Agenda and draft minutes

Housing and Communities Overview and Scrutiny Panel - Wednesday, 20th March, 2024 6.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber - Appletree Court, Beaulieu Road, Lyndhurst, SO43 7PA. View directions

Contact: Karen Wardle Tel: 023 8028 5071  Email:


No. Item



There were no apologies for absence.





To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 17 January 2024 as a correct record.






The minutes of the meeting held on 17 January 2024 were confirmed as a correct record.




Declarations of Interest

To note any declarations of interest made by members in connection with an agenda item. The nature of the interest must also be specified.


Members are asked to discuss any possible interests with Democratic Services prior to the meeting.




There were no Declarations of Interest.


Public Participation

To receive any public participation in accordance with the Council’s public participation scheme.




There was no public participation.


Supporting our Residents Action Plan to 2025 pdf icon PDF 278 KB

To receive an Action Plan detailing the support provided to residents in the New Forest.



Additional documents:


The Service Manager – Revenues, Benefits and Customer Services presented the report outlining the work which had been carried out in response to the Cost-of Living-crisis.  A Council wide group had been set up with representatives from various departments including housing and benefits.  The purpose of the group was outlined and included increasing awareness, information sharing and early intervention.  A dedicated webpage had been set up with details of support including food through to utility bills.


The Action Plan detailed initiatives and actions to support households under five key themes, as follows:


1.    Supporting people on low incomes to maximise their income and minimise costs

2.    Strengthening families and communities

3.    Promoting employment opportunities

4.    Addressing the high cost of housing and improving housing conditions

5.    Improving the health and wellbeing for people on low incomes


The joint working with partners was highlighted to the Panel, which would assist residents with signposting, referrals to other agencies, etc.  There were five Community Hubs located across the District.


It recognised that the Action Plan was very detailed with a lot of priorities and it was queried how these were considered and whether dates were achievable.  In response it was confirmed that some of the priorities had fixed deadlines, for example the Housing Support Fund but that others were ongoing and flexible.  All the priorities were considered important and delivery timescales were assessed against existing resources, work with partners, ensuring an effective use of resources, etc.


It was confirmed to members that there was a benefit cap which was specific to the individual or household’s own circumstances.  Members noted that Universal Credit would assist in simplifying the application process, whereby it would bring together all benefits in one application form. 


A member questioned how messages were circulated to those who were not online and might not live close to one of the information offices.  This was recognised and information leaflets, in the form of a pocket sized ‘Z cards’ had been distributed in the community to libraries, doctors surgeries, etc with key information.  Towns and Parishes had been invited to a Cost-of-Living Community Forum in October 2023 and it was hoped they would help with information provision to residents.  Messaging was also included in Council communication with rent and housing benefit letters.  It was therefore confirmed that a range of methods were used to try and get key messages out to those who might need it.   




That the Action Plan, attached as Appendix 1 be supported.




Health and Wellbeing Action Plan Update pdf icon PDF 398 KB

To receive an annual update.




The Panel received a presentation providing an update on the progress of the Health and Wellbeing Strategy.  The presentation has been attached to these minutes as an Appendix.


The Health and Partnership Manager reported that the Health and Wellbeing Strategy had been adopted in 2022 and had been developed using evidence and insight from both national and regional sources.  It identified three strategic priorities; working in partnership, increasing physical activity and improving mental wellbeing.


The District Council’s role and aims were outlined and included, for example working collaboratively with partners on shared outcomes, signposting, targeting those with the largest health inequalities and working to support the most vulnerable groups.


The progress against the action plan was detailed within each of the strategic priority areas.  Future health and wellbeing projects were outlined, including two new artificial turf pitch developments at Testwood School in Totton and Burgate School in Fordingbridge, support to the development of a practical cycle network and programmes to increase cycling; two new parkrun events proposed in Fordingbridge and Fawley and accessible sensory walks in New Milton and Totton.


It was also noted that a number of Strategies would be developed to support the health and wellbeing of residents, which included the Corporate Plan, Community Strategy and Clean Air Strategy.


The Chairman expressed his support to the great work which was being carried out, and highlighted the Story Quest and sensory projects which were taking place in New Milton.


