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Agenda Item No

MATTER FOR WHICH THE CHAIRMAN HAS DECIDED IS URGENT BY REASON OF THE NEED TO MAKE A DECISION LINKED TO AN EXTERNAL FUNDING OPPORTUNITY

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 27 January, 2014

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for the Environment and Visible Services

 

Cemetery Approach Barry:  Proposed Community Garden and Nature Area

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To provide Cabinet with an update on proposals for the use of land at Cemetery Road, Barry and to detail a possible source of funding for the future.

2.         To seek a view from Cabinet as to how it wishes this matter to be progressed.

Recommendations

1.         That Cabinet note the progress to date in respect to this matter including the outcome of the public consultation exercise.

2.         That Cabinet approve in principle the two layout options proposed for the sites.

3.         That Cabinet approve the use of £20k from the Visible Services asset renewal fund for 2014 / 2015 to permit clearance of the sites.

4.         That delegated authority be granted to the Director of Visible Services and Housing in consultation with the Director of Resources, the Leader and the Cabinet Member for Leisure, Parks, Culture and Sports Development to enter into discussions with Barry Town Council for the possible transfer of the sites, shown on the plan attached at Appendix A, to the Town Council by way of a suitable long term lease arrangement.

5.         That delegated authority be granted to the Head of Legal Services in consultation with the Directors of Resources, Visible Services and Housing, the Leader and the Cabinet Member for Leisure, Parks, Culture and Sports Development to agree the terms of, and to execute, the said lease between this Council and Barry Town Council, should an agreement on such be reached.

6.         That delegated authority be granted to the Director of Visible Services and Housing in consultation with the Director of Resources, the Leader and the Cabinet Member for Leisure, Parks, Culture and Sports Development to submit an 'Armed Forces Community Covenant Grant Scheme' application in connection with this project.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         To update Members on the current position.

2.         To obtain the necessary authority to progress works on site towards the principle of either of two specified site designs and purposes.

3.         To enable the site to be cleared of debris and excess vegetation to permit an easier start to the future development work.

4.         To enable formal discussions to take place with the Town Council who have previously expressed an interest in these sites.

5.         To enable a lease agreement to be entered into, if appropriate, with Barry Town Council for the long term use and development of the sites.

6.         To provide approval for the submission of an 'Armed Forces Community Covenant Grant Scheme application to assist with the funding of any development works.

Background

3.         In May 2012 the Council invited 28 organisations working in the Vale to a meeting to discuss various options for the Cemetery Approach sites (identified on the plan attached at Appendix I). Representatives from Groundwork Wales, Cardiff and the Vale Public Health Team, Castleland Communities First, Save Cemetery Approach Action Group and Barry Town Council attended the meeting.  

4.         Following the meeting a long-list of viable options was created and during August 2012 the following options were put to residents for consultation:- allotments (potentially including a community shop or café), play area, an open community space (featuring flower beds and benches), further cemetery facilities, parking facilities, an educational facility for local primary schools or an ecological or bio diversity garden. Residents were also given the opportunity to suggest another option if they felt those offered were not suitable.

5.         There were 178 responses to the survey. 138 were returned by post and 40 were submitted online. There were two options that were significantly more popular - 31 per cent of respondents voted for an open community garden and 25 per cent of respondents voted for allotments. Residents were also asked whether they would consider volunteering to help run or maintain any future development - 34 per cent of respondents answered that they would.

6.         Prior to and during this process, Barry Town Council registered interests in taking over the land parcels and in particular the parcel to the East of Cemetery Road, for public uses connected with the Cemetery.  Though formal expressions of interest for managing this land have not been sought, Barry Town Council are the only organisation who have shown such an interest to date.

7.         On 24 September 2012 the Operational Manager for Parks and Grounds Maintenance reported the consultation findings to an informal meeting of Cabinet. Those members present accepted the findings of the report and instructed Visible Services to set out a plan for how the outcome desired by residents could be delivered.

Relevant Issues and Options

8.         Progress to date is as follows:

9.         Ground investigation was undertaken to ascertain the suitability of soils for allotment use. Subsequent laboratory testing revealed high levels of polyaromatic hydrocarbon compounds resulting from ash and slag deposits across the site. This type of contamination means food production or allotment use is not a viable option for the site. Asbestos tests were also carried out on existing buildings and buried heating pipes. These were returned as negative results. Now the designs have been consolidated there is a need to undertake a site specific assessment with contamination exposure modelling. This is estimated to cost £6k.     

10.      Ecology surveys confirmed a limited range of habitats and low/negligible potential for use by bats. However common reptile species were present. Site clearance works will therefore need to be limited to periods when reptiles are not in hibernation (i.e. outside of the winter period: approximately March – October). However, given the assumed presence of nesting birds, the earliest works could commence is mid-August 2014 with all clearance completed to bare ground by mid-October 2014.

