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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT)

 

Minutes of an extraordinary meeting held on 2nd December, 2011.

 

Present:  Councillor C.J. Williams (Chairman); Mrs. M. Kelly Owen (Vice-Chairman); Councillors Ms. M.E. Alexander, J.C. Bird, R.F. Curtis, G. John, Mrs. A.J. Preston, Mrs. S.I. Sharpe, R.P. Thomas, M.R. Wilson and Ms. M. Wright.

 

 

Also present:  Councillors G.C. Kemp (Leader of the Council), R.J. Bertin, S.C. Egan, C.P.J. Elmore, N.P. Hodges, Mrs. K.A. Kemp, Mrs. A.J. Moore and N. Moore.

 

 

650     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

651     INNOVATION QUARTER: HYDRAULIC PUMPHOUSE, BARRY WATERFRONT – (Call-in)

 

Two call-ins had been received from Councillors R.J. Bertin and N. Moore in respect of the Cabinet decision on 2nd November, 2011 as detailed below:

 

(1)       T H A T authority be granted to market and dispose of the Hydraulic Pumphouse site in consultation with the Director of Finance, ICT and Property and the Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Regeneration, subject to the consent of the Welsh Government.

(2)       T H A T authority be granted to appoint property agents/consultants to assist with the marketing and preferred bidder selection exercise.

 

(3)       T H A T authority be granted to the Director of Legal, Public Protection and Housing Services to prepare, complete and execute the appropriate legal documentation required to dispose of this site.

 

Councillor Bertin in presenting his call-in stated that he wished the Committee to give full consideration to the building and to consider the suggestion of a much needed museum with local groups being encouraged to utilise the facility.  He considered the pumphouse to be a wonderful facility and the opportunity should be explored for local groups to provide ideas for its use.

 

Councillor Moore advised that he considered the decision of Cabinet to dispose of the property to be premature particularly in light of the money that had been spent on the building and suggested that the Council should undertake full community consultation in order to ascertain the needs of residents and suggestions for the use of the building.  He referred to a similar building in Manchester which housed historical artefacts that was an asset to the area.  He had also asked in his call-in whether or not any potential funding may be available to convert the building to a museum type premises incorporating the many historical artefacts and celebrating the towns historical links with the sea including the exporting of coal, merchant seamen and tourism. 

 

In his opinion the pumphouse was an iconic building and full consultation with local people should be undertaken. He further suggested that cinema operators should be approached as there was a recognized need for such an operator in the town and beyond to see if they would be interested in locating in the building along with others users if necessary.  Councillor Moore stated that in his opinion the proposed lease of 999 years was unreasonable and a shorter timescale would be more appropriate.  Although aware of a planning application on the Island which could incorporate a cinema he stated that the application had been on file since 26th November 2008 and that it was not inevitable that it would come to fruition. 

 

Following the call-in requests various stakeholders / interested parties had been invited to put forward their views on the matter to the Committee. The   Chairman advised that following the representations Members of the public would also be afforded an opportunity to speak if they so wished.

 

Mr. Brian Fisher the first speaker (Vale Heritage Centre Coalition) stated that in his opinion there had been some significant materials that had been held within the Pumphouse e.g. hydraulic cranes which should have been kept for the history of the area.  However, these artefacts had been removed from the Pumphouse and were not now available which he considered to be a mistake. Other local history societies however held artefacts in their areas throughout the Vale which he considered would be better located in a centralised facility for all to view for tourism purposes.  He reminded Members that the Coalition and other history societies had previously spoken at a Scrutiny Committee regarding the suitability of a museum in the area and a feasibility study had been agreed to be undertaken.  He was aware that regular discussions were ongoing with the Director of Environmental and Economic Regeneration in respect of the matter.  One of the main concerns he stated was the lack of funding that organisations could attract in order to set up such a venture. 

