We were unaware that the hub of love and friendship in Westminster Council can be found in Dolphin Square, SW1.
So many councillors, past and present, have a story to tell about encounters they’ve had at this enigmatic address.
So strong is their bond with the place, they even had a chuckle about it in a council meeting when making a judgment on declaration of interests:
CITY OF WESTMINSTER
MINUTES OF PROCEEDINGS
At a meeting of the Cabinet held on Monday 20 September 2004 at 7pm at City Hall, Victoria Street, SW1.
Present: Councillors Simon Milton (Chairman), Ian Adams, Colin Barrow, Greg Clark, Robert Davis, Brian Connell, Angela Harvey and Kit Malthouse.
Also Present: Councillors Paul Dimoldenberg and Guthrie McKie.
1. INTRODUCTION BY THE LEADER OF THE COUNCIL
1.1 The Leader welcomed all present to the meeting. Apologies for absence had been received from Councillors Alan Bradley, Angela Hooper and Audrey Lewis.
2. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
2.1 Councillors Angela Harvey and Kit Malthouse declared personal interests in item 4 (Dolphin Square) in that they had friends who lived in Dolphin Square. The Leader pointed out that most, if not all, Members of the Cabinet knew people who lived at the Square. As the interests were not considered prejudicial all Members remained present for consideration of this item.
2.2 The Director of Planning and City Development declared an interest in item 5 (Unitary Development Plan) in that he has a flat in the northern part of Bayswater. Again this was considered non prejudicial and he remained present for consideration of this item.
3.1 Resolved: That the minutes of the meeting held on 19 July 2004 be signed by the Chairman as a correct record.
- 4. DOLPHIN SQUARE – SALE OF THE COUNCIL’S LEASEHOLD INTEREST (see report of Chief Executive and Director of Legal & Administrative Services – agenda item 4)
4.1 The Chief Executive reminded the Cabinet of the discussions in respect of the future of Dolphin Square that had taken place over a number of years. He referred to the Council’s fiduciary duty to obtain the best consideration for its interest and, the offer now recommended for acceptance, following the joint marketing campaign with the Dolphin Square Trust, achieved this.
4.2 Certain typographical errors in the report were corrected, as follows:
add “and 2.2” following “paragraph 2.1” in recommendation 2.1; replace “2003/4” with“2034” in paragraph 3.1; replace “2004” with 2003” in paragraph 6.1.
4.3 The Director of Property and Strategic Projects presented the report. He referred to representations sent to all Members from the “Save our Square” Campaign which would be the subject of a full written response. At the Leader’s invitation, Officers commented on the main issues raised in these representations.
4.4 A memorandum from Mori to the Chief Executive (dated 20/9/04) setting out why Mori considered that the data collected during the survey of residents in August 2002 could be treated as reliable had been circulated to Members and was read to the Cabinet.
4.5 The Director of Legal and Administrative Services informed the Cabinet of previous and current advice received from Leading Counsel in relation to Dolphin Square.
4.6 Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Minority Party, addressed the Cabinet and asked a series of questions, which the officers responded to.
(1) That the recommendations at paragraphs 2.1 and 2.2 of the exempt report (agenda item no. 8) relating to (i) the acceptance of an offer from the bidder recommended by the officers and (ii) FPD Savills fees, be approved; in addition, authority be given for an exclusivity agreement to be entered into with the preferred bidder.
(2) That, subject to a further report prior to exchange of contracts, the Chief Executive, in consultation with the Director of Legal and Administrative Services, be authorised to settle the terms of the disposal, including in relation to the proposed indemnity.
(3) That the establishment of the new independent charitable trust be approved and the officers be authorised to take whatever steps are necessary towards completion of this matter, subject to a further report prior to completion of the matter.
(4) That the Chief Executive, in consultation with the Director of Legal and Administrative Services, be authorised to approve any necessary Rule changes in respect of Dolphin Square Trust.
(5) That, to the extent that it may be necessary, the proposed dissolution of the Dolphin Square Trust Limited be agreed.
(6) That the proposed establishment of “The Dolphin Square Company” to protect the interests of residents electing for the Option B lease be noted.
Reasons for Decisions:
The offer currently on the table from the preferred bidder offers the following opportunities:
- · It gives residents the opportunity to continue living in Dolphin Square on rental terms comparable with current practice, and long-term security of tenure.
- · It gives residents the opportunity to opt for more commercial terms in return for cash payments or to buy long leases at a discount.
- · It will generate a significant sum of money from the sale of the sub-lease held by Dolphin Square Trust which will be used by a new charitable trust to finance and support new key worker and affordable housing.
- · It will allow the City Council to generate a capital sum effectively recovering in real terms a proportion of its 1964 investment.
The City Council therefore believes that the offer is an extremely worthwhile opportunity and a “win, win, win” solution that should be embraced.
With regard to the decision in respect of F D Savills, the revision to the fee basis is justified on the grounds of the changed circumstances since the firm was first engaged.