A member of the panel asked how the life expectancy of residents in the New Forest compared to the national target.  It was acknowledged that it was a priority to improve the life expectancy for residents, but also to help people to live well for longer.  Local knowledge was used to encourage people to be active.  It was important for people to be active and the more active they were, the greater the likelihood of them being able to live an active and independent life for longer.


It was confirmed that there had been a delay to the New Forest Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan which was being developed by Hampshire County Council.  It was expected this would be available in the summer 2024.


Further detail was sought in relation to the proposed sensory walks and it was noted that two locations had been identified.  One in New Milton at Ballard Lake and one in Totton.  Eling Boardwalk was a potential site, however a meeting was due to take place with the clerk of Totton and Eling Town Council to review and map this out to ensure it would meet all the necessary requirements.


A member noted that for the health and wellbeing of people, exercise could be carried out in 15 minute bursts rather than in participating in the more formal activities which had been identified and questioned what was being done to promote shorter and easier forms of exercise.  It was confirmed that any movement was good but that the Chief Medical Officer recommended 150 minutes of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 45.


Homelessness Update pdf icon PDF 559 KB

To receive an update on homelessness.




The Panel received a presentation providing an update on homelessness and the housing register.  The presentation has been attached to these minutes as an Appendix.


The Service Manager - Housing Options, Rents, Support, Private Sector Housing reported there was one known rough sleeper in the District who had been receiving support for their welfare.  A physical count of rough sleepers had been carried out in the autumn over one night and two rough sleepers had been identified.


As at 8 March 2024, there were 31 single people and 21 families living in emergency accommodation.  The Panel noted that the figures fluctuate daily, but it was recognised there had been an improvement on previous years.  The key reasons for evictions and homelessness was due to rent increases and affordability.  Section 21 notices had been issued due to the landlord selling the property.


The expenditure on homelessness was expected to be under budget at around £1.2 million, which was positive news compared to last year.


There was a project target of 24 ex-offenders to be housed in two years.  Officers were being proactive in seeking accommodation for ex-offenders and support was provided to clients to open bank accounts and deal with referrals to drug and alcohol addiction support.  9 had been successfully housed since October 2023 and were living independently.


There were 60 hosts in the District supporting Ukraine and Afghan guests.  Since 2022, 51 guests had been helped into private rented accommodation.  Work was continuing to support these with ‘Resettlement’ visits setting up utilities, jobs and schooling, etc.  Seven guests had been housed into Local Authority Housing Fund properties with an additional three to be housed soon.   One Afghan family had been housed in the District under the national resettlement scheme and they had been settling in well.  A further family was due to be housed in April.


The updated number of people on the housing register, including the housing bands was presented to the Panel.  It was highlighted how the numbers of emergency accommodation fluctuates regularly and that there were often reasons why families were in emergency accommodation for longer than six weeks, which was often due to client choice due to location and the support network, schools and employment. Since September 2023, 156 people had been allocated housing. 


An audit of prevention and relief had been carried out and the initial feedback had been positive.  A further audit in respect of housing allocations would commence later in March.


The Homesearch Partnership agreement had been updated which would be issued to partner landlords.  Regular liaison meetings would commence in June to discuss concerns, updates and good practice.  All registered Social Landlord partners would be charged, for the first time, from April 2024 to be part of Homesearch.


Finally, funding for the support team was due to end in March 2025.  A review was being conducted to consider the options.


It was questioned, whether the proposals included in the Hampshire County Council consultation would have an impact on the District  ...  view the full minutes text for item 46.


Housing Strategy/ HRA Property development and acquisition update pdf icon PDF 3 MB

To receive an update on the progress of the Housing Strategy and HRA property development and acquisition.




The Panel received an update on the Housing Strategy / property acquisition.  The presentation has been attached to these minutes as an Appendix.


The Service Manager Housing Strategy and Development reported the following:


Penman House, a development in Totton had been completed in January 2024.  This provided 12 one and two bedroom flats and had been built to the proposed Future Homes Standard.  The scheme had cost £3.4m and a grant of £684,000 from Homes England had been awarded.  The homes would be let at affordable rent.  The building was all electric, had 6 inches of insulation, triple glazed windows, air source heat pumps, photovoltaics and purrmetric monitoring.  Seven of the 12 flats would be monitored in terms of temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide, following the agreement of the tenants.  Feedback would be obtained each quarter.  The purpose was to ensure that there was no condensation or mould, and if it did occur, the right support would be given.


