Agenda Item No.











Councillor M.R. Wilson had submitted a Request for Consideration in respect of the Medieval Village at Cosmeston in order that the Scrutiny Committee could consider the justification for the cuts made to date, a management plan for the Village and partnership working with other bodies. 


The report noted that in February 2011 the Council had agreed a range of cost cutting measures with one of the measures being to change the operational model for the Medieval Village at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park with the change realising an annual saving of £60,000.  The Cosmeston Medieval Village provided a tourism and educational facility attached to the Country Park, however, unlike most privately run tourist attractions it had operated at a substantial loss for many years.  The annual loss amounted to circa £140,000 prior to review with a cash loss of £100,000.  Whilst operating at such a loss it had also taken potential business from commercial tourism operators in the area.  The events at the Village had been delivered directly by the Council organised by a small team of staff. 


As a result of the above it had been considered that the most effective way of saving money and enhancing visits for the majority of visitors would be to remodel.  The remodelling had involved removing some of the major financial costs and risks to the Council, including some staff and events delivery, with the savings being estimated to be at least £50,000 to £60,000 per year.


The new management regime that had been developed was based on the following:


·                    free entry

·                    loss of the two full time posts managing the site and organising events

·                    integration of the management into the Country Park Ranger Service to streamline management, reduce costs and focus on the Country Park as a whole as a tourism and visitor attraction

·                    retention of 7 casual workers

·                    3 new posts dedicated to the maintenance and servicing of the Village (4 existing staff covering on a part time basis)

·                    continued costumed tours for schools at a charge

·                    no animals on site

·                    no costumed tours for the general public

·                    audio wand tours available at a charge

·                    events to be delivered by third parties instead of the Council; the Council to take a fixed fee and no financial risk.


The museum area had already been enhanced using a grant from Creative Rural Communities, the Council's Rural Regeneration Partnership and audio wands had been introduced some time ago using another Creative Rural Communities grant (Rural Development Plan for Wales).  Since then demand from visitors has been around 80% in favour of audio wands and the remaining 20% guided tours, suggested that visitors very much preferred the audio wand option.  Dialogue on wands was in several languages, targeted at the tourism sector.  The loss of guided tours it was reported would therefore, hardly result in any reduction of such tours.


The long term plan was to see the Country Park and Village operated as a single entity in an efficient way.  It was hoped that further investment in the Park, including educational facilities and visitor interpretation, could materialise in the medium term and discussions were ongoing in respect of grants etc. 


A member of the public, namely Ms. Tracey Alexander, with the permission of the Chairman spoke on the issue advising that she represented a campaign group that wished to set up a friends group for Cosmeston.  They had held  discussions with the Leader and the Operational Manager for Countryside and Economic Projects and sought information to prepare a business plan as to the financial history of Cosmeston and had made requests for profit and loss accounts as they considered that there were opportunities to develop the village.  They also sought clarification as to whether the Council would consider a Friends Group for the village only and the possibility of another for the park. The Operational Manager advised that the long term plan as detailed in the report was to see the Country Park and the Village operate as a single entity in an efficient way. It was hoped that further investment in the park including educational facilities and visitor interpretation could materialise in the medium term with discussions ongoing in respect of grants.


The Leader, with the consent of the Committee, advised that from his perspective he had no particular views and would welcome future business proposals and expressions of interest.  The Operational Manager also advised that he was more than happy to supply the information requested but that the Council did not operate the accounts in the format of profit and loss accounts and that any proposal by a group would have to be properly constituted, is able to identify the resources needed, and have public liability insurance etc.  Councillor Wilson referred to the archaeology on the site and was advised that there was no change proposed to this facility as the work was undertaken by Cardiff University who resourced the site themselves.


Following consideration of the report it was subsequently





RECOMMENDED to Cabinet -


T H A T a feasibility study be undertaken of the future of the Medieval Village to include various scenarios such as partnership working and that the study also be reported to the Scrutiny Committee in due course.


Reason for recommendation


To consider further options and report findings to Members.”





Attached as Appendix – Report to Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment): 17th April, 2012