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Constitutional Changes in the Roehampton Partnership

July 31, 2016

 

Notes of meeting of Roehampton Partnership 28th June 2016

 

Review of the Roehampton Partnership Constitution:

 

At the 28th June meeting of the Roehampton ‘Partnership’, Mr Smales of the Council’s Economic Development Office presented a twelve-page document, outlining the ‘proposed amendments [to the] Roehampton Partnership Constitution and Rules for Conducting Business’.

He said that there are no major changes to the Terms. It’s about tweaks of wording. It is felt that the Chair of the Partnership should be the WBC Cabinet member that sits on the Partnership because of the high level of investment being put into Roehampton. Objects bit more strategic – consider wider range of different things than the masterplanning alone. Any comments?

 

Mr Horrocks: How is it planned to progress this?

Cllr Ellis: If it’s decided this evening to agree or amend suggested amendments, then the amended constitution will go to Council for its approval.

 

Mr Horrocks’ response then was that he needed time to read the document. Mr Smales said that it had been emailed to Partnership members the day before the meeting, and that comments on it should be sent to him.

Mr Horrocks then asked had all other members had the chance to read and digest the document, Mr Lunt (Residents’ Association representative) stated that he had not read it either. One other member said that she had read it. No other member disclosed whether or not they had read it.

 

Mr Lunt referred to those parts of the amendments which referred to public attendance at the Partnership’s meeting. Cllr Ellis said that members of the public had the right to speak at the discretion of the Chair, an unusual innovation he’d introduced a few meetings back, as members of the public were attending and had a desire to speak on or ask about particular topics. Mr Lunt then replied that he was referring to the fact that those who had voted against, or abstained from voting, on the Alton Activity Centre motion in March had been named in the Roehampton Voice [a local publication]. Cllr Ellis stated that the Partnership members might in the future decide to hold a vote on whether to exclude the public from Partnership votes.

 

A summary of the changes:

 Update of aims and objectives (clearer written and updated)

 Structure is now rigorously defined as consisting of 19 named roles (was 18 named roles with size of up to 20). Police/SNT representative added. Specific allocation of Holy Trinity representative removed. The existing 3 'Residents' are now specifically defined as RA, sheltered RA and Western Housing Panel representatives.

 Representative non-attendance requirement removed in toto.

 Representative substitution provision removed.

 Absence must now be preceded by a written apology for absence.

 Off-message member organisation or representative may now be suspended only by the Chair (previously by 'the Board').

 Chair is now "a cabinet member of Wandsworth Council" (previously the Chair was (at least nominally) elected by the Partnership members). The necessity to reappoint each year is now removed.

 Dissolution of the Partnership is now to be decided by WBC (no longer by majority vote of its members).

 WBC will "regularly review" the "purpose, role and effectiveness" of the Partnership, and any recommendations arising from these reviews must at least be "considered" by the Partnership.

 Now any constitutional changes may only be made by WBC. The Partnership itself no longer has the right to amend its own constitution (which it had previously, subject to WBC approval).

 

So in short a further tightening of the powers of WBC, both via the Chair and via these 'reviews'. Tightening up of resident representative roles (3 specific, no longer 'any 3'). Vexatious reminders of members' failures to attend regularly now circumvented by removal of the requirement !

 

The constitution as formulated in early 2013 represented increased control of what appears up until that time to have been a looser, more locally-centred organisation. In particular, the Chair, the only executive officer apart from the vice-chair, has always been a WBC member from that date.

 

The changes brought forward by Mr Smales were billed as an ‘update of a review’ of the constitution on the agenda paper, but are no such thing: they are a thorough-going change of the Partnership’s constitution.

