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The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Cabinet Meeting: 11 January, 2016

Report of the Cabinet Member for Regeneration

Tourism and Commercial Opportunities at Countryside Service Sites

Purpose of the Report

  1. To seek agreement to proposed changes to charges levied at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park & Medieval Village, Porthkerry Country Park and the Glamorgan Heritage Coast Centre.
  2. To seek authority to invite tenders from potential commercial partners in order to create new tourism and commercial opportunities at Porthkerry Country Park, Cosmeston Lakes Country Park & Medieval Village.
  3. To seek endorsement to investigate tourism opportunities at Leckwith Woods.

Recommendations

  1. That the charges detailed in the Appendices A, B, C and D for implementation in April 2016 be agreed.
  2. That these charges be the maximum, with the Operational Manager for Regeneration being granted delegated authority to vary the charges for promotional purposes.
  3. That the Council offers invitations to tender to develop tourism and commercial opportunities at Country Parks and the Medieval Village from third party organisations.
  4. That the Head of Regeneration and Planning be given delegated powers, in consultation with the Managing Director and Cabinet Member for Regeneration, to agree fees/charges, terms and conditions for new commercial (leisure, tourism and retail) activities in respect of the Country Parks and Medieval Village 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 officers investigate tourism and commercial opportunities with regard to Leckwith Woods and report further to Cabinet.

Reasons for the Recommendations

  1. To reflect costs, opportunities and market conditions and secure income to support the costs of running Countryside facilities.
  2. To allow prices to be used as a marketing tool.
  3. To allow commercial arrangements to be identified.
  4. To allow new activities to take place.
  5. To promote opportunities for sustainable tourism and realise income opportunities.

Background

  1. The Countryside Service has recently undergone a restructure, facilitating more integrated working across all sites, including Public Rights of Way maintenance. This restructure has led to substantial savings, in excess of targets, which has released funding to allow the creation of a new Commercial Opportunities Officer post on a two year contract.
  2. The post holder is currently working with the private sector to investigate sustainable and feasible options that facilitate new tourism and leisure activities, primarily at Country Parks, such as: water based leisure activities, high ropes, zip wire courses, climbing walls, archery, cycling, field sports, environmental education, tourism based events, weddings, fayres, other innovative activities and retail opportunities.
  3. Countryside sites within the Vale of Glamorgan are seen as destination venues for both residents and tourists. They are pivotal in attracting tourists and vital to the local economy, however they constantly need to adapt to the needs of users. The development of new sustainable activities/attractions will improve the offer to users and encourage greater footfall and have a direct impact on the future development of the Vale of Glamorgan as a destination venue, benefiting the local economy and leisure industry.
  4. There have been a number of expressions of interest with regard to developing tourism and commercial opportunities at Countryside Service locations including Leckwith Woods. At all sites, environmental considerations will need to be taken in to account before any agreement is reached.
  5. In addition, interest has been shown with regard to developing appropriate retail activities within the existing visitor centre at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park, this would be subject to planning consent, if deemed appropriate and beneficial to users of the Country Park and the Council.
  6. The Commercial Opportunities Officer`s work to date has identified new opportunities that are already written into price structures and also others that will require new terms and conditions, with new commercial partners.
  7. It is proposed to offer an "Invitation to Tender" seeking commercial partnerships for such activities, in order to identify the best range of activities as well as the best financial return.
  8. It is not intended that the Council invests in any such activities itself, but that the Council enters into a series of agreements with third parties. This will enhance what is currently offered at the sites, increase footfall and tourism opportunities leading to a significant increase in income, which will contribute to future savings targets.
  9. Existing admissions, car parking and other charges are normally reviewed annually for Countryside Service sites.

