Agenda item

Update on the SPACES Programme

Report by the Chief Operating Officer.



32.1     The Assistant Director Property introduced the report which sets out the activities of the Strategic Property Asset Collaboration in East Sussex (SPACES) programme since it was established in 2011. The Programme’s remit has been extended since it was established to become the One Public Estate (OPE) Partnership for East Sussex, with a broader focus on regeneration, housing and sustainability priorities, based around continuing collaboration and utilisation of public sector assets. The original SPACES Programme was about getting collaboration between all the partners around operational space needs. There is proactive involvement of voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations around asset needs and links with other organisations. A list of current partners is given in appendix 1 of the report, and information about projects is contained in appendix 2.


32.2     The Committee thanked officers for the report and made a number of comments and asked questions about the content of the report. A summary of the Committee’s discussion is given below.


Capacity for delivery of projects

32.3     The Committee asked officers about the potential capacity to deliver capital receipts and greater asset rationalisation across the partners.  The Assistant Director Property outlined that the number of assets across all organisations with scope for capital receipts and increased co-location had reduced but there were still wider areas of partnership working in other fields. There are opportunities for joint working and collaboration on net zero (decarbonisation) work to reduce CO2 emissions through bids to SALIX and other funding opportunities such as the Brownfield Land Release Fund (BLRF). Consequently, the focus of future work is not only around disposals, but about sharing resources and accessing central Government funding. BLRF funding received to date totals £1,761,000 (slide 3, Appendix 2). For the most recent BLRF funding round 2.3, SPACES has submitted bids with the potential value of £2,830,000. Confirmation of the round 2.3 awards are still pending until the Summer of 2024 (slide 4 Appendix 2).


32.4     The Committee asked if there are further opportunities for BLRF projects. The Assistant Director Property responded that access to the central Government BLRF fund will determine the opportunities for further projects on brownfield land. There are stringent conditions and tight deadlines attached to this funding which requires working with developers and planning authorities. This can make the delivery of projects quite complex and challenging. (Post meeting note: Currently Brownfield Land Release Funding is only available for remediation works on Local Authority owned land to unlock and deliver housing, therefore other public sector organisations are unable to apply for BLRF).


Information about projects

32.5     The Committee noted the number of past projects that the SPACES Programme had delivered and asked if more detailed information could be provided about the future projects and the stakeholders involved with them. The Assistant Director Property outlined that it would be possible to provide information about future ESCC projects to relevant ESCC Local Members, including emerging applications for OPE/BLRF or other funding streams.  It was noted that this will need to be aligned to partners/ project communications and engagement strategies and take into account where there are potential conflicts of interest or commercially confidential information. It was clarified that the numbers in the circles in the Live Projects Heatmap in appendix 2 relates to the number of separate projects in the same location, and that the Phase 10 OPE recent award of £150,000 (referenced on slide 3 and 9, appendix 2) is for supporting the ‘Mayfield GP Surgery and Community Hall’ project (led by Wealden District Council).


Asset transfer and working with developers

32.6     The Committee asked if there is a formal policy process for asset transfers to VCSE organisations in the SPACES Programme and if there is scope to involve developers. The Assistant Director Property explained that within the Programme there is a list of partner space needs and availability (including community groups’ needs where provided), and this informs a matching process where needs are aligned with potential property assets. However, there is no formal asset transfer policy for the Programme as each partner may have their own policy depending on the organisations’ key priorities. The SPACES Programme does engage with developers via the East Sussex Developers Group and other relevant partnerships or bodies through various forums as appropriate.


Measuring economic regeneration

32.7     The Committee noted that objective 5 of the SPACES Programme is to enable development opportunities to drive economic regeneration. It asked how the local economic regeneration benefits are measured. The Assistant Director Property outlined that the One Public Estate programme measures jobs and ongoing jobs metrics, which can be recorded and collated for projects. Information on the delivered, in progress and potential project benefits are included on slide 2, appendix 2.


Hailsham Aspires

32.8     Councillor Murphy commented that there had been a reduction in the scale of the projects covered by the Hailsham Aspires scheme, and it is possible that the new medical centre will not now be delivered. Consequently, the SPACES Programme will need to be clear about which projects relate to Hailsham Aspires. Councillor Murphy also asked about the provision of a new medical centre for Hailsham and how this issue might be referred to the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) for its consideration.


32.9     The Assistant Director Property responded that the Hailsham Aspires scheme is still in the document as his understanding is that Wealden District Council is still looking at the provision of a medical centre and potentially leisure facilities, but this will be updated in the light of any upcoming decisions about changes to the scheme. Councillor Lunn commented that his understanding of the situation was that planning for a new medical centre is well advanced and a conversation with Wealden District Council may be needed to clarify the situation. The Senior Scrutiny Adviser commented that if the Committee agreed, it could resolve to refer the matter of the provision of sufficient healthcare facilities in Hailsham to HOSC. (Post meeting note: At a meeting held on 13 March 2024, the Cabinet of Wealden District Council agreed to proceed with the provision of a new medical centre in Hailsham which was part of the Hailsham Aspires scheme. Consequently, a referral to HOSC is not necessary at this point in time).


Funding of the SPACES Programme

32.10   The Committee asked about the funding of the SPACES Programme in terms of where the contributions come from at present and any future challenges regarding funding. The Assistant Director Property outlined that the SPACES Programme is funded by a combination of annual contributions from the majority of the partner organisations (e.g. District and Borough councils, NHS partners, Ambulance, Fire and Police services and the East Sussex College Group) and external grant funding.   A number of partners are experiencing financial pressures, consequently, it will be necessary to review the future funding/resourcing of the Programme Team and service model in advance for the following financial years.

(Post meeting note: Clarification that whilst the SPACES programme does not receive ongoing revenue funding from One Public Estate (OPE), the current model is that the aforementioned partner organisation contributions are ‘topped up’ using external grant awarded from either historic funding or specific OPE one-off revenue funding. This grant funding is anticipated to run out in April 2025).


32.11   The Committee RESOLVED to:

1)    Note the update report on the work of the SPACES programme, including its successes and future focus; and

2)    Request that officers investigate a mechanism to notify ESCC Local Members of SPACES projects that are taking place in their Division or pending OPE/BLRF or external funding applications involving ESCC assets.



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