The primary marker of the proposed further move in real power away from Roehampton in the body which terms itself its ‘Partnership’ is the now total role of the Chair; it is he and he alone now who will have the power to suspend members; he or she will have to be a WBC member and will no longer be voted for by members. Over and above the Chair exists WBC, which alone has the power to alter the Partnership’s constitution; and to dissolve the Partnership, both of which powers currently lie solely in the hands of the Partnership’s members. Clearly, should the Partnership vote to permit these changes, its members will be assenting to the total loss of their powers, all of which will henceforth vest in the Chair and in WBC (whose intents and policies will likely be identical). This is not a partnership in any real meaning of the word.

 

The intention to ignore whatever the membership of the Partnership may have to say about this ‘review’ is clearly signalled in the post-meeting ‘action notes’, produced by WBC, which lay it out:

Agreed that the review of the Roehampton Partnership Constitution be carried over to the September meeting to allow sufficient time for members’ feedback on the proposed changes; after which a paper will be submitted to the General Purposes Committee seeking approval of the amendments.

 

So it will be requested of the Council to effect the changes, after ‘feedback’. Whatever the feedback is, and however many Partnership members oppose them.

In the paragraph concerning the Alton Activity Centre in the next section, it will be clear that the Chair Cllr Ellis had during the course of three months done nothing to express the will of the Partnership concerning the Centre. As the Chair (disregarding the Vice-Chair) is the only executive officer of the Partnership, it is clear that at his choice, he has blocked the express wish of the Partnership. And yet even more powers are proposed for this position !

One issue which has been raised many times by members of the public supposedly being served by the Partnership is the appalling attendance records of several of its members, which are currently ultimately punishable by their being relieved of their membership. In keeping with the new proposed role of Partnership members – where their presence seems almost irrelevant – this requirement has been removed, allowing members to drift in every year or so, should the Chair choose.

It seems surprising that WBC wishes to abrogate still further powers to itself, as any real issues that concern our home area are only ever mentioned there after it’s all over but the shouting.

 

 

Alton Activity Centre

 

As previously noted, WBC was fully aware of its intention to cut to a negligible level the services provided from the Alton Activity Centre prior to the early December meeting of the Partnership last year. As we’re told, it’s essential to the good working of the Partnership that its Chair be a Cabinet member of WBC; presumably so that he may better impede the free flow of information to Roehampton ?

After the Partnership became aware of the above, it passed a resolution: “We the Roehampton Partnership call on Wandsworth Council to maintain the vital services provided to children and their families from the Alton Activity Centre, Ellisfield Drive” at its March meeting this year.

 

The manner in which the Chair, as the only executive officer of the Partnership, has kicked the resolution into the long grass, is highlighted by the only mention of the Centre during Matters Arising from the previous meeting notes:

 

Mr Horrocks: Chair, are we going to discuss the Alton Activity Centre this evening ?

Cllr Ellis: What did you want to discuss about it ?

Horrocks: Could you give us a summary of what is to happen there, particularly during summer school holidays ?

Ellis: I’ve no idea, I’m afraid

Horrocks: That’s rather disappointing, isn’t it, Chair ?

Ellis: We could request information but I personally have no idea, sorry. I’m sure we can find out and let you know.

 

This brief extract, I think, tells us all we need to know about the Chair and his role as he carries it out.

 

Redundancies in the Public Health Department

 

Major changes in WBC’s Public Health department’s team spearheading the ‘social regeneration’ programme leaked into the public domain in early July (if not earlier), and again, could not have been unknown to the Chair, and/or his advising officials at the time of the meeting of which this paper is the subject. The entirely possible worst outcome of these changes is the abandonment of the whole ‘social regeneration’ programme for Roehampton. There are those who have believed from the start that this programme was from the start a figleaf to conceal the fact that the ‘physical’ regeneration was to be driven through at any cost to the local community; is this latest development a cynical casting aside of that figleaf ?

But again, the Chair did not think it worth his – or their – while passing this information to those sitting around his table.