11.      In August 2013 a landscape consultant was appointed to progress design options for the site. Given ground conditions the main theme for development has been directed towards open space and nature conservation with areas of hard standing or bound gravel to reduce exposure of underlying substrate.

12.      Two layout options were presented to Business Cabinet on 7th October 2013 and were well received. The consultant has now prepared cost estimates and these are attached at Appendices B and C.  The drawings will be on display at the Cabinet meeting. Now the designs have been consolidated there is a need to undertake a site specific assessment with contamination exposure modelling. This is estimated to cost £6k. To these estimates there will need to be added supervision and CDM fees estimated to be in the region of £15k bringing the pre-work estimate to £27k.

13.      Best estimate at present of the full cost for Option 1 is £365,427 with Option 2 being £382,572.

14.      Members must note that the outcome of the contamination exposure modelling may well affect these prices.           

15.      With the current extreme budget pressures facing Councils clearly the level of new expenditure required for either of these options in full is prohibitive.  Also, the Parks and Grounds Maintenance section has limited staff resources to deal with the management demands of such projects at this time and the site locality and community interest perhaps lends itself to a more locally managed solution, involving the nearest main land holding organisation, Barry Town Council.

16.      It is proposed therefore that on completion of the site specific assessments, including contamination modelling, the sites be cleared of all debris in preparation for transfer via lease and future development work.

17.      It is also proposed that officers enter into discussions with Barry Town Council to establish their interest in taking either of the two desired options further via lease at their cost.  If an agreement can be reached then lease terms will be drawn up which reflect the plans and protect the Council's and the communities' interest in this land for the next 21 years.

18.      It is not proposed that Barry Town Council be bound by any lease to undertake works to the full specification and / or value of either development option.  However there will be an expectation, via the lease, that the Town Council will aim to work towards the principles of the schemes i.e. Community Garden and Nature Reserve and a requirement that the land be opened up for public use as an amenity regardless of any potential funding or other resource problems.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

19.      The Council is regrettably not in a position to fund either of the options proposed however the potential exists for external funding to be sought through the 'Armed Forces Community Covenant Grant Scheme' to assist.

20.      The aim of the 'Armed Forces Community Grant Scheme' (attached at Appendix D) is to financially support projects at a local level, which strengthen the ties or mutual understanding between members of the Armed Forces Community and the wider community in which they live.  Bids are assessed by a Ministry of Defence and HM Treasury Panel following endorsement from the leading parties to the Community Covenant.  Funding is available for schemes up to £250k, however higher amounts may be considered for exceptional projects.  The next Panel is sitting in June 2014 and the deadline for submission of any application is the 17th May 2014.

21.      This report has been tabled as an urgent item and certain delegated authorities have been requested to ensure that sufficient time is available for either this Council or Barry Town Council to submit a grant application towards the costs of any development works via the 'Armed forces Community Covenant Grant Scheme'.

22.      In order to make any land transfer more acceptable to Barry Town Council and to also demonstrate the Council's commitment to improving these sites for community use, it will be necessary to arrange some site clearance work at a cost of circa £20k.  It is proposed that this be funded from the asset renewal fund for Visible Services for 2014 / 2015.

23.      If Barry Town Council is amenable to the transfer of this land via a lease then there will be no ongoing costs to this Council for the duration of the lease.  All service costs etc will be the responsibility of the Town Council.

24.      The £27k cost of the land surveys prior to any clearance work will be funded from Visible Services reserves, as no budget has been identified for this work.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

25.      The scheme will reclaim derelict land for public access and promote biodiversity.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

26.      The transfer of this land via lease will require consideration of the provisions of Section 123 of the Local Government Act 1972.  This will require the land to be advertised for disposal.

27.      The Head of Legal Services will be responsible for executing the lease arrangement when the terms are agreed by all parties.

28.      Should an application under the 'Armed Forces Community Covenant Grant Scheme' be successful a Deed of Grant would be drawn up with Barry Town Council to confirm the terms and conditions of the grant and the Council's obligations and requirements.

Crime and Disorder Implications

29.      There are no crime and disorder implications.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

30.      Equal opportunity issues have been considered in the design process.  The scheme will be made accessible to all sectors of the community including cyclists, pedestrians, the disabled and people with pushchairs.

Corporate/Service Objectives

31.      The proposal would support the Corporate Plan in its promotion of regeneration, sustainability, public health, and the safety of residents in the Vale.

Policy Framework and Budget

32.      This report is a matter for Executive decision by Cabinet.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

33.      Local Ward Members have been consulted on the contents of this report and no adverse comments have been received.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

34.      Economy and Environment.

Background Papers

None.

 

Contact Officer

Phil Beaman - Operational Manager, Parks and Grounds Maintenance

Tel:  01446 709 543

 

Officers Consulted

Operational Manager Legal - Committee Reports

Senior Accountant

Consultation Policy Officer

Estates

 

Responsible Officer:

Miles Punter - Director of Visible Services and Housing

 

 

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