Contact: Jo Partridge 020 8461 7694
WELCOME AND APOLOGIES
The Chairman welcomed Members to the meeting of the Bromley Economic Partnership, which was held virtually via Webex.
Apologies for absence were received from Mike Lewis – Michael Rogers LLP, Donald Mars – Jobcentre Plus, Marg Mayne – Mytime Active and Lorraine McQuillan – LBB Place Shaping and Local Economy Manager.
Apologies for absence were also received from Sam Parrett – London South East Colleges, Robert Sargent – Acorn Group and Chandra Sharma (FSB), and Louise Wolsey – London South East Colleges, Jamie Stevenson – Acorn Group and Sarah King (FSB) attended as their respective substitutes.
QUESTIONS FROM COUNCILLORS AND MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC ATTENDING THE MEETING
In accordance with the Council’s Constitution, questions that are not specific to reports on the agenda must have been received in writing 10 working days before the date of the meeting.
Questions specifically relating to reports on the agenda should be received within two working days of the normal publication date of the agenda. Please ensure that questions specifically on reports on the agenda are received by the Democratic Services Team by 5pm on Wednesday 5th January 2022.
No questions had been received.
The Chairman noted that there were no matters outstanding.
RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on 12th October 2021 be agreed.
BUSINESS ITEM - BROMLEY BUZZ PODCAST
The Chairman welcomed the founders of Bromley Buzz, Darren Weale, Zeenat Noorani and Sarah Marsh-Collings, to the meeting to provide an overview of the podcast.
Members were informed that the Bromley Buzz podcast had been providing audio output since 4th August 2021. Its aim was “to lift up and join up Bromley” and had been established as it was considered that other Bromley-wide media was limited.
The podcast discussed all sectors and walks of life – the business sector, which linked closely with the Bromley Economic Partnership, was a regular feature and had focussed on Start Up Bromley, the Bromley Business Hub and local businesses. During recent podcasts, the presenters had spoken with: Carina Lapore, winner of The Apprentice and owner of two local bakeries; local Councillors and the Mayoress and Deputy Mayor of Bromley; as well as members of the general public. Future podcasts would feature three local MPs; the Chief Executive of Bromley Council; the President of Blackheath and Bromley Harriers; the El-Emaan Centre Mosque, Keston; the lead for the Council’s Loneliness Strategy; and, with the help of the Churchill Theatres, interviews had been arranged with Kevin Clifton and Danny John-Jules.
The Bromley Buzz podcast was available via 7 listening channels (Podbean, Spotify, Apple, Tune In, Amazon, Audible and Listen Notes) and 4 social media channels, so far (LinkedIn page, Twitter (225 followers), Facebook and Instagram (297 followers)). It was highlighted that there had been 732 full downloads from Podbean, 162 of which had taken place in the last 30 days. To date, 27 episodes of the podcast had been produced which included 54 interviews.
It was highlighted that Bromley Buzz was also promoting Bromley outside the borough. Mr Weale advised that the following day he would be speaking on BBC Radio London during Eddie Nestor’s show ‘Trends at Twelve Twelve-ish’, and features on the podcast would be included in Startups magazine online; Enterprise Nation online; and the Federation of Small Business magazine.
The next steps for the Bromley Buzz podcast would include a ‘tour of Bromley’ to widen content further – they wanted to continue to improve output and increase the audience. It was note that other things, such as creating a website and holding events, would be subject to income. The team were looking to arrange a communications partnership meeting and have greater interaction with the Council.
Sarah Marsh-Collings emphasised that the Bromley Buzz podcast looked to promote the whole borough, reminding people that Bromley was a fantastic place, and it was highlighted that the hosts were doing a great job.
Mr Weale asked Members of the Partnership for their assistance by coming along and talking on the podcast and/or promoting the Bromley Buzz social media links. Several Members said they would be happy to assist Mr Weale, and it was agreed that his contact details would be circulated following the meeting. (ACTION: Clerk)
In response to questions from Christopher Evans, Community Links Bromley, Mr Weale advised that the governance structure was informal – ... view the full minutes text for item 26.
PLANNING POLICY UPDATE
Ben Johnson, LBB Head of Planning Policy and Strategy, provided an update in relation to planning policy.
Members were informed that the ‘Call for Sites’ consultation exercise had closed in November 2021. This was the first stage of the Local Plan review, which would look at any potential sites for economic development or any other uses. The team were currently assessing the responses received and looking towards the next stages of the Local Plan process which would be undertaken later in the year.