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. Cosmeston Lakes Country Park - 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.
  2. With regard to Cosmeston Medieval Village; income has grown, especially in respect of filming activities, which has been a target area for growth. There are currently a number of interested parties negotiating the use of the site for 2016/17. This has been despite a considerable increase in filming charges, suggesting that the facility has considerable value as a location resource. Hence the proposal to further increase fees, but with the flexibility to negotiate to ensure a balance is achieved. New proposed charges are shown in Appendix A.
  3. The maximum charges for filming are proposed to be increased while allowing for negotiations with film companies over 'extras' such as use of toilets, overnight parking and use of Council staff.
  4. The implementation of paid visits after 12 noon (since April 2015) has seen a substantial growth and demand in guided costumed tours and self-guided audio tours, which has led to increased income generation; the development of new themed tours will expand the product offered, this is reflected in the proposed price increase in Appendix A.
  5. It is proposed that the Tithe barn within the Medieval Village will be developed as a wedding venue. Research carried out by the Commercial Opportunities Officer has highlighted a need for unusual wedding venues within the Vale of Glamorgan. The appropriate license will be sought to enable wedding ceremonies to take place. The charges for hire reflect fees paid at similar venues within the South Wales area.
  6. Porthkerry Country Park; Appendix C shows proposed charges for Porthkerry. Charges are similar to Cosmeston. One new charge being proposed is the hire of office space within Nightingale Cottage. The cottage has been renovated as a Rangers office/tourism hub and there is an opportunity to utilise space to generate extra income.
  7. For the purpose of the report, established car park charges are not proposed in this report to be increased this year. Currently, car parking is only charged in peak season on weekends/bank holidays, to raise sufficient income to cover traffic management.
  8. Glamorgan Heritage Coast project; proposed charges are set out in Appendix D, which are largely unchanged but with a few additions.
  9. The works to renovate the slipway at Southerndown and the installation of new storage units for outdoor activity equipment (e.g. Kayaks, paddle boards etc.) at the Heritage Coast Centre will be completed by March 2016. 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. This has already been covered by delegated authority via cabinet resolution C2693, March 2015.
  10. With regard to commercial opportunities; it is envisaged that many activities will be tendered and will require licenses or leases as considerable interest has already been expressed by potential operators. In order to facilitate such activities, especially one-off activities and events, it is requested that the Head of Regeneration and Planning be given delegated powers, in consultation with the Managing Director and Cabinet Member for Regeneration, to agree fees/charges, accept tenders where appropriate, and enter into appropriate agreements, terms and conditions for new commercial (leisure, tourism and retail) activities at the Country Parks and Medieval Village. The special nature of countryside sites will be given the highest regard and inappropriate activities will not be deemed suitable.
  11. Any new activity will improve the Council's asset and develop the visitor experience. In addition any new activity will secure increased income generation for the Council.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. Saving targets for the Countryside Service include the generation of additional income and these proposals seek to raise income from users of services which require resources to maintain and/or deliver, in a fair and balanced way, whilst also maintaining viable competitive services and attracting visitors and tourists as appropriate.
  2. Estates and Legal officer`s resource will be required as a result of entering into any legal agreement with a third party, some of these costs will be reimbursed by the third party where appropriate.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. The Countryside Service offers a comprehensive environmental education package to schools, community groups and users.
  2. Charges seek to ensure sustainability of sites and promote local economic development and employment through tourism.
  3. Increased leisure and tourism activities within the Vale of Glamorgan will primarily reduce the need to travel for residents.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. The Council will be required to negotiate terms and conditions and enter into appropriate legal agreements e.g. contracts, leases and licences as appropriate in respect of Recommendation 5 and also appropriate agreements e.g. short terms hire agreements, filming licences etc. with users generally of property and facilities under countryside services.
  2. Planning permission may be required by proposed operators and it will be for those businesses to seek the relevant permissions if necessary.
  3. In the event of any disposal of open space, it will be subject to the statutory consultation provisions of S123 and subject to approval, in addition the Council has a statutory and fiduciary duty pursuant to Section 123 of the Local Government Act 1972 to secure the best consideration possible for any property disposal.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. Investment in facilities will create higher levels of use and effective supervision in the evenings, helping to reduce vandalism and antisocial behaviour.
  2. Appropriate charges allow the Council to provide staff at sites which reduce crime and disorder.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. Concessionary rates are identified.
  2. Third party delivery organisations will be required to comply with the Councils Equal Opportunities policies.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. 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.'
  2. It is a Service Plan objective to implement a strategy for tourism, marketing and events to encourage visitors to the Vale and create employment (R140).

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. The following Ward Members covering the Countryside Service sites have been consulted:

Illtyd Ward: Cllr John Drysdale, Cllr Howard Hamilton, Cllr Rhona Probert.

 

Baruc Ward: Cllr Nic Hodges, Cllr Steffan Wiliam

 

Plymouth Ward: Cllr Maureen Kelly - Owen, Cllr A. Clive Williams

 

Sully Ward: Cllr Kevin Mahoney, Cllr Bob Penrose

 

Llandough Ward: Cllr Kate Edmunds

 

Dinas Powis Ward: Cllr Chris Franks, Cllr Val Hartrey, Cllr Keith Hatton, Cllr Christopher J. Williams

 

St Brides Major Ward: Cllr Audrey Preston

 

Elected Member, Councillor Chris Franks, Dinas Powys Ward commented as follows:

 

I would like to discuss the options for Leckwith Woods before I submit any comments.

 

Elected Member, Councillor Rhona Probert, Illtyd Ward commented as follows:

 

I just wanted to mention that Illtyd ward councillors have been looking to increase play opportunities at what is known as The Dump, off Salisbury Road and leading down into Porthkerry Park. As the site has a slope on either side, it might be a good place for a zip wire, skate board track or similar.  I assume you are working with the play officers as well on this.

 

Elected Member, Councillor Bob Penrose, Sully Ward commented as follows:

 

One item that I mentioned previously was that the Council should contact Center Parcs UK @ www.centerparcs.co.uk  to investigate whether they would be interested in a solo or joint venture to establish one of their family resorts on the previous quarry workings and uncultivated land at Cosmeston Lakes and Park, which would bring jobs, tourism and financial benefits to the county, as well as offsetting some of the authorities' costs of operating Cosmeston Lakes and the Medieval Village.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. Economy & Environment.

Background Papers

None.

Contact Officer

Bob Guy, Operational Manager, Regeneration

Officers Consulted

Team Leader, Countryside Services

Legal services (Committee reports)

Strategic Estates Manager

Operational Manager, Accountancy

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas, Managing Director

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