Burgate homes in Fordingbridge was a Metis Homes development.  The purchase of 16 out of 17 homes had been completed and these homes would be used for rent or shared ownership.  14 had been purchased through the Section 106 agreement with a further 3 funded through Homes England.  The shared ownership properties had proved highly sought after and five had been sold on a first come first served basis.  Marketing had just commenced for the last shared ownership flat.


Local Authority Housing Fund Round 1: Central Government funding of £1.8 m had been received by the District Council to provide 12 resettlement homes, 10 were for Ukrainian families and 2 for Afghan families.  12 homes had been purchased of which 5 were transferred from the Council’s buy back scheme.  The District Council would keep these homes when the families moved on.


The following housing developments were under construction:


·         Moore Close, New Milton: This was to provide 16 affordable houses of which 11 would be for social rent and 5 for shared ownership.  Homes England had awarded a grant of £1.5 towards the cost of the scheme which would meet the proposed Future Homes Standard.  Completion was anticipated in January 2025.

·         Hythe Medical Centre, Hythe: The site had been cleared in 2023 ready for the construction of 22 new homes.  The main contract was due to be tendered and a bid would be submitted to Homes England for a grant.  It was expected that work would commence on site in May / June 2024.

·         Salisbury Road, Totton: This scheme would provide 20 one or two bedroom flats.  The design was being concluded with the planning department and it was expected that the scheme would be out to tender the construction in early April.  The scheme would meet the proposed Future Homes Standard.

·         Parsonage Barn Lane refurbishment: There had been a delay to this scheme.  It would be tendered on the open market in order to get best value.

·         A Portfolio Holder decision had been made for a site in the District to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 47.


Portfolio Holder's Update and Performance Dashboards pdf icon PDF 112 KB

An opportunity for the Portfolio Holder’s to provide an update to the Panel on developments within their portfolio.


The Portfolio Holder for Community, Safety and Wellbeing gave an update on the following:


·        A Safer New Forest Partnership workshop had been held last week.  The Serious Violence Duty was presented to the parties and agencies present.  This gave an opportunity for those present to share information and develop ideas and identify trends in the District.

·        A Culture in Common Workshop had been held.  It was possible to apply to the Art Council England for funding for an additional year.  This workshop gave an opportunity for all those involved prepare a response and share ideas.

·        Air Quality Strategy:  The first meeting of the Air Quality Steering Group had been held in February.  A district wide Strategy would be developed to improve air quality and improve public health. 

·        Community Forum:  The next meeting would take place next Wednesday.  All members were encouraged to attend this event which would look at community resilience and emergency planning.  The Portfolio Holder spoke about the need to improve engagement with the local town and parish councils, and it was hoped that many of them would attend this event.

·        CCTV Steering Group:  This was continuing to meet and making process.  The most appropriate sites for CCTV were being identified, in discussion with the towns and parishes.


A question was asked about the amber rating on the performance dashboard in relation to high risk food inspections and non-compliant food businesses.  The target was 97% and it had not been met.  The Portfolio Holder reported that this was due to the fact that officers had been unable to carry out these inspections due to the businesses being seasonal and were not currently operating.  There was therefore no risk to public safety and the inspections would be carried out in due course when the business reopened.


The Portfolio Holder for Housing and Homelessness gave an update on the following:


·        The Affordable Housing Task and Finish Group was underway. In the January there had been a meeting with a presentation on modular housing from an external organisation with experience of using modern methods of construction.  Further studies, including a site visit was expected.

·        New sites at Hythe hospital and Moore Close, New Milton were progressing well and would provide 33 new homes for forms of social rent.

·        The Portfolio Holder was pleased to report that when former service men and women seek assistance for Disabled Facilities Grants, any compensation that they have been awarded would no longer be included in means testing.

·        The success of the Greener Housing team was highted who had completed the conversion of 70+ of the District Council’s housing stock from EPC D to F into EPC A to C. This had been achieved in half the time expected by the government and puts the Council in a good position to receive further funding in “wave 3” in late summer. He felt this was a commendable achievement.



Work Programme pdf icon PDF 250 KB

To agree the work programme to guide the Panel’s activities over the coming months.




That the Work Programme be approved.