Gary Hillman, N. Hillman & Sons, enquired as to the number of sites put forward following the consultation and what the Council’s housing target was. The LBB Head of Planning Policy and Strategy highlighted that the number of residential units to be build was dependent on the length of the period covered by the Local Plan, but the current housing target was 774 units per year. With regards to the number of sites put forward, this was what the team were currently working through, so it was not possible to give a definitive answer. However it was noted that lots of responses had been received and the consultation appeared to have been more successful than some similar exercises previously undertaken.
In response to a question from Bruce Walker, Lansdown Asset Management, the LBB Head of Planning Policy and Strategy advised that as the analysis of the sites put forward had not been completed, it was not possible to provide a breakdown of the percentage that were currently greenfield and greenbelt sites. It was noted that the team would be working on the hierarchy and the national policy which looked to prioritise the development of brownfield and well-located sites. As they were at the early stages of the process, it was not possible to rule anything in, or out – if there were lots of urban sites that met the requirements there would not be a need to look at greenbelt sites, but they were not yet in a position to make those determinations. Mr Walker considered that there needed to be an emphasis on the provision of social housing.
In response to a question from the Vice-Chairman, the LBB Head of Planning Policy and Strategy advised that the overall Local Plan review was a lengthy process, and it was anticipated that final adoption would take place towards the end of 2024. The aim was to launch an ‘Issues and Options’ consultation before the end of the year. In response to a further question, the LBB Head of Planning Policy and Strategy said that if the sites proposed as part of the ‘Call for Sites’ consultation were practical propositions the team would initiate follow-up conversations. There would be further rounds of consultations which would allow people to respond, clarifying previous responses and/or put forward new justifications if sites were not taken forward.
Members were advised that a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) had been prepared for Orpington town centre, which provided guidance to help the implementation of planning policies. A ... view the full minutes text for item 27.
BROMLEY TOWN CENTRE HIGHLIGHTS
Jessica Naylor, LBB Project Support Officer Regeneration, provided an update regarding the Council’s project proposals for Bromley High Street.
There were currently three new project that the Regeneration team were looking to bring forward to enhance the vitality of the town centre:
- A lighting project on the façade of the Churchill Theatre;
- A tree-lined avenue; and
- Exploring canopy options for the High Street.
With regards to the first project, it was noted that the Churchill Theatre and Bromley Central Library were located at the centre of the pedestrianised High Street – the building provided a landmark within the town centre and was visible from Bromley South Station. As the frontage of the building was a blank and flat canvas, it provided a unique opportunity to enhance the High Street with a creative and innovative lighting programme. There were two proposed lighting improvements. The first would be for lighting to cover the entire eastern and southern façades of the building which could be programmed to change colour and used to support a range of local and national events. The second was for a lighting projection on the eastern façade of the building, which overlooked the pedestrianised area of the High Street. This could be used to support a range of events and enable the heritage and culture of Bromley to be celebrated with static or motion projections.
The main objectives of the project were to use the lighting to create a landmark within the town centre; improve wayfinding from Bromley South Station; enhance the public realm; and to create an atmospheric environment. This work would support the diversification of the High Street and an enhanced evening economy. The LBB Project Support Officer Regeneration advised that consultants had been instructed, and Phase 1 of the project would involve them preparing three concept ideas and drawings, which would be presented within the next month. It was anticipated that the lighting project would be completed by May 2022.
The second project proposed the creation of a tree-lined avenue, increasing the provision of trees between Bromley South Station and the Elmfield Road junction, which may include trees being planted on both sides of the pavement and along the central reservation. Phase 1 of the project would involve topographical and utility surveys being undertaken before the end of January 2022. This would determine whether each of the locations identified were suitable for a tree pit. Once these surveys were completed, the Regeneration team would work with colleagues in Highways, Traffic, Arboriculture and Public Protection to bring the project forward.
Hal Khanom, LBB Head of Economic Development, informed Members that with regards to the third project, some work had previously been undertaken in relation to canopy options for the High Street as a means to attract greater footfall. It was noted that this work had been paused whilst the team focussed on the distribution of grants, but as soon as there was the capacity to do so, this project would be revisited.
Frances Forrest, ... view the full minutes text for item 28.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT STATUS AND NEXT STEPS
Hal Khanom, LBB Head of Economic Development, informed Members that the Omicron Hospitality and Leisure Grant was a mandatory payment of up to £6k, based on the rateable values – £15k or under would receive a grant of £2,667; £15k-£51k a grant of £4k; and £51k and over a grant of £6k. The applications for this grant would need to be completed by 28th February 2022. Payments would be made as quickly as possible after this date, administered by the Business Rates team.
