To consider the report and make any appropriate recommendations to Cabinet.
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Officers from the Borough Council and Norfolk County Council presented the business case for the Multi-user Community Hub project. A copy of the presentation is attached.
The Chair thanked officers for their report and invited questions and comments from the Panel, as summarised below.
Councillor Morley asked what would be done to attract vulnerable people to make use of the space. Natasha Hayes explained that engagement work was ongoing, and the benefits of the facility would be promoted. She agreed that it would be challenging but there would be a significant effort on communications and working with partners, organisations, and community groups to explain the offer and encourage use of the facility.
Councillor Morley asked if there was an overflow strategy, should the facility become oversubscribed. It was explained that there was not a route for expansion at present, but this was something that would be looked at during the project delivery phase.
Councillor Humphrey referred to a similar facility in Great Yarmouth and asked if experience from this project would be used going forward. Natasha Hayes explained that it was a similar model.
In response to a question from the Vice Chair, Councillor Gidney, it was explained that the footprint of the MUCH was almost double that of the existing library. Once designs were progressed more information on capacity would be known. It was also confirmed that video conference facilities would be available in some of the meeting rooms.
In response to issues relating to the Mobile Library Facility, Members were informed that this had been subject to a separate consultation and was not part of this project. It was noted that there was a free Norfolk app for e-books.
Information was provided on staff, and it was explained that their role would include signposting and the provision of information.
Councillor de Whalley sought assurance that the lifespan and maintenance costs of the building had been considered. Natasha Hayes explained that surveys and feasibility studies had been carried out and the building was being built in the most economical way.
Councillor de Whalley asked if the range of activities to be offered would be compatible and Natasha Hayes explained that organisations would be engaged to understand their needs and requirements, and this would be considered as part of the design process.
In response to a question from Councillor Jones it was explained that the value of the completed building was currently unknown, but it would provide value as a community asset.
Councillor Crofts asked about the hire of rooms and extended opening hours. Natasha Hayes explained that the open libraries provision looked to open the facilities longer and ways of doing this safely would be looked at. It was the intention to make the facility as accessible as possible.
RESOLVED: That Cabinets attention be drawn to the comments made by the Panel, as set out above and the Cabinet be informed that the Regeneration and Development Panel support the recommendations to Cabinet as set out below.
Cabinet is recommended to:
1. Endorse the draft Business Case as set out in appendix 1.
2. Delegated authority is granted to the Chief Executive, the Deputy leader and the Portfolio Holder for Development and Regeneration to approve the final Business Case in their capacity as representatives of the Council on the Town Deal Board.
3. Delegated authority is granted to the Section 151 Officer to approve the final Business Case and sign the Business Case Summary Document for submission to government in the Council’s capacity as Accountable Body for the Town Deal.
4. Approve the transfer of the relevant freehold land to Norfolk County Council on the terms set within this report, to facilitate the delivery of the Multi-User Community Hub.
5. Delegated authority to the Assistant Director for Legal Services and Licensing to make and complete all necessary documents in relation to the proposed transfer of the Borough Council freehold land interest referred to within this report.