 

 

The ‘decant’ into the Alton East

 

Unfortunately, another example of the concealment of information that must have been available to the Partnership’s Chair at the time of that body’s meeting:

 

The paper 16-277 “provides an update on the proposed planning strategy for three satellite sites situated on Alton East”, amongst other regeneration-related matters. This paper was presented at two Council committees on 6th and 7th July. Again, the matters discussed in this paper were well known to WBC on 28th June, the date of the Partnership meeting of which this document is an account.

 

The bulk of the paper consisted of update on the ‘procurement process’, and oddly enough, the June meeting contained a report on this matter, but yet not one word on the Alton East decant plans.

It has subsequently come to light that this keeping in the dark has not been confined to the non-WBC side of the Roehampton Partnership, but also to those most directly affected by the ‘decant’ – those whose properties are about to be destroyed in this act of ‘regeneration’.

 

 

6 – Appendix: Extracts from paper 16-277 relating to Alton East

 

2. The Executive is recommended to:

(c) take forward the decant sites referenced in paragraphs 28-36 as a single planning application to allow for early decant of existing residents on the Alton Estate directly affected by the regeneration programme.

 

DECANT SATELLITE SITES

28. The final stage of the Alton Estate Regeneration procurement commenced on 13 May 2016 with four bidders going forward to the Invitation to Tender (ITT) stage. A round of clarification meetings was held with individual bidders in week commencing 23rd May 2016. All bidders requested further clarity on the availability of decant sites in order to effectively develop phasing strategies in line with the Council's 'one-move' policy regarding existing secure council tenants and resident leaseholders/freeholders.

 

29. Three sites have been identified within the wider Alton estate and in close proximity to the red line area of the regeneration scheme as potential sites for development which enables decant of residents to new permanent homes thereby enabling the first phase of the regeneration programme to happen. Without an appropriate decant strategy to start the movement of residents less welcome options, such as double decant of residents or longer lead in times to development will have to be considered.

 

30. Five potential decant sites were identified in the Alton Area Masterplan (Paper No. 14-447) of which two are developable (at Petersfield Rise and Dilton Gardens) and a third site, the former one o clock club at Fontley Way has also been identified as a potential decant site.

 

31. There are challenges to bringing forward the three identified decant sites to provide residential accommodation in line with planning policy given the need to reprovide public open space, community and retail use and a multi use games area.

 

32. In order to develop an approach for the sites Bilfinger GVA and Levitt Bernstein were instructed to provide advice on the key planning issues, development potential and planning strategy. Options were developed based on site visits, desk top analysis and discussions with the Planning Department.

 

33. The preferred approach best overcomes the planning and reprovision constraints whilst providing appropriate development and approximately 30 decant units. In this approach the D1 use at Fontley Way would be re-provided at Dilton Gardens thus allowing the proposed use at Fontley Way (the Small Steps charity) to be accommodated and the D1 use Community Hall at Petersfield Rise would be re-provided in the same Dilton Gardens site and thus in relative proximity to its current location.

 

34. By thus reproviding the D1 uses on the current footprint of the former Alton Youth Club footprint residential development of approximately 17 residential units plus replacement retail space can be accommodated at Petersfield Rise and approximately 11 residential units at Fontley Way on existing building footprints. This preferred approach in pre planning discussions has been identified as broadly consistent with planning policy although as with any planning application to take forward development the preferred proposal will be subject to both pre planning and planning application consultation with local residents and stakeholders with these views and proposals then being considered by the Planning Committee.

 

35. It is therefore recommended that the Economic Development Officer pursues

the decant approach identified in this report in consultation with the Planning Department (via the Planning Performance Agreement recently put in place for the Alton Regeneration scheme), the Director of Finance and Director of Housing and Community Services.

 

36. In addition to bringing forward the identified decant sites for planning the Economic Development Officer and the Assistant Director (Property Services) will engage with business on Petersfield Rise to ensure that these firms are provided with suitable alternative accommodation to enable their businesses to continue to operate with the minimum of disruption and business interruption.

