Agenda item


To receive and note the update.


The ADSG introduced the report and informed Members that the formatting issues on the risk register had been resolved, with budget and risk information also provided for each workstream. It was noted that officers and Cllr R Kershaw had met with the public speaker to discuss their concerns as a property owner in relation to the project, and it was apparent that their views did coincide with the overall aims of the project. The ADSG suggested that he could not comment on the public speaker’s desire for free parking, as this was an issue for Councillors to consider, though it should be noted that the town remained accessible, with ample parking provided in close proximity to the centre. He added that the limited loss of on-street parking spaces had been compensated by free one-hour parking spaces in two town centre car parks, which would retain and enhance access.


Questions and Discussion


       i.          Cllr P Heinrich referred to parking spaces and stated that it had to be made clear that by the end of the project, the amount of free parking within two-minutes walk of the town centre would be greatly improved, alongside better access for older or disabled visitors. He added that shopping in small towns was changing, and this had to be taken into account, with future habits likely centred around leisure, residential living and small specialist shops, which would all benefit from increased pedestrianisation. Cllr P Heinrich asked whether there was an expected completion date for work on the Cedars, whether the quality of existing work had been signed-off, and whether any progress had been made securing tenants. The ADSG replied that there had been variations to the Cedars improvements throughout the improvement works, such as changes to the heating system from gas to electric, and assessing potential tenants needs for future fittings. He added that officers were now working with contractors to develop a final programme, and once agreed this would include a snagging period, with the principle designer holding responsibility for ensuring the overall quality of the work. Cllr P Heinrich noted that he had seen issues with existing repairs that were supposed to have been completed, and noted that other work such as the renovation of windows would need to be done before winter, which was cause for concern. The ADSG replied that he would seek to confirm when these works would take place in writing, and noted that other issues would be addressed during the snagging period, with all works due for completion in November.


      ii.          Cllr S Bütikofer noted that whilst it was important to take into account the comments made by the public speaker, it was outlined in the report that the level of free parking available would not be reduced, which was more than in many other towns. She added that it may help to increase signage to alert visitors where the free parking was available, as this was not clear to people who were not familiar with the changes. It was confirmed following a question from Cllr S Bütikofer that the Historic England area assessment study was listed as zero expenditure as a result of it being undertaken by an external body. She added that it would also be helpful to know what the attendance at events in September had been. The ADSG referred to the car parking signage question, and noted that Cabinet had agreed to offer free parking for the duration of the project to ensure that the town remained open for business. He added that the market had also been successfully relocated, and whilst more concessions parking was considered for Mundesley Road car park, the required resurfacing works had made this unviable. As a result the free parking allocation had changed to Vicarage Street until the resurfacing works were complete, though it was accepted that signage could be improved. Cllr S Bütikofer noted that Bank Loke car park signage needed improvement, as this was the closest to the town centre and easily accessible. The ADSG noted that these were permanent free parking spaces, and further messages and signage would be needed to make this clear. On the Historic England research, the ADSG noted that they had been particularly interested to learn more about the unknown history of the town, and were therefore keen to fund the research. The NWPM referred to September events and noted that whilst one event had been cancelled during the mourning period for Queen Elizabeth II, the first event had gone ahead with fifteen attendees to tour the Cedars and other buildings. She added that eighty children from two different primary schools had also visited the town, with a funding request made for purchase of digital cameras that would support future school visits. It was noted that concerts had also been held in the Church amongst other cultural events, with separate funding provided by Historic England and the Arts Council, managed by a consortium.


     iii.          Cllr V Holliday referred to the risk register and noted a risk score change of eleven after mitigation that related to stakeholder expectations, and suggested that she had not expected mitigation to be this effective. She added that there was also a risk relating to funding being committed within a given timeframe, and sought assurances that the residual risks were not too aspirational. The ADSG replied that the funding had been committed and the residual risk related to managing inflationary cost pressures to ensure that the scheme fit its budget. He added that in the previous year other HAZ projects around the Country had generated underspends, which allowed NNDC to bid for additional funding to meet additional cost pressures. On stakeholder expectations, it was noted that extensive engagement had been undertaken during the design stage of the scheme, where feedback had been very positive, and this would continue to be monitored going forward. The ADSG added that a stakeholder group was being established to improve project communication and monitor the impact of scheme implementation.


    iv.          Cllr N Housden referred to delays caused by material and labour shortages, and subsequent cost rises in the risk register, and asked what the original contingency had been, and how this compared to the reprofiled budget. He added that funding was also time sensitive, and asked whether this had to be used in the calendar year, and what the business take-up of the scheme had been, given comments made by the public speaker. The ADSG replied that he did not have full details of the contingency for the place-making works, though it was estimated to be fifteen percent of the overall project cost. Cllr N Housden referred to rescheduling that took place in April and stated that he would like to know how this impacted the project contingency, to which the ADSG suggested he would provide a written response. The ADSG noted that the contingency would change throughout the project as it became clear how much, if any, would be required. The NWPM referred to time sensitive funding arrangements and informed Members that the Council was due to make its second funding claim to Historic England for the placemaking scheme by the end of October, which would complete spending ahead of schedule. She added that going forward all spending would be prioritised against the LEP funding to ensure that it was spent within the required timeframe. The ADSG replied that recent meetings with Historic England had suggested that they were very comfortable with the position and progress of the North Walsham scheme, with funding committed as a result of the pre-purchase of materials. On take-up of the scheme by local residents and businesses, it was noted that one landlord had suggested that they had recently had a good number of enquiries for vacant premises, with a pop-up planned that showed a level of optimism. The NWPM noted that some vacant properties that had taken advantage of the building improvement grant scheme had since been let, which was a positive sign the scheme was having an effect. The former Barclays Bank was given as a significant example, which now housed the Phoenix Project.


      v.          Cllr G Mancini-Boyle noted that the project was nearing its end and asked if officers were conscious of how much officer time had been devoted to the project. The ADSG replied that it was difficult to quantify, but this had been considered during the application process, with the NWPM’s post part funded by the grant received. He added that the aims and high profile of the scheme had meant that it did require significant officer resource, taking into account additional works such as the bus interchange and car park closures. It was noted that it had also been difficult to deliver the project during delivery of the Covid grant schemes.


    vi.          The Chairman referred to the risk register and noted that a small number of objections had been raised in relation to one issue, and sought clarification on how many had been raised. The ADSG replied that this risk referred to a traffic regulation order (TRO) that had received six objections. The Chairman noted that two objections had been withdrawn and suggested that he assumed four remained, to which the ADSG replied that the TRO consultation was undertaken by NCC, who would have considered the objections in advance of approving the scheme.




To receive and note the update.

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