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Agenda Item No 6

 

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Welsh Church Act Estate Committee: 21st July, 2014

 

Report of the Director of Resources.

 

Former Southerndown Home

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To outline the options for the property known as the former Southerndown Home for the Blind and to seek a resolution for the way forward.

Recommendation

THAT Committee consider the options for the future of the property and make a decision in relation to which option to follow. .

Reasons for the Recommendation

1.         To seek a way forward for the future of the property.

2.         In order that the Director of Resources has the necessary authority to progress an appropriate option for the future of the building.

 

Background

2.         Committee will recall that previous attempts to market and dispose of this property during the last few years has produced unacceptable offers or offers from parties who have not been able to proceed to complete the purchase (see history in paragraph 5 below).

3.         Numerous reports have been referred to this Committee since 2009.

4.         The property was vacated circa 2009 by the Former Tenant, the Ethel Rawden Home for the Blind.  The property was decommissioned and secured using metal sitex shutters and CCTV cameras.  During the time the property has suffered from a number of break ins by metal thieves who have stripped the property of any valuable metal.  Security issues are highlighted under paragraph 16 "Crime and Disorder Implications".

5.         It is considered helpful at this stage to set out the history of the decision making in relation to this property:

21st September 2009 - Planning and marketing options were considered for the property following the departure of the Tenant.  Committee resolved to appoint Messrs Hirons Morgan and Yapp as marketing agents to market the property on behalf of the Trust.

12th April 2010 - A marketing update report was provided to Committee and it was resolved to accept the highest bid received following the marketing campaign.

12th July 2010 - Committee resolved that following an update report on the contract negotiations with the proposed purchaser, that the purchaser be given a further period of time to exchange and complete the purchase.

3rd September 2010 - Committee resolved that following a further update report on the contract negotiations with the proposed purchaser, that the purchaser be given a further final extension to complete the purchase. Following this the purchaser withdrew as was unable to secure funding to complete the purchase of the property.

25th July 2011 - Committee received a condition report and planning brief and resolved to re-market the property at the earliest opportunity.

26th September 2011 - Officers presented the bids received following re-marketing. Committee deferred the decision on whether to accept the highest bid pending receiving further information relating to the proposed use of the building.

21st November 2011 - Following consideration of further detail relating to the proposed use of the property, Committee resolved to accept the highest bid.

26th March 2012 - Officers presented an update report following acceptance of the highest bid.  A revised offer was received from the prospective purchaser, which was turned down by Committee.  Officers were instructed to advise the prospective purchaser accordingly. 

1st October 2012 - Following consideration of the Trusts options, Committee resolved to instruct Brinsons Fairfax to re-market the property.  Officers instructed Brinsons Fairfax in accordance with Committees resolution.

6.         During discussion with the new marketing agent it was brought to officer's attention that whilst the property had a County Treasure Status and the Local Planning Authority (LPA) would resist the property's demolition, the agents were aware of examples where buildings with a County Treasure Status had been demolished.  This could mean that any purchaser of the property could benefit from a cleared site at some point in the future but the Trust may not get full value from its asset up front.  These comments were passed onto the Chair of the Trust and the Chair instructed Estates officers to discuss the matter with the LPA.

7.         Since this time, Estates officers have been seeking advice from the LPA.  These discussions have resulted in the Planning Department providing the attached Planning statement (Appendix 1) to assist marketing so to inform both the Trust and potential purchasers. This Committees Chairman has been involved in these discussions and has been kept informed throughout the process.

8.         It is more than likely that each of the past prospective purchasers inability to move forward to completion, was primarily due to the general downturn in the economy during the period that the property was marketed.  Lenders were reluctant to provide funding to anyone other than the PLC companies with extremely good track records during this time.  The small to medium size building companies/developers/house builders suffered as a result of not being able to secure funding for their schemes during this period of economic downturn.  The signs are that the market appears to be improving and it may be a suitable time now to consider remarketing the property. 

