Top

Top

 

Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment): 18th April, 2012

 

Report of the Director of Environmental and Economic Regeneration

 

Cosmeston Medieval Village

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             Councillor M.R. Wilson submitted a Request for Consideration in respect of the Medieval Village at Cosmeston.  Specifically the request seeks

  • the justification for the cuts made to the Village
  • a management plan for the Village
  • working in partnership with others.

Recommendation

That the report is noted.

Reason for the Recommendation

The report is for information.

 

Background

2.             In February 2011 the Council agreed a range of cost cutting measures.  One measure was a change to the operational model for the Medieval Village at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park.  This change was to realise an annual saving of £60,000.

Relevant Issues and Options

3.             Cosmeston Medieval Village provides a tourism and educational facility attached to the Country Park.  It is a modern reconstruction of a medieval village and has been populated by costumed staff and animals which were authentic for the setting.  The site has directly provided 7 events each year, based around historic themes.

4.             Unlike most privately run tourism attractions, it has operated at a very substantial loss for many years.  This annual loss amounted to circa £140,000 prior to review, a cash loss of £100,000.  Whilst operating at such a loss, it has taken potential business from commercial tourism operators in the area.

5.             Events at the Village have been delivered directly by the Council, organised by the small team of staff.  All financial risk has been carried by the Council, as have the losses.

6.             The operation sits in the context of the Museum of Welsh Life at St. Fagans, which has a Celtic village set in a broad 'day out' of activities and events, funded directly by Welsh Government.  St. Fagans is open free of charge to visitors.  This makes it extremely difficult to raise additional income at the Village, whilst the labour intensive operation keeps costs high.

7.             With costs at the Village being 3 to 4 times more than income, the effect of price inflation alone means it is currently necessary to raise income at around 15% a year just to keep up with growing costs, but this needs to be done whilst incurring no new costs such as marketing.

8.             The Country Park as a whole has 200,000 and 300,000 visitors each year.  Of these, only 20,000 chose to pay for entry to the Medieval Village.  The remainder are effectively excluded by the pay barrier.

9.             In the context of the above, it was considered that the most effective way of both saving money and enhancing visits for the majority of visitors was to remodel.  This remodelling has involved removing some of the major financial costs and risks to the Council, including some staff and events delivery.  This produces significant savings.  After allowing for reduced income, the estimated savings are estimated at at least £50,000 to £60,000 per year.

10.        The new management regime is based on

  • free entry
  • loss of the 2 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.

11.        The museum area has already been enhanced using a grant from Creative Rural Communities, the Council's Rural Regeneration Partnership.  Similarly, audio wands were 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, suggesting that visitors very much prefer the audio wand option.  Dialogue on wands is in several languages, targeted at the tourism sector.  The loss of guided tours for the general public will, therefore, hardly result in any reduction of such tours.

12.        One of the more significant changes to the management relates to events.  Previously, a great deal of staff/management time was spent on event planning in addition to attendance, whilst the events lost a significant amount of money.  Events will only happen under the new regime if led by third parties.  These could be the various historic/re-enactor groups who previously took part in events, and interest has already been received from some of these.  Critically, the Council will work with groups, facilitate events but not lead, manage or take financial risks.  In some cases, it is possible that the site could be used for non historic events.  A conservative estimate has been made of income generation at the site under the new regime, so it is likely that the costs of the site to the taxpayer will be further reduced.

13.        Currently the long term plan is to see the Country Park and Village operated as a single entity, in an efficient way.  It is hope that further investment in the park, including educational facilities and visitor interpretation can materialise in the medium term and discussions are ongoing in respect of grants etc.  The involvement of third parties in delivering services will be encouraged across the Country Park where services can enhance visitor experiences and ideally raise income, but most importantly, whilst respecting the special environment of the location.  This would apply to the Medieval Village if any group expressed an interest in delivering appropriate services with a viable and resourced proposition and a clear business plan.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment and Climate Change, if appropriate)

14.        These are set out in the body of the report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

15.        None specific to this report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

16.        None specific to this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

17.        None specific to this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

18.        This initiative is compatible with service directives and agreed savings targets

Policy Framework and Budget

19.        Within Policy Framework and Budget

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

20.        Nothing specific to this report

Background Papers

None

Contact Officer

Bob Guy, (01446 704623)

 

Officers Consulted

None

 

Responsible Officer:

Rob Quick, Director of Environmental and Economic Regeneration

 

Share on facebook Like us on Facebook