The Joint Scrutiny Committee received a presentation from Gareth Nutt the Director of Environment in Neath Port Talbot Council on the above project.
Members were advised that the Full Business Case (minus the procurement stage) was submitted to both the UK and Welsh Governments in August 2018. It was noted that all three regional projects were linked not only to each other but to the rest of the Programme as a whole. The Registered Social Landlord (RSL) sector already supported the pilot project, thus the holdup at UK/WG level was questioned.
It was noted that once approval had been given it would be necessary to establish a Programme Team and a local supply chain, however no advance funding was available to put these in place before approval by UK and WG and the release of funding. It was estimated that 70% of the supply chain would be local. Members asked whether there was sufficient capacity in the construction sector to deliver this project? The link with the skills project was noted in addressing some of the issues.
Each of the four local authority areas had a project which could come under the Homes as Power Stations (HAPS) umbrella and approval of the project was therefore required as soon as possible to enable monitoring and evaluation of these schemes going forward.
The presentation outlined the numbers and costings associated with new build and retro fitting of existing properties and asked for details of how the figures were arrived at. In response Mr Nutt advised that the figures were mainly estimates based on regional delivery costs. The various Local Development Plans (LDP) allocations for new builds also fed into the proposals.
It was confirmed that each individual authority’s scheme could continue without City Deal Funding, however a co-ordinated approach would be the better option in order that best practice could be adopted throughout the City Deal area.
The project was at the informal stage with both UK and Welsh Governments and it was noted that a response had been given to their last query in November 2018.
Members asked how long it would take to evaluate and implement the project and were advised that it would be five years after approval had been given, subject to staff being in place.
In relation to the work to new builds, the additional costs would be passed on to the buyers – would this inhibit the project? The Principality Building Society was exploring the possibility of developing a mortgage product aimed at properties which had negligible fuel costs as a result of this project.
It was noted that there was an assumption that the four local authorities would use their collective leverage to deliver the project, however Welsh Government should be lobbied to put in place measures, for example building regulations, to secure greater private sector engagement.
It was agreed that the same issues applied to this project in relation to the time scale for implementation in that the project could be delivered five years after approval and the establishment of the Programme Team. In addition it was agreed that a site visit to the pilot scheme in Neath be arranged when the Joint Scrutiny Committee was held in the Neath Civic Centre.