Any Member of the Council may ask the Leader of the Council or any Cabinet Member any question without prior notice, upon:
· Any matter relating to the Council’s administration
· Any matter relating to any report of the Cabinet appearing on the summons
· A matter coming within their portfolio of responsibilities
Only one supplementary question is allowed per question.
If you would like to ask a question at this meeting, please contact email@example.com as soon as possible and by Friday 4th December at the latest.
Councillor Hilton referred to the liquidation of Debenhams and expected closure of their Gloucester department store. He asked if the Leader of the Council agreed that a strong retail presence should be kept on the site which he regarded as anchoring Kings Square whose renovation has recently begun. The Leader of the Council replied that he considered reserving the building for retail alone not to be in the best interests of the city and that he wanted all options to be kept open to ensure the building remains in occupation. Councillor Hilton enquired if talks had taken place with the owner of the building over its future use. The Leader of the Council confirmed that although officers had been in talks, he did not believe it necessary for them to have a direct role while the owners appeared to be progressing towards the building remaining in use for the foreseeable future. Councillor Hilton reminded Members that the Debenhams building frontage was regarded as a positive feature of the City Centre Conservation Area and sought reassurance that it would be preserved. The Leader of the Council reiterated that all options would be considered with nothing ruled in or out at this stage.
Councillor Stephens asked if there were plans to purchase the Debenhams building in the light of the acquisition of the Eastgate Shopping Centre, St Oswalds Retail Park and other properties by the Council. The Leader of the Council stated that although it was for sale, there were no plans to buy it. Councillor Stephens expressed concern at relying on the market when a similar approach had kept other premises empty for extended periods in the past and reminded Members of the valuable work being done by the Economic Recovery Task Force. Given the importance of the site to the Kings Square renovation project he enquired if a task force might be established to forward its development and that Councillors receive regular updates. The Leader of the Council stated that regular updates would be given and noted that the future of the site would likely be addressed by the City Centre Commission at their next meeting in January 2021. He further commented that he did not think a task force was necessary and could get in the way of negotiations between the owners and potential developers. The Leader of the Council expressed confidence that progress would be made quickly.
Councillor Stephens noted that the reported proportion of COVID-19 infections in Barton and Tredworth were amongst the highest in the South West of England and that the level in Gloucester as a whole was not only higher than the rest of the county but more than that in London where stricter Tier 3 measures were said to be under consideration. He sought clarification of discussions with the Director of Public Health (Gloucestershire County Council) into why the city had such relatively high figures and what control measures might be used. The Leader of the Council shared the concern at the numbers and confirmed that the Director of Public Health took them extremely seriously and was taking steps to lower the rate of infection including contacting all households in the worst affected areas.