- 5. OBJECTIONS TO THE PROPOSED MODIFICATIONS TO THE REPLACEMENT UNITARY DEVELOPMENT PLAN AND FURTHER MODIFICATIONS ARISING (see report of Director of Planning & City Development and Director of Legal and Administrative Services – agenda item 5)
5.1 The Director of Planning & City Development introduced the report which outlined officers’ responses to 216 objections received in relation the Replacement Unitary Development Plan (UDP) modifications, which had been placed on deposit from 14 May to 25 June 2004. The report also detailed the introduction of a new planmaking process including a requirement to produce a 3-year Local Development Scheme.
5.2 The Director drew attention to comments received from Councillor Alexander Nicoll on the timescale for the SPG on Entertainment across the City (which would include St James’s) to support Policies TACE 8-10 and he confirmed that work had begun on this SPG with a first draft expected around January 2005 and not Winter 2005 as stated in the report. He added that the St James’s Conservation Trust had also made representations on this timescale. The Director also referred to a submission from SEBRA which had been circulated to Members; whilst SEBRA were generally satisfied that most of their earlier objections had been considered they highlighted three specific objections and their recommendations. The Director indicated that he would be responding to SEBRA on these issues.
5.3 Councillor Robert Davis said that the decisions now before the Cabinet were some of the most important to be taken by the Council as they affected everyone who lived, worked and visited the City. He thanked the officers for their extremely hard work throughout the process and, in particular, the team led by Gillian Dawson. Councillor Davis added that the major change since the Cabinet had last considered the UDP related to the TACE policies and, having considered the representations made and discussed these with the officers, he supported the responses now included in the report and considered that they achieved the right balance.
5.4 Councillor Guthrie McKie addressed the Cabinet and emphasised the representations he had made in his objections to the modifications. He remained dissatisfied with the 30% affordable housing target which he considered could not meet the demands of those in need of better housing. He was also dissatisfied about the 15 unit threshold since, particularly in wards like Queens Park and Harrow Road, there were unlikely to be plots of land available to provide new housing above 15 units.
5.5 The Director of Planning and City Development said that the 15 unit threshold did follow Government guidance and the 30% affordable housing target had been debated at length at the Inquiry and the Inspector had concluded that the Council’s approach and the justification for the 30% target was practical and convincing.
5.6 Cabinet Members raised various issues on other aspects of the replacement UDP which were responded to by the Director of Planning and City Development.
(1) That the officers’ responses to the objections to the proposed modifications to the Replacement Unitary Development Plan (UDP), as attached in Appendix D to the report, be agreed.
(2) That the proposed further modifications, as attached in Appendix E to the report be agreed.
(3) That the view of officers that the Council’s Replacement Unitary Development Plan is in general conformity with the Mayor’s London Plan, be agreed.
(4) That the Council be recommended, at its meeting on 3 November 2004, to adopt and publish the replacement Unitary Development Plan and, in this connection, it be noted that the Leader of the Council intends, in accordance with his terms of reference, to delegate authority to the Cabinet Member for Customer Services, who will consult with the Chairman of the Planning and City Development Committee, to approve the final copy of the Plan, prior to its submission to the Council.
(5) That authority be given to the Director of Planning and City Development for any further action required under Part II of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and the Town and Country Planning (Development Plan) Regulations 1991 to be taken as necessary in connection with the implementation of resolution (4) above, accepting that minor additional factual corrections and updates may be made by officers before the replacement Unitary Development Plan is finalised.
(6) That it be noted that that the Leader of the Council intends, in accordance with his terms of reference, to delegate authority to the Cabinet Member for Customer Services, who will consult the Chairman of Planning and City Development Committee, to approve the Local Development Scheme (LDS) prior to its submission to the Government Office for London in January 2005.
Reasons for Decisions:
Approval is required for the proposed further modifications to the Replacement Unitary Development Plan to be incorporated with the pre-inquiry version of the Plan and first round of modifications (May 2004).
6. EXEMPT REPORT UNDER THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT 1972
RESOLVED: That under Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business as it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information on the grounds shown below:
|8||Terms proposed in relation to a potential sale of an interest in land and legal advice.||9 & 12|
7. DOLPHIN SQUARE – SALE OF THE COUNCIL’S LEASEHOLD INTEREST (see report of Chief Executive and Director of Legal & Administrative Services – agenda item 8)
7.1 Members were updated on the results of the invitation to tenderers to submit their best and final offers in relation to the sale of the Council’s leasehold interest in Dolphin Square; in addition to the outcome of discussions with shortlisted bidders. Details of the proposed offer for approval were provided and officers answered questions from Members. In addition representatives from F D Savills were present and answered questions.
7.2 Since the report had been circulated, Members had been provided with a summary of advice received from Timothy Straker, QC on the proposed sale and correspondence from Dolphin Square Trust and Herbert Smith. Copies of two reports on the results of surveys of Dolphin Square tenants from (i) Mori, on behalf of the City Council and the Dolphin Square Tenants Association and (ii) NOP Social and Political, on behalf of the Dolphin Square Trust Ltd, were tabled for Members.
8. END OF MEETING
8.1 The meeting ended at 9.39pm.”
There’s still so much more to discover about Dolphin Square..