Agenda item

Temporary Uses Update


The Service Lead Place, Assets and Commercialisation presented his report, providing a general update on progress ready for the new season to commence on 1April 2022.  The report included the following points:

·        The temporary planning consent for the existing temporary uses at Queen’s Drive Space expires on 31 March 2022.  On the recommendation of the Delivery Group and following a consultative meeting of Cabinet on 6 October 2021 and subsequent Senior Officer Decision, an application