To answer questions (if any) from elected members pursuant to Rule 11 of the Council’s Rules of Procedure
The Chief Executive reported there were questions from Councillor Sue Ransome and Councillor Alison Austin.
Question asked by Councillor Sue Ransome pursuant to paragraph 11 of the Rules of Procedure as set out in the Constitution.
I would like to ask you a question relevant to your portfolio of Development Control.
At the time of the sale of the Boston Assembly Rooms by the Boston Borough Council to a private buyer in November 2012, were any conditions applied to the sale agreement regarding the upkeep and appearance of the building which can be enforced, or can any enforcement action be taken in respect of listed building requirements to oblige the current owners to improve the appalling state of the exterior decoration of this iconic town centre building?”
Response by Councillor Michael Cooper
“I thank Councillor Ransome for notice of her question.
Like me I’m sure that many Councillors will share some of your concerns about the appearance of this prestigious Grade 2* listed building.
Officers of the Council have over the years been in regular communication with the owners regarding the general appearance. In fairness there has been some minor progress on occasion.
In so far as regulatory or enforcement powers are concerned, the point at which the council can intervene has to be made on a judgement in considering the potential for success in any legal or enforcement action that we may choose to take.
We do seek professional opinion balanced as is necessary with the likelihood of successful action. In this particular case where it involves a heritage asset (a listed building) we can progress if the building is in disrepair. Unfortunately disrepair is a subjective matter and we have to be confident that there is real harm to the asset.
However the degree of 'harm' caused to the building itself and the detriment to the amenity of the area generally must be considered as to their significance. Following inspection we have determined that there are small amounts of vegetation emanating from the fabric of the building and the general decor of the building shows signs of ageing and there is also a broken window.
Overall however, it is not considered that the building is so poorly maintained or of such poor appearance that could warrant formal enforcement action by the Council. The state of this building is similar to other large buildings in the town where there is a need for minor investment but not to the extent that the Council can seek to enforce the owners to carry out works.
All of this said the information retained on completion of the sale of the Assembly Rooms includes a reference to paint all external parts of the property including windows frames and door frames and facia boards in good quality paint and thereafter to paint the same as often as is considered necessary ....but in any event not less than every five (5) years. The first redecoration completed after the sale took place so far as the council can ascertain was shortly before September 2014.
We will continue to liaise with the owners in the hope that redecoration in accordance with the positive covenant can be arranged without the need for formal enforcement action at the 5 year anniversary.”
Supplemental question asked by Councillor Ransome pursuant to paragraph 11.6 of the Rules of Procedure as set out in the Constitution:-
“Thank you for your response. I am sure you are aware the building has been closed for the past 2 months and I am concerned that the inside will also deteriorate. I note that later in the year action may be able to taken but am saddened that the listed building conditions are not enforceable. I ask that you please ensure this remains on the Council’s radar to prevent further deterioration and the building becoming an eyesore in the town centre. Would there be any advantages in asking Heritage England for advice.”
Response by Councillor Cooper
“The Council shares your concern and we have been watching closely for some time. The current owners have not maintained the building as we would have hoped, which is disappointing. However, enforcement action will be taken at the five year anniversary if necessary. It is unlikely that Heritage England would become involved in this issue.”
Question asked by Councillor Alison Austin pursuant to paragraph 11 of the Rules of Procedure as set out in the Constitution.
“We have recently learnt that the company delivering environmental enforcement across the Borough has terminated its contract, what steps are being taken to improve the littering problem and do you consider with hindsight that the Council had adopted the right approach to that particular problem or will you be considering a quite different strategy?”
Response by Councillor David Brown
“I thank Councillor Austin for notice of her question.
Since 3GS terminated their contract with the Council, Officers have been seeking a replacement service, on a like for like basis, from commercial providers, on a nil cost basis. Discussion is currently on going with a provider which we hope to conclude shortly.
We have reflected on our position and consider our current strategy for dealing with littering and environmental crime is the right one. Indeed the Council has recently been nominated for a national award in recognition of our innovative approach to tackling enviro-crime across the borough.
Since the contract with 3GS started 1253 Fixed Penalty Notices have been issue which indicates we adopted the right policy and we are not currently considering a different strategy.”
Supplemental question asked by Councillor Austin pursuant to paragraph 11.6 of the Rules of Procedure as set out in the Constitution:-
“Congratulations to all involved on the nomination for the national award. Have you considered dispensing all together with enforcement as people respond better to reward, not punishment. People are inspired when they see others doing something positive. What further steps are being taken to encourage people to take ownership and pride in where they live and to prevent fly-tipping.”
Response by Councillor Brown
“I don’t agree with dispensing of enforcement, there has to be some form of punishment. Campaigns on social media has seen volunteer groups being formed to tackle littering and fly-tipping as a community orientated activity in their areas. The Council is supporting this by equipping the groups with equipment such as litter pickers, gloves, bags etc. If people give up their time to join volunteer groups they want the Council to take enforcement action against those who commit environmental crime.”