had been on the agenda – investment strategy and Cllr Christie’s question about ethical investment.   The Strategic Manager (Resources) reported that his research into ethical investment had identified that a lot of the funds were linked to the stock market which carried risk.  More information would be presented to the Task &Finish Group.


The Treasury Management strategy would be updated for presentation to Full Council in March.


Discretionary business rates relief was an item which would also be scrutinised.


Consideration Of The Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 56 KB

To review the Forward Plan.



The Forward Plan was reviewed and duly updated.  There was to be an External Grants Task & Finish Group meeting comprising members from both Internal and External and a report would be brought back to the next meeting.


Options report for the Avon Lane Tennis Courts site pdf icon PDF 2 MB

To receive the report of the Commercial & Leisure Services Manager.


The Commercial & Leisure Services Manager introduced the report which had been previously debated at the Community & Resources Committee meeting 22/01/2018.  The Senior Solicitor gave counsel in respect of the process and remit of the Committee, confirming that any recommendation of the Internal Overview & Scrutiny Committee should be based on independent scrutiny of the decision in question, in light of the Council’s overall policy framework, and the information that the decision maker had to hand when making the decision.  Scrutiny was not an opportunity to introduce new issues or evidence not available earlier.


A PowerPoint presentation was received which showed a map and pictures of the site; and a list of policies referred to including tourism, housing, recreation and sports facilities.  The Commercial & Leisure Services Manager stated that this was not a stand alone site, it was the 4th phase of the regeneration programme started in 2003/4 and he gave details of the enhancements delivered to date.  He also recapped on the extensive public consultation which had consisted of 2 events, online surveys, paper adverts and lots of meetings.  Feedback had indicated that the majority of people objected to housing on the site. 


Various layouts had been considered which came back with the same key principles:


·         2 tennis courts

·         Maintain at least half of the site for community facilities

·         Access to Avon Lane

·         Residential unit numbers should not be maximised and the development should support a range of units, i.e. 2-, 3-, 4-bed properties with car parking specifically for these units


The Commercial & Leisure Services Manager pointed out that the drawings and scheme details were meant for guidance, to show the principles.


The Committee was reminded  that the recommendation made by the Community & Resources Committee was that the options set out in the report be noted and a planning application for the preferred development option on the site be progressed.  This motion had been carried.


One of the reasons for the call-in had been the detail relating to S106 monies from developments in Westward Ho!.  A discussion followed which focused on the accuracy of the information presented on the website.  This was clarified by the Commercial & Leisure Services Manager who confirmed that £60,000 had been spent on the play area and this had been communicated to the Community & Resources Committee.


A further reason for the call-in was that the information presented had been vague, particularly in respect of the amount of open space being left.  There were also issues about policies and the protection of facilities and a duty of responsibility towards protecting tourism.  It was noted that many policy and tourism issues were matters for the Plans Committee  to consider.  There were concerns that if the planning application was granted there was no right of reply from the objectors, other than judicial review, and this was not a satisfactory solution to the concerns being raised now, although objectors could make representations as part of the planning process


On the grounds that information had been in the public domain that did  ...  view the full minutes text for item 74.


Options report for the Avon Lane Tennis Courts site with Appendices- PART II

To receive the confidential appendices from the Commercial and Leisure Services Manager.


This item had been fully discussed under item 12 of the agenda without the need to refer to the financial information contained in the Part II report.