Agenda Item No.
THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL
CABINET: 16TH JUNE, 2014
REFERENCE FROM SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT): 20TH MAY, 2014
BARRY ISLAND BEACH HUTS – RENTAL POLICY (CM – RIPT) –
Prior to discussion the Chairman advised that the report before the Committee was a revised version to the one which had been e-mailed to Barry Members on 13th May 2014. It had been slightly amended following consultation with the Director of Visible Services and Housing with regard to more suitable opening times for the beach huts.
In presenting the report the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation stated that as part of the Eastern Promenade contracted works at Barry Island the Council would be constructing 25 beach huts in an effort to increase the attractiveness of the Eastern Promenade. Regeneration outcomes in terms of the rental of the beach huts’ would also be put into the future regeneration of the Island thereby increasing its vitality. The huts would also provide an opportunity for some people to hire them for commercial use. The report recommended that following the close of the season a report be presented to the Scrutiny Committee and Cabinet on the operation of the Beach Hut scheme. Such a trial was seen to be a more sensible approach as the scheme was a new venture and the Council needed to find out the best way of making the scheme work. The Cabinet Member further stated that her intention of bringing the report before the Scrutiny Committee was to have a considered discussion and to highlight the proposed scheme to residents of the Vale of Glamorgan.
The Director of Development Services tabled for Members information some images of the site and referred in detail to the makeup of the huts. He advised that one of the huts would house water and power supply and would be fitted with sink units. The 12 beach nuts nearest the Eastern Shelter were to be larger in form with a size of 2.1m x 2.4m. The remaining 12 smaller huts would be 2.1m x 1.5m in size and had been designed as changing rooms for the beach. These would have light availability but would not actually have a power supply. All the beach huts were of block-work construction and to be externally finished in a multi-coloured resin / plastic based wood replacement cladding. Members were informed that the huts would not be fitted with any specific furniture although the pilot study could allow for customer needs to be determined via a questionnaire. Some Members considered that if the huts were furnished with significant facilities this may lose the charm of the facilities.
The Project Board had discussed the options for managing the units and had considered :
· Selling the units on the open market
· Marketing the opportunity of managing the units by a third party or
· The Council marketing and managing the units itself.
The preference of the Project Board that was set up to manage the Barry Island Public Realm Programme was for the Council to retain the units and control the marketing and rental thereof. This would allow complete control of the uses and the flexibility to learn from the pilot project and implement variations to operations speedily. In considering the sale option, the Project Board could not be certain that prospective purchasers would actually utilise their units on a regular basis throughout the season and they did not wish to see the units less than fully utilised. The third party management option had also been considered in some detail but again it was felt that this option might result in limited utilisation of the units.
With regard to the smaller units the proposal was to rent them out on a daily basis and for the larger units the option appeared to be a daily rental, a weekly or part-weekly rental or a seasonal rental. In undertaking research in relation to how other local authorities managed a similar service, it was noted that the majority appeared to be operated on the basis of annual leases, seasonal leases or ground leases, but in many cases the authorities were managing hundreds of units. In the cases where authorities rented out a daily and or weekly basis the daily rental charges varied between £11 and £60. Some also allowed bookings for two or three days or weekly. In referring to seasonal bookings, it was considered that this held the risk of less than full use and that rental arrangements should be limited to weekly bookings. The recommendations were therefore that the charges be set at £15 a day for the smaller units and £30 a day for the larger units, with weekly bookings of the larger units being allowed.
In referring to opening times, following consultation with the Director of Visible Services and Housing, the aim was to staff the new toilet throughout the season from 1st April to 30th September with a rotating shift from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. The new toilet facilities would be open at 10 a.m. (the existing toilet had been opened earlier but was not staffed), and this would give the Council three hours to clean the toilets and the new beach huts which could also open at 10 a.m. The beach huts would close at 8 p.m. at the latest, though it was considered that most users would be out by 6 p.m. However, it could be possible for them to be open longer when events took place. The keys could be returned to the staff member on shift and he or she could ensure that the huts are vacated at the correct time to avoid the potential for any anti social behaviour. Cleaning would be undertaken in the morning but only on handover i.e. if the hut was a weekly booking no cleaning would take place until the end of the hire.
The bookings could be made in a similar way to the system that was currently in place for special collections. Payments and bookings would be via the contact centre and staff would be issued with a print off each morning indicating the bookings for that day/week. Bookings could also be taken on the day but users would have to do this again via the contact centre.
