Agenda Item No
The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Cabinet Meeting: 09 March, 2015
Report of Cabinet Member for Visible and Leisure Services
Fees and Charges, Countryside Service
Purpose of the Report
1. To seek agreement to proposed changes to charges levied at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park, Porthkerry Country Park and the Glamorgan Heritage Coast Centre.
1. That the charges detailed in the Appendices A,B,C & D for implementation in April 2015 be agreed.
2. That these charges be the maximum with the Director of Development Services having the ability to vary for promotions.
3. That the report is referred to the next meeting of Scrutiny (Economy and Environment) Committee for information.
4. That the Director of Development Services be given delegated powers, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Leisure, Parks, Culture and Sports Development and the Director of Resources to agree fees/charges, terms and conditions for new commercial activities in respect of countryside services or on land managed by countryside services and to authorise the Head of Legal Services to enter into the appropriate legal agreements on behalf of the Council in this regard.
5. That the Director of Development Services be given delegated powers to agree charges, terms and conditions and to manage the letting of storage units at the Heritage Coast Centre, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Leisure, Parks, Culture and Sport Development and to authorise the Head of Legal Services to enter into the appropriate legal agreements on behalf of the Council in this regard.
Reasons for the Recommendations
1. To reflect costs, opportunities and market conditions.
2. To allow prices to be used as a marketing tool.
3. For information.
4. To allow new activities to take place.
5. To allow commercial arrangements to be established.
2. Admissions, car parking and other charges are normally reviewed annually for Countryside Service sites.
Relevant Issues and Options
Cosmeston Medieval Village
3. In June 2012, after a review of operations, the Medieval Village became a free entry site. Management of the site was absorbed into the Country Park Ranger Service (previously a dedicated Manager and Assistant Manager) and as a result a considerable year on year cost saving has been realised. Charges are raised for some services, such as guided tours, but basic entry has been free.
4. Since that restructure, the Village has been considerably improved, the integrated operation with the Country Park has bedded in, and it is working well. Income has grown, especially in respect of filming activities which has been a target for growth. Filming by companies such as the BBC, Disney and Fox, has resulted in a substantial growth in income in recent years, with a number of bookings and leads already being negotiated for 2015/16. This has been despite a considerable increase in filming charges, suggesting that the facility has considerable value since it has been improved. I am hence proposing further increases, but with the flexibility to negotiate to ensure a balance is achieved. New proposed charges are shown in Appendix A.
5. At the time of the 2012 restructure, entry was made free of charge for a number of reasons. Firstly, the Village was in need of improvement. Secondly, the management changes meant a reduced presence on site, and the new structure was untested, meaning the quality of the offer to visitors was not known. Finally, a broader tourism benefit could be realised by allowing free access to Country Park visitors.
6. However, the availability of free entry whilst some opt to pay for tours, means that it is difficult to separate those who have paid for tours from those who have entered free of charge but can also benefit from proximity to the tour. This, and the improved offer generally, have led me to recommend that free entry is restricted to 10.00am - 12.00pm, with the remainder of the day open to those paying for guided tours (either by a tour guide or an audio wand). This should also increase income for guided tours.
7. At the same time, the range of guided tours will increase, following themes such as 'plague' and 'crime and punishment', and a considerable increase in tour prices is proposed, to more closely reflect costs of running the facility.
8. A new charge is also shown in Appendix A. This relates to events such as fetes and trade events which take place in the village. These have been trialled in recent years and could become a regular feature.
Cosmeston Lakes Country Park
9. Appendix B shows proposed changes to charges. In some cases charges remain unchanged, in others they increase by more than the rate of inflation. This reflects the true value of the unique facility, and a need to recover a larger proportion of costs incurred to achieve overall savings.
10. The maximum charges for filming are proposed to be increased considerably. This allows a negotiation with film companies over 'extras' such as use of toilets, overnight parking and use of Council staff.
11. The previous report on fees and charges in March 2014 indicated that car parking charges may be reviewed this year. I am reporting separately on the matter of car parking charges at both Cosmeston Lakes and Porthkerry Country Parks.
Porthkerry Country Park
12. Appendix C shows proposed charges for Porthkerry. Charges are similar to Cosmeston. One new charge being introduced is the hire of part of the meadow for events. Such events would be managed to avoid disturbance to other park users, but represent an opportunity to allow increased organised use of the meadow area and raise additional income.