 

Mr. A. Grisdale, Friends of Barry History informed the Committee that he was a local businessman with an interest in setting up a museum in the area but that the difficulty had been in obtaining adequate space and funding.  He considered the Pumphouse to be one of the most suitable locations for such a facility which could also have a multi purpose use.  He concurred with previous suggestions that the community should be afforded the opportunity to make representations on what could potentially be an essential amenity within the area.  The parking facilities at the site were also good and further suggested that the pumphouse could be a self financing operation if for example attractions such as a cafe etc could be accommodated, although he was aware that it would be a major application that any organisation would have to submit. 

 

Following the above representations, the Councils Project Manager for the Innovation Quarter Mark White (Major Projects Officer) presented the Committee report to the meeting.  Mr White  referred to the progress that had been made to date within the Innovation Quarter where the Hydraulic Pumphouse was located and that the recently completed external restoration of the Pumphouse, along with other quality developments located at the Innovation Quarter represented a major achievement in the current difficult economic times.  Other developments that had taken place included a Business Service Centre, the West Quay Primary Care Centre, the IT Training Centre, the IQ Spine Road and the forthcoming 80 bed hotel and restaurant development by Whitbread.  The Council, he stated, was also equally committed to securing an appropriate end use for the Hydraulic Pumphouse which would be recognised as an important historical landmark in Barry. 

 

Mr. White reported that the Innovation Quarter itself was being delivered as a regeneration partnership with the Welsh Government and the Council could not dispose of any land or property in the Quarter, such as the Hydraulic Pumphouse, without the consent of the Welsh Government.  The Welsh Government had been fully consulted and had agreed to the Council's strategy to proceed with marketing the property as widely as possible on the basis of a 999 year lease.  The view of the Welsh Government was 'the marketing disposal process you have set out ... is the most appropriate way to proceed given the need to achieve the best possible regeneration outcomes for the Pumphouse scheme.'  These comments from the Welsh Government had been made with the full knowledge that various parties had suggested that the Pumphouse could be utilised for a museum or for a cinema.

 

In responding to Councillor Bertin's call-in, the Project Manager addressed the following issues:- 

  • “that "consideration be given to retaining the building and for it to become a much needed museum…"  RESPONSE: The Council would welcome bids from any individual or group wishing to propose a museum at the Pumphouse, which will be considered along with all other proposals received in response to the marketing process.  
  • "that all interested groups are consulted on this proposal…"; "…that an approach is made to the Welsh Government with this proposal…".  RESPONSE:  Firstly, as a part of an ongoing Options Appraisal Study by consultants into a Heritage Centre for the Vale of Glamorgan, local heritage groups have been consulted in detail.  A further workshop is to be held in early December.  Secondly, the Welsh Government is aware of the proposals for a museum/heritage centre.

Councillor Neil Moore's issues were addressed as follows:

  • “the Cabinet report is “premature” and requests "…that more effort should have been made….to get an end user such as a cinema complex or use as a Museum for the area or a combination of uses…"  RESPONSE: The Council and Welsh Government have carefully thought through the future of the Pumphouse and jointly agreed that the best way forward is to market the property in the first instance.  This is regarded as the fairest way of ensuring all potential bidders have the opportunity to be considered including bids for a museum and/or cinema use.
  • "…The proposition of releasing it on a 999 year lease is unreasonable…".  RESPONSE: As stated above this term of lease has been jointly agreed after careful consideration with the Welsh Government.  The grade II Listed Pumphouse although externally restored will still probably require a major investment in order for it to be brought back into economic use.  A long term lease would provide more security to a bidder by contrast to a short term lease, and thereby assist the investor to put together a sustainable business case.  As a Listed building any bidder will face more constraints on the fitting out and development of the site and property and hence offering a long term recognises the potential cost implications associated with this fact.
  • "…officers to contact all recognised Cinema Operators and other potential operators…".  RESPONSE: In accordance with the marketing strategy agreed with the Welsh Government property agents with the necessary expertise and contacts required to thoroughly market the property will be appointed.  The property agents will be required to widely market to all sectors including cinema operators in order to maximise the opportunity to secure an end use.
  • "…as to whether or not any funding would be available to convert this building into a Museum type premises…"  RESPONSE: Funding sources that bidders could consider investigating are possibly Lottery Funding, CADW and Welsh Government funding. 