The report also highlighted that from the outset the intention had been to allow some form of commercial use to operate in the larger beach huts. It had also initially been envisaged that they would be let for this purpose on a number of set dates in the calendar. If however, demand proved greater the policy could be amended. The intention would also be to seek interested parties via online marketing and again with the offer on a first come first serve basis. Various restrictions would also need to operate and, for example, the selling of food would not be permitted. Information in relation to the beach hut rental policy and management issues such as parking arrangements at Nell’s Point would also be published on the Council’s website.
The Director for Visible Services and Housing, referring to the proposals to rent the beach huts from 10 a.m. advised that this could be even earlier. A number of operational arrangements also needed to be developed i.e. in relation to online bookings arrangements being made and to telephone bookings with the Contact Centre. He agreed that the beach hut scheme was an exciting project and following the pilot a report would be presented to the Committee and Cabinet with details of what worked well together with areas for improvement if any.
During the discussion a number of issues were raised by Members of the Committee, in particular if one of the huts was not occupied on a particular day would members of the public who happened to be passing that day be able to hire a hut. It was confirmed that a member of staff would be on hand in the summer season to ensure that this arrangement could be made. The member of the public could telephone to book the hut and confirmation could be given to the officer present in order for the keys to be handed over. All Members agreed that a flexible approach was required in order that such instances could be catered for. Other issues discussed related to what type of key could be provided, how they were to be returned, the cost of purchasing keys if mislaid, questionnaires to be produced and handed to each occupier to include suggestions for improvements; insurance against damage etc. Officers again advised that these issues would be addressed in detail when considering the rental policy.
Councillor N.P Hodges , not a member of the Committee, but granted permission to speak, although in full support of the scheme stated that a no drinking policy should be incorporated into any rental policy and that the provision of enough litter bins with aesthetically pleasing designs should be provided in the vicinity. He also suggested the possibility of naming the huts as opposed to numbering them.
The Cabinet Member for Environment and Visible Services, with permission to speak, stated that he also welcomed the beach hut scheme and the provision of the new toilet block which he considered was essential for visitors. Although aware that operational issues and a rental policy needed to be developed however, urged that CCTV to cover the area be considered in future budgets.
The Chairman referred to the issue of car parking at the site which had been raised at the agenda conference for the meeting with the view that if anyone did purchase a beach hut, could there be provision that they also paid for a car park space at the same time however, it had been suggested that this could be a matter for consideration in the future. The Committee also agreed that the recommendation that Council retain control of the scheme was essential in order for the Council to assess the scheme and manage it for the residents of the Vale of Glamorgan. The size of some of the huts was however, considered to be small, but it was suggested that if the scheme was successful the possibility of future beach huts being placed around the Vale was promising.
The Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation informed the Committee that she had also been regularly corresponding with residents on social media who were full of praise for the scheme. Members praised the officers and the Cabinet Members for bringing forward such a scheme and recognised that a number of issues had already been raised and would be considered when the policy was developed.
All Members of the Committee concurred that they were in support of the proposals although aware that a rental policy needed to be developed and that a trial over the coming season was essential in order to iron out any issues
The Leader of the Council, with permission to speak, formally recorded his thanks to the Cabinet Members, the officers and the teams who had been fully involved in the project to date. He also reiterated his concerns that if the beach huts were let out on more than weekly basis, some people may not turn up others may see that they were empty and this would not be a good use of the facility. In referring to water supply being available in only one of the huts Members were informed that the matter had been considered but that in light of potential flooding issues that could arise it had been agreed not to provide this facility in all the huts. In conclusion he suggested that when the rental policy was drawn up that it include the provision for officers in conjunction with the relevant Cabinet Member to be able to amend the policy as required. He also advised all present that the whole scheme was to be developed within current resources.
Having fully considered the report the Committee subsequently unanimously
T H A T the Scrutiny Committee’s comments and the following recommendations be referred to Cabinet :-
(i) T H A T the Barry Island Beach Huts Rental Policy as outlined in paragraphs 6 to 13 of the report be approved.
(ii) T H A T the Beach Huts be advertised and rented in accordance with the above.
(iii) T H A T the Director of Development Services be tasked with producing a Rental Policy Document based on (i) above.
(iv) T H A T, following the close of the season, a report be presented to the
Scrutiny Committee and Cabinet on the operation of the Beach Hut
Reasons for recommendation
(i) For Cabinet’s consideration.
(ii) In order that tourists and visitors to the Island understand the terms of beach hut rental put in place.
(iii) That the beach huts contribute to the vitality and vibrancy of the area and contribute financial to future regeneration initiatives.
(iv) To update Committee and Cabinet.
Attached as Appendix – Report to Scrutiny Committee: 20th May, 2014