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Agenda Item No. 4

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment): 12th April 2016

Report of the Managing Director

Tourism and Commercial Opportunities at Countryside Service Sites

Purpose of the Report

  1. To report the progress made with regard to the engagement of third party operators in relation to commercial opportunities at Countryside sites.

Recommendation

  1. That the contents of the report be noted.

Reason for the Recommendation

  1. To keep Members apprised of the current situation regarding commercial opportunities at Countryside sites.

Background

  1. The Countryside Service has undergone significant change in recent years, especially the operation of the 3 major sites, Cosmeston lakes and Porthkerry Country Parks, and the Glamorgan Heritage Coast Project. The emphasis has been on efficiency of operation and income raising with prices for commercial activities having been reviewed, especially filming, which has led to significant increases in income. A major restructure has also taken place, facilitating integrated working across sites. The restructure led to substantial savings in excess of savings targets, which have released funding to allow the creation of a new Commercial Opportunities Officer post on a two year contract. This post is designed to facilitate partnerships with the private/third sectors to simultaneously improve the offer to tourists and residents whilst realising significant income for the Council. This income will sustain the operation of and improvements to the sites as funding for public services reduces. It will also help create local employment in tourism and leisure and further changes in respect of increased volunteer activity are now also underway.
  2. The Commercial Opportunities post holder started work June 2015 and is currently working with the private sector to investigate sustainable and feasible options that facilitate new tourism and leisure activities.
  3. A report was submitted to Cabinet (Tourism and Commercial Opportunities at Countryside Service sites C3043 - 11th January 2016) 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 (Appendix 1).

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. The following key sectors have been investigated to identify potential operators directly or indirectly and other commercial opportunities - tourism, outdoor activities, outdoor education, hospitality, leisure and retail.
  2. The officer is currently working with the private sector to investigate sustainable and feasible options which facilitate new tourism and leisure activities, primarily at Country Parks, such as; water based leisure activities, high ropes, zip wires, climbing walls, archery, cycling, field sports, environmental education, tourism based events, weddings and fayres, other innovative activities and retail opportunities.
  3. There have been a number of expressions of interest with regard to developing tourism and commercial opportunities at Countryside Service locations including Leckwith Wood. At all sites, environmental and other impact considerations will need to be taken in to account before any agreement is reached.
  4. 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.
  5. An ''invitation to tender'' document has been submitted to the Sell 2 Wales site and advertised in a number of publications related to the key sectors identified. The dead line for tenders is 11th of April 2016, and shortlisted proposals will be subject to close scrutiny. Once legal documentation has been agreed it is envisaged that some appropriate new service providers will be in operation before the summer season, with others in place later in the year or early in 2017.
  6. Any new activity 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.
  7. Research carried out by the Commercial Opportunities Officer has also highlighted a need for unusual wedding venues within the Vale of Glamorgan. To accommodate any future commercial opportunity the appropriate license may be sought to enable wedding ceremonies to take place at both Cosmeston and Porthkerry Country Park.
  8. In order to facilitate such activities, including one-off activities and events, the Head of Regeneration and Planning has been 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.
  9. Any new activity will improve the Council's leisure offer 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. These proposals seek to raise income from commercial partners.
  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 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. Third party delivery organisations will be required to comply with the Council's 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 report is for information only.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. Ward Members were consulted when the matter was reported to Cabinet.

Background Papers

Cabinet report C3043 - 11th January 2016. Report of the Cabinet Member for Regeneration - Tourism and Commercial Opportunities at Countryside Service sites.

Contact Officer

Marc Cross, Commercial Opportunities Officer

Officers Consulted

Operational Manager, Regeneration

Team Leader, Countryside Service

Legal services (Committee reports)

Operational Manager, Accountancy

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas, Managing Director

 

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