13. For the purpose of the report, established car park charges are not proposed to be increased this year. However, I am shortly reporting separately on car parking at Country Parks which will address alternative options. Currently, car parking is only charged in peak season on weekends/bank holidays, to raise sufficient income to cover traffic management.
Further Commercial Opportunities
14. The Countryside Service is currently nearing the end of a fundamental restructure, facilitating more integrated working across all sites, including Rights of Way maintenance. This is realising substantial cost savings. Realising savings above targets has allowed the creation of a new Commercial Opportunities Officer post on a two year contract. The post holder will work with the private sector to explore feasible options and facilitate new activities at the full range of countryside sites. This could be, for instance, water based leisure activities on Cosmeston Lakes, regular/one-off events in the Country Parks or leisure use of appropriate parts of Leckwith Woods. It is not intended that the Council invest in any such activities itself, but the Council could enter into a series of agreements with third parties. This will enhance the offer at the sites and has the potential to raise significant income to contribute to future savings targets.
15. It is envisaged that many activities will be tendered (e.g. water based leisure), and considerable interest has already been expressed by potential operators. In order to facilitate such activities, especially one-off activities and events. I am seeking delegated powers to agree prices, accept tenders where appropriate, and enter into appropriate agreements. In considering proposals, the special nature of countryside sites will be given the highest regard and inappropriate types of activities will not be deemed suitable.
Glamorgan Heritage Coast Project
16. Proposed charges are set out in Appendix D, which are largely unchanged.
17. In January this year the Council secured a 'Coastal Communities' grant of £224 760 to exploit the employment creation opportunities of the Heritage Coast. This follows from the very successful work at the coast led by Creative Rural Communities, the Council led rural regeneration partnership project. This work has included the creation and part implementation of an interpretation strategy, improvements to the Heritage Coast Centre to make it more public facing, creation of several new campsites, roll out of National Cycle network 88, promotion of 'sense of place' amongst tourism businesses, digital tourism tools and a suite of new promoted walking routes. The new grant is providing for further stages of the interpretation strategy and an officer to work further with businesses and potential business people on building the availability of outdoor activities along the coast. The funding also allows for the replacement of the slipway at Southerndown, the provision of beach wheelchairs and provision of new storage units for outdoor activity equipment (e.g. Kayaks) at the Heritage Coast Centre. It is proposed that the latter are hired to the private sector to enable growth of small businesses offering outdoor activities along the Heritage Coast. The grant is providing 100% of costs. I am proposing that the Director of Development Services be given delegated powers to manage the letting of these units in consultation with myself and that the Head of Legal Services be authorised to sign leases as required, as lettings will be of a commercial nature, of varying terms and charges will need to reflect this. Advice will be taken as required from the Council's Estates Group.
Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)
18. The proposals seek to raise income from users of services which require resources to maintain and/or deliver, in a fair and balanced way, whilst maintaining viable competitive services and attracting visitors and tourists as appropriate.
Sustainability and Climate Change Implications
19. Charges seek to ensure sustainability of sites and promote local employment through tourism. All sites are engaged in the delivery of environmental education/conservation.
Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)
20. The Council will be required to negotiate terms and conditions and enter into appropriate legal agreements e.g. contracts, subleases and licences as appropriate in respect of recommendations (4) and (5) and also appropriate agreements e.g. short terms hire agreements, filming licences etc. with users generally of property and facilities under countryside services.
21. All contracts tendered and let should comply with the Council’s Contract Standing Orders, Financial Regulations and Procurement Policy.
22. In respect of the Heritage Coast Centre, the consent of the Dunraven Estate as the Council’s landlord will be needed in order to carry out any works and to let the storage units. Advice will be sought from Estates and Legal Services before progressing matters in connection with this property.
Crime and Disorder Implications
23. Appropriate charges allow the Council to provide staff at sites which reduce crime and disorder.
Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)
24. Concessionary rates are identified.
25. The operation of the service contributes to the corporate priority 'to protect and preserve the Vale’s unique environment by conserving and enhancing special places and by mitigating the impact of development and investment.'
Policy Framework and Budget
26. This is a matter for Executive decision.
Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)
27. Ward Members for all sites have been consulted on the content of the report.
Relevant Scrutiny Committee
28. Economy and Environment.
Bob Guy, Operational Manager Countryside and Economic Projects - Tel. 01446 704623
Operational Manager, Accountancy
Committee Reports, Legal Services
Acting Country Parks Manager
Principle Heritage Coast Ranger
Principle Rural Regeneration Officer
Operational Manager, Leisure and Tourism
Group Estates Officer
Rob Thomas, Director of Development Services