 

COMMENTS OF THE DIRECTOR OF FINANCE

 

DECANT SITES

43. The Director of Finance comments that the cost of applying for and achieving a planning permission for the three sites can be met from within existing budget provision for the Alton estate regeneration scheme. The cost of building the new units of accommodation and replacement community uses will need to be calculated once further designs are known from the planning process. The appropriate general fund or HRA budget variations will then be sought at that stage. The Fontley Way and Dilton gardens sites are held in the general fund, the Petersfield Road site is a HRA property, at an appropriate time once final usages have been determined one or more of the sites may need to be appropriated.

 

44. Petersfield Rise consists of six retail units that are occupied by two leaseholders and also has a community centre on the first floor. Two units are unprotected tenancies that expire in 2017 and can therefore be taken back by the Council. Three units are protected by the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954. Therefore acquiring them could either be done by negotiation, successfully serving a statutory notice stating that the Council intends to redevelop the property or using CPO powers. One unit is held on a long lease and acquiring it would either require the use of successful CPO procedures or the agreement of the leaseholder.

 

45. The community centre until recently was occupied on a licence by the Trustees of the Alton Residents Association. Although the licence is understood to have expired the centre is still occupied by the trustees. There is therefore a risk that the trustees could have acquired security of tenure which would require a statutory notice to terminate the occupancy on similar ground explained above. Dilton Gardens (former Alton Youth Club) is currently vacant and occupied by guardians. Obtaining possession should therefore be straightforward. Fontley Way is also vacant although terms for its occupation by Small Steps had previously been agreed but not formally signed.

 

COMMENTS OF THE DIRECTOR OF HOUSING AND COMMUNITY SERVICES

 

DECANT SITES

49. The preferred option set out here to consolidate community services and utilise sites to provide decant to support this regeneration is supported by the Director of Housing and Community Services. It is particularly notable that this early development will kick start the regenerative process and allow for minimum disruption for Council residents who will need to be decanted from buildings that will be subject to regeneration.

 

50. The DHCS also notes that the planning service has been involved in pre planning application discussions to provide an initial view and guidance as to what option best aligns to and meets planning policy requirements and helps deliver the objectives of this regeneration. The DHCS further notes that as with any planning application to take forward development the preferred proposal will be subject to both pre planning and planning application consultation with local residents and stakeholders with these views and proposals then being considered by the Planning Committee.

 

COMMENTS OF THE DIRECTOR OF DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION AND SOCIAL SERVICES

 

DECANT SITES

51. The services currently operating from the Fontley Way site, although provided by the voluntary sector, are key components of the Children's Services Department's offer to children and their families which are highly valued.

 

52. The proposal to re-establish services displaced from the Fontley Way site to an appropriate re-development at Dilton Gardens is one which is supported in principle. The Director of Children's Services will work with the Economic Development Officer on the detail necessary to progress this principle.

 

CONCLUSIONS

 

57. The report provides an update on the investigations into the three satellite decant sites in Alton East. It is recommended that these sites are taken forward as a single planning application to allow for early decant of existing residents.

 

 

Extract from Masterplan document (2014):

 

Initiating Delivery

 

In order to start the process of redevelopment a number of development sites have been identified. These are sites where an early phase of new housing development can provide spaces for approximately 60 existing households in regeneration areas to relocate to if they choose these locations.The decant sites can allow residents to relocate as part of a block by block redevelopment programme of the Danebury Centre. The redevelopment of Portswood Place would allow the relocation of services from 166 Roehamption [sic] Lane, in turn allowing this site to provide new housing.It is expected that housing regeneration across Danebury Centre and south of Roehampton lane recommended in this masterplan would occur in groups of blocks in a rolling programme, rather than all at once.These steps are intended to support the objective of a ‘one move’ approach to rehousing existing residents.

 

1 Existing house and garages between Kingsclere Close and Roehampton Lane

2 Existing retail arcade, surface car park on Petersfield Rise

3 Concrete structure on Fontley Way

4 Surface car parking and open green space on Bessborough Road

5 Youth Club site and car park area

 

 

 

 

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