Agenda item

Festival Park Update

To consider the report of the Corporate Director of Regeneration & Community Services.



Having regard to the views expressed by the Proper Officer regarding the public interest test, that on balance, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighed the public interest in disclosing the information and that the report should be exempt.


RESOLVED that the public be excluded whilst this item of business is transacted as it is likely there would be a disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraph 14, Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act, 1972 (as amended).


The report of the Corporate Director of Regeneration and Community Services was submitted for consideration. It was noted that this item was for information purposes only.


At the invitation of the Chair, the Corporate Director spoke to the report, the purpose of which was to update Members with the progress made to date in respect of the Festival Park proposal.  It was noted that a Festival Park Working Group had been established which had met on a number of occasions to consider the interrelated elements of this complex project.  The Working Group had also engaged with relevant stakeholders as part of the project.


The Corporate Director advised that the work outlined in paragraph 2.5 of the report had now largely been completed and concluded by outlining the three options that would be detailed within the final business plan.  This plan would also detail the benefits and dis-benefits of each option.


The views of Members were sought and were summarised below together with the responses provided by the Corporate Director:


-      Concern was expressed that the discussions should have taken place at Council before an offer had been made to the agent.   In addition, Members sought clarity on the value of the offer made and asked how the Council proposed to fund the offer if it was accepted.


The Corporate Director advised that he had been acting under authorised delegated powers to progress the negotiation but the agent was fully aware that any offers made would be subject to Council and Welsh Government approval.  He advised Members of the value of the offer and said that discussions were currently taking place with Welsh Government in relation to the funding methods at present.


The Leader of the Labour Group requested that the cost together with impact on wider priorities in the Regeneration Directorate be included within the business case.  He requested an assurance that if the business case was accepted, that this would not be funded from the departmental budget and that other activities would not suffer as a consequence.


The Corporate Director advised that the business case would focus on the three options referred to earlier and would not relate to any other Council services and activities.  He advised that the business case may demonstrate long term financial benefits but until the final business case was received he would be unable to comment further.


Another Member said he was concerned that the Council was not in a position to proceed because if the offer was accepted the Council would be relying on loans to fund it.  He said that the business plan should have been approved before an offer had been formally made.


The Corporate Director advised that the Council had been open and transparent in its discussions with the agent, who was fully aware of the position that the Council was in i.e. that a decision would have to be made by Full Council and in addition, this would have to be considered by Welsh Government.


-      Concern was expressed that the risks identified as part of implementing the scheme had not been detailed within the report.


The Corporate Director advised that the risks would be included as part of the business case going forward.  He added that the agent had also been made fully aware of the risks involved.


-      Another Member presumed that the current total costs for the consultants and building survey to date was over and above the original estimate that had been outlined in the report at the July meeting of the Council.


The Corporate Director advised Members of the cost of consultants and the building surveys which had needed to be completed as part of due diligence process.  Detailed costs would be provided as part of the business case.


The Member expressed her concern that the sum referred to was over and above the sum agreed at the July Council and asked who had authorised this additional expenditure as she felt this was not acceptable.


The Corporate Director advised that he had used delegated powers to authorise this expenditure as part of the due diligence process.


-      In reply to a concern raised relating to other expressions of interest and potential conflict of interests, the Corporate Director advised that as no other credible offers had been made to the company, the Council had, therefore, made a decision to explore the opportunity.


-      For clarification, the Corporate Director advised that the agent had been informed that the Council would not be intending to provide compensation for the remaining leases at the site – the site would be purchased as a vacant possession.


A Member pointed out that this information should be included within the business case.


-      A Member said that he had been contacted by several concerned residents regarding the proposals for the site and asked if consultation would be taking place with the residents on the Festival Park site.  He also pointed out that the Fishing Club was currently emptying the litter bins located within the park site.


The Corporate Director advised that the management and maintenance arrangements would be one of the areas that would form part of the detailed work being undertaken as part of the site acquisition due diligence.  Adoption of the highways would also form part of this consideration.


With regard to consultation and engagement, this would not be undertaken at this juncture until a decision had been taken in respect of the final business case.


-      Another Member said that time was of the essence and the project needed to be progressed and the complexities unravelled.  He concluded by referring to the economic benefits of bringing the site back into public ownership.


The Executive Member for Regeneration & Economic Development said that a tremendous amount of work had been undertaken in a short space of time and the final business case would be considered at the Special Council on 22nd October.


In reply to a point raised, the Corporate Director said that the topic being dealt with contained commercially confidential information and was deemed to be an exempt item and if shared could damage the Council’s relationship with external parties. He urged Members not to disclose or share any of this information with parties outside of this meeting.


It was unanimously,


RESOLVED, subject to the foregoing, that the report which related to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority) be accepted and the information contained therein be noted.