With regards to other grants, £640k had been received in Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) top-ups, which had to be spent by 31st March 2022. As there had been a substantial amount of interest in the existing ARG schemes (Business Start-up during COVID Grant; Business Growth Grant; Grants for occupying a vacant unit; and Cultural Grants), and a significant amount of applications received, it was felt prudent not to develop a new project and the additional funding would instead be used to meet the existing demand. The team had been looking through the current submission backlog received over the Christmas period – 146 applications for the Vacant Unit Grant and 309 applications for the Business Growth Grant.
Christopher Evans, Community Links Bromley, considered that there was a need to make it clear if applications for grants were going to be accessed as soon as they were received, as opposed to when the closing date was reached. The LBB Head of Economic Development said that the Business Growth Grant had clarified that the applications would be assessed in two tranches, however she agreed that this could easily be missed in the detail, and they would look to make this clearer. It was noted that all applicants would receive confirmation of their submission, but after the first tranche of assessments an application would not be rejected as the team were still working out where the additional money could be allocated.
The LBB Head of Economic Development advised Members that there was also a new COVID-19 Additional Relief Fund (CARF). This had been announced by the government in March 2021, as a means to appease those wishing to appeal their business rates, but no further details regarding the scheme had been received until the end of December 2021. Bromley had been allocated £5.3m, which was substantially less than the amount anticipated would have been requested by businesses through appeals. It was expected that this funding would need to be spent by the end of March 2022, however clarification of the requirements were still awaited. This would be a mandatory scheme, which excluded retail, hospitality, leisure, nurseries and airports, and work was currently being undertaken to identify who would be eligible. Members were advised that the team were working as quickly as they could to distribute the grants.
In response to a question from the Vice-Chairman, the LBB Head of Economic Development said that further information was available via the following link:
Ose Akpom, LBB Economic Development Manager informed ... view the full minutes text for item 29.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Members of the partnership are requested to notify the clerk of any items to be discussed at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting.
Katy Woolcott, London Biggin Hill Airport, (LBHA) said that business had fluctuated, but they were currently on budget and the Bombardier development of just under 250,000 sq. ft. was on schedule to be completed. This would create several hundred job at the airport and provide the associated business rates contribution. The hotel development was also on schedule to be completed before the end of 2022 and would create additional jobs in the catering and hotel sector. Demand at the airport was high and an application had been submitted for modifications to an existing hangar to better suit the needs of a prospective customer.
Caroline Tatchell, Splash Damage, informed Members that the business was doing well. Staff had not yet fully returned to the office, and this would be phased from 1st April 2022. The company now had 408 employees and 58 vacancies, so were recruiting at a vast rate. A refurbishment of the ground floor at Royal Courts had just been completed and the refurbishment of the upper three floor was underway in preparation for the return of staff.
Chris Glover, Churchill Theatre Bromley, said that they had a successful pantomime run, with only a few performances cancelled due to COVID-19 amongst the cast. The theatre would be hosting the premieres of the Da Vinci Code and Cluedo. Audiences were returning and they were in a good position.
Jamie Stevenson, Acorn Group, advised that the ABC Book Club, which redistributed donations of books to schools, was going very well, as was the property side of the business.
Michael Humphries, Handelsbanken, said that reports were positive – it was busy, with lots going on, and there was no shortage of lending requests.
Louise Wolsey, London South East Colleges, advised that the College were awaiting the outcome from the Department of Education (DfE) of a large submission for investment into the Bromley Campus. If successful, and subject to any required planning consent, the intention was to extend the STEM provision. The College was working in partnership with London Biggin Hill Airport and Bombardier with the intention to play a key role in the growth of business in the borough.
Sarah King attended the meeting representing the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). Members were advised that there were a few days left to enter the FSB London Celebrating Small Business Awards 2022. There were twelve categories to choose from and the closing date for London entries was 23rd January 2022. This provided a great opportunity to showcase Bromley businesses and more information could be found via the following link: https://www.fsbawards.co.uk/
With regards to net zero, the London region target was 2030 and lots of work was being undertaken in this area. There were some great resources available to for small businesses and further information was available via the FSB Sustainability Hub: https://www.fsb.org.uk/campaign-listing.html and the Zero Carbon Business website: https://zerocarbonbusiness.uk/
RESOLVED that the updates be noted.
DATES OF FUTURE MEETINGS
4.00pm, Tuesday 29th March 2022
4.00pm, Tuesday 29th March 2022