Following the Project Manager's submission the Chairman afforded Members of the public the opportunity to speak :-

 

Mr. Paul Sutton, (Save the Cinema Group) urged the Vale Council to contact local cinema operators to ascertain if they would be interested in utilising the Pumphouse for a cinema and / or  to consider what they could do for the area. 

 

Mr. Hardman, (local resident) in his opinion thought that CADW would possibly be interested in the building and that his group had looked at options for the Pumphouse some time ago.  However, at that time the Rank (Cinema) organisation had discounted the Pumphouse as a suitable venue on the basis that the competition from Cardiff was too severe and it would be too costly to adapt.

 

Mr. Steve Gardener, (local resident) stated that in his opinion the museum/cinema could be a boost to the town and that more investigations should be undertaken to explore this suggestion.  He referred to the National Coastwatch Centre which in his opinion “ran itself” and that similar operations could be suggested for the Pumphouse.

 

Councillor R.F. Curtis referred to the recent site visit that afternoon which he stated 'had opened his eyes to the view that the Pumphouse was suitable to be adapted for a cinema/museum'  and suggested that the Council work closer with the people of Barry to ascertain their views on what would be suitable for the building.  He considered that the Pumphouse building could be utilised on similar lines to the Chapter Arts and that further consultation should be undertaken.

 

Councillor J.C. Bird stated that the proposal to market the property did not rule out the possibilities of a cinema or a museum being established on the site but that the cost to develop the site would be considerable.  The building would also require considerable funding for adaptation for use and that agents/consultants would be required to assist with the marketing and the preferred bidder selection exercise.

 

Councillor Mrs. Sharpe also referred to the fact that the report made it clear that the Welsh Government had been consulted on the proposals and that the Council was equally committed to securing appropriate end use for the Hydraulic Pumphouse which was recognised as an important historic landmark in Barry. 

Councillor R.P. Thomas concurred with the view that a business strategy had to be identified and that the proposal to appoint consultants to assist with the marketing and preferred bidder selection meant that the Council would receive Business Plans from organisations to ascertain the best possible use for the building. 

Councillor N.P. Hodges speaking with the permission of the Committee stated that he had been more than happy to agree to the site being marketed as long as all options were explored.

 

The Leader of the Council in the absence of the Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Regeneration advised that the long term viability of the building was essential and that the Cabinet had an open mind in respect of its use.  The intention would be to market the property to encourage ideas and that community groups would be welcomed to come forward and present viable business cases.

 

Mr. Steve Williams, representative from the Heritage Coalition advised that from his perspective funding was one of the biggest difficulties for organisations.  Plans were in place but the money was not available. 

 

In response the Project Manager advised that that a number of potential end uses had been pursued over a number of years by the Council in relation to the Pumphouse.  For example, the Council had endeavoured to attract to the Pumphouse the former Welsh Industrial and Maritime Museum of Cardiff Bay (which in the end went to Swansea as the National Waterfront Museum), the Glamorgan Records Office was also encouraged to relocate from Cardiff Civic Centre to the Pumphouse (but instead relocated to Leckwith, Cardiff), and also the Council had worked with Chapter to facilitate at the Pumphouse a new arts centre (aimed at film and theatre production, music and large scale art installations) but this was not achieved because the Welsh Government grant sought at the time (2005) was not forthcoming.  Hence, efforts had been made to secure an appropriate end use but these did not come to fruition and the Council had to therefore consider a different strategy, namely to market the property widely as agreed with the Welsh Government rather than pursue one potential form of end use.  All Members concurred that the Pumphouse was an iconic building and was located in a good position.

 

Following consideration of the call-ins, the report and the representations made at the Committee meeting Councillor R.F. Curtis recommended that a full consultation process be carried out with the Committee's preferred option being to seek a partnership with cinema organisations and other groups and Councillor Wilson also recommended that no residential use of the building be permitted.  However, in view of the fact that options for the site would be considered following the appointment of property agents and consultants and following a vote it was subsequently.

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the resolutions of Cabinet be endorsed.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In order to consider options for the building.

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