Agenda Item No
The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Cabinet Meeting: 21 January, 2013
Cabinet Member for Leisure, Parks, Culture and Sports
Cosmeston Lakes Country Park and Medieval Village
Purpose of the Report
1. To consider
options for the future of Cosmeston Lakes Country Park and Medieval
Village and propose specific partnership arrangements.
1. That the
progress on developing the Medieval Village is noted.
2. That Officers
explore the development of a Friends of Cosmeston Lakes Group,
invite participation, and a further report is presented in due
3. That the
Director of Development Services is given delegated powers to enter
into a special arrangement with the Cosmeston Medieval Village
Trust as set out in the report, in consultation with Cabinet Member
for Leisure, Parks, Culture and Sports Development.
4. That the Head of
Legal Services be authorised to enter into a Memorandum of
Understanding with the Cosmeston Medieval Village Trust.
Reasons for the Recommendations
1. To apprise
2. In order to
develop opportunity for community involvement and fund raising.
3. To develop the
4. To allow the
arrangement to be formalised.
2. In June 2012 a
new model for the operation of Cosmeston Medieval Village was put
into place. Previously the Council employed a large team of
staff, organised events at its own financial risk and provided
costumed staff to enhance the Village experience. This was
not sustainable resulting in a very significant financial loss to
the Council. Much of the losses related to core management
staff time and other costs spent on preparation for events which
were entirely weather dependent, and often provided very limited
revenue. In this context, the vast majority of Country Park
visitors did not enjoy the Medieval Village as they elected not to
pay for entry.
3. Under the new
model, a reduced staff core is managed directly by the Country Park
Ranger Service, realising very significant cost savings. The
Village has been opened to Country Park visitors at no charge,
although the visitor experience has been reduced due to fewer
costumed staff. Guided tours continue to be offered to
pre-booked parties, including schools, but Council led events have
been stopped. The Council has set fees for third parties to
deliver events, at their own financial risk.
4. Since the new
model came into being, efforts have concentrated on building the
offer, within more sustainable financial constraints. The new
management and staffing structure has resulted in much improved
maintenance of the site, and it has been possible to re-introduce
guided tours for the general public without pre-booking, albeit at
present limited to weekends. This has been done at no
additional costs and original savings targets are being met.
Entry remains free of charge, with electronic wands in multiple
languages available as an alternative to a tour, at a charge.
Relevant Issues and Options
5. The Village now
forms an integral part of the Country Park as a visitor offer, with
all visitors enjoying free entry if they choose. With fewer
costumed staff on site, it is recognised that interpretation needs
to be improved. In this respect, an application was
successfully submitted to Creative Rural Communities, the Council
led Rural Regeneration Partnership. This grant is for funding
to purchase comprehensive interpretation materials and
signage. Match funding will be found from within existing
budgets. In parallel to this, officers are exploring ways of
generating volunteer activity on site, to enhance the number of
costumed interpreters, with the possibility of allowing some
animals to be reintroduced. This is proving successful so
6. However, key to
building the offer, and in particular to generating tourist spend,
is the events programme. In this respect, officers are
currently engaged in a marketing exercise for the Council’s two
Country Parks, including the Medieval Village. An invitation
is being offered to leisure and other commercial organisations
wishing to provide activities and events at the Country Parks to
enhance user experience. This could be anything from boating
to fayres or, for instance, archery or falconery demonstrations at
the Medieval Village. Whilst this is an opportunity to raise
income, more important in assessing bids will be the suitability of
an event or activity to the environmental setting, and the amount
by which it adds to visitor experience and tourism potential of the
7. Officers have
for some time been exploring options for grants to resource a
re-investment programme in Cosmeston Lakes Country Park as a
whole. There is a need to invest in indoor educational (and
community) space to allow full use of the Country Park for
promoting environmental awareness and education. There would
also be considerable benefits from improving some of the public
realm and adding facilities to allow enjoyment of the Country Park
(e.g. boat storage). I will report further on this in due
8. Proposals set
out above for the improvement of Cosmeston rely on bringing in
external resources; by way of grants, income, volunteer activity,
or simply ideas. A key way of achieving this is via greater
involvement of the community. I am therefore proposing that a
Friends of Cosmeston Lakes Group is formed. If such a body
becomes a charity, it can access grants not available to the
Council, which could provide match funding for larger grants
secured by the Council, for instance, from the Heritage Lottery
9. In respect of
the Medieval Village, a separate similar opportunity has arisen.
As a result of the recent changes at the Village, a community
interest group has formed, wishing to enhance the Village.
Officers have worked closely with and supported this group,
resulting in a formal proposal being received. The group has
now constituted itself into a not for profit limited company,
registered as the Cosmeston Medieval Village Trust.
Trust has presented a range of aspirations for involvement in the
Village. As a starting point, it would like to recruit
volunteers, raise funds and in particular lead on a programme of
core events at the village. Its longer term aspirations
include substantial changes to the Village, involving major
investment and perhaps a more direct role in the running of the
Village. On these latter points, there is no sound resourced
business plan yet in place, and there would be procurement issues
to be addressed before any agreement could even be
considered. Furthermore, the Trust has not yet demonstrated
capacity to deliver. However, there would be benefit in the
Council engaging formally with the Trust on fund raising, volunteer
activity and an events programme only, whilst discussions progress
and the group develops and perhaps demonstrates capacity. I
am therefore recommending that the Council formally recognises the
Trust as a partner and, in essence, plays the same role in the
Village as the Friends of Cosmeston Lakes could for the remainder
of the Country Park.
Essentially recognition would involve:
Entering into a Memorandum of Understanding.
Working together on volunteer recruitment.
The Trust raising funds for the Village.
Special arrangements put in place for events. Currently the
Council passes all financial risk to third parties wishing to
deliver events, charging a fee for the use of the Village. In
respect of the Trust this fee could be reduced substantially, on
the understanding that all financial risk remains with the Trust
but income raised by the Trust is ring fenced for the Village.
The Trust promoting the Village via its own website, etc.
The Council providing an officer as an observer on the Trust’s
Working in partnership on possible grant bids for investment in the
Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)
proposals seek to maximise resources available for Cosmeston Lakes
Country Park and Medieval Village. All proposals set out are
deliverable within existing revenue budgets for the Country Park
and Medieval Village.
Sustainability and Climate Change Implications
13. A key
role of our Country Parks is to facilitate environmental education.
Proposals listed above aim to ensure long term financial
sustainability of the site.
Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)
Council will need to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with
the proposed Medieval Village Trust to clearly set out any
arrangement with the Trust on matters as identified in paragraphs
10 and 11 of this report.
Crime and Disorder Implications
are no crime and disorder implications as a result of this
Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language
are no equal opportunity implications as a result of this
Plan action PT/A91 seeks to improve facilities and opportunities
for participation in Country Parks.
Policy Framework and Budget
18. This is
a matter for Executive decision.
Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)
Members have been consulted on the content of this report.
Relevant Scrutiny Committee
Bob Guy, Operational Manager for Countryside
and Economic Projects.
Legal Services - Committee Reports
Country Parks Manager
Operational Manager, Tourism and Leisure
Rob Thomas, Director of Development