Relevant Issues and Options

9.         As a result of the recently received planning advice, there are now several options for Committee to consider in order to resolve a way forward for the property.  The options are set out below. 

10.      Option 1 - Do nothing.  This option is not recommended as the property continues to fall into disrepair and it is now apparent that the vacant property is becoming a nuisance to neighbouring property owners/residents.  Officers have been contacted by a gentleman ringing on behalf of his elderly mother who is owns one of the neighbouring properties, suggesting that his mother is concerned that the deteriorating condition of the property is now affecting the value of her home.  Committee will also be aware (referred to in previous reports) that the property has suffered from unlawful access by persons wishing to cause damage and commit theft.  All such occurrences have been reported to the Trust or the Chair of the Trust, with the latest break in happening during the last few weeks and reported to the Chair of the Trust.  This last occurrence appears to have been made by youths.  Committee will have noted the general state of repair of the property during their site visit this afternoon.    

11.      Option 2 - The Trust re-markets the property for Sale.  Committee will need to consider whether to proceed to market the property with previously appointed local agents Brinsons Fairfax.  Should Committee resolve to re-market the property it is recommended that there should be a claw back clause inserted into any contract for sale which allows the Trust to secure an additional payment should the value of the site increase as a result of purchasers securing a planning consent to demolish the buildings on site following completion of the purchase.  Clawback clauses (whilst quite effective in certain circumstances) can be off putting to purchasers who prefer to know what they are committing to up front, rather than be faced with potential financial penalties sometime in the future.

12.      Option 3 - The Trust applies for consent to demolish the property itself and subsequently markets the cleared site following demolition.  Committee should be aware that as a "County Treasure" the Local Planning Authority's current stance is that they would resist any application to demolish the property (see attached planning statement at Appendix 1).  However should Committee be successful in an application to demolish the buildings on site, the property could either be marketed with the benefit of the successful planning consent or the site could be cleared by the Trust and the vacant site be marketed thereafter.  It is of course not known whether an application to demolish would be successful or not.  It is worth noting also that if the Trust were successful in securing a planning consent for demolition and were to demolish the buildings itself, then a specialist contractor and project manager would need to be appointed by the Trust to handle the demolition.  Support would also be required from a third party to submit the planning application for the demolition in addition.  Any bids for the cleared site would undoubtedly be on a conditional basis, subject to the prospective purchaser gaining a satisfactory planning consent for any new development on site.  This poses a potential risk for the Trust also, in that Planning Consent may not be forthcoming for an alternative development on site (the current use being that of a Care Home).

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

13.      There are ongoing revenue implications in relation to the maintenance of the vacant property following instances of unlawful access. The value of the buildings on site will reduce as the condition of the buildings continues to deteriorate.  There will be resources implications for the Trust whichever option is chosen, but these may include demolition costs, project management costs, costs of planning applications, marketing and agent's costs.  The Trust would receive a capital receipt upon completion of a successful sale. 

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

14.      None directly relating to this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

15.      The Committee have a duty to manage lands held by them in accordance with the scheme of Trust and with Charity Law. 

Crime and Disorder Implications

16.      As the property remains vacant it will present an opportunity for vandals and unlawful occupiers.  This has been made clear in the past when on several occasions intruders unlawfully and forcefully entered the building (by ripping the Sitex panel off ground floor windows).  On one occasion the intruders smashed the intruder alarm and removed the CCTV equipment from the building.  The building was made safe and secure on each occasion however whilst the property remains vacant there is always a risk that it may attract new crime and disorder issues.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

17.      There are no equal opportunities implications.

Corporate/Service Objectives

18.      The sole concern of the Committee is to act in the best interests of the Trust..

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

19.      Since the members of this Committee are acting as Committee Members, independent of other Council resolutions, no further consultation has taken place.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

20.      N/A.

Background Papers

None.

 

Contact Officer

Lorna Cross, Group Estates Officer

Officers Consulted

Mike Walsh, Legal Services - Committee Reports 

 

Responsible Officer:

Sian Davies, Director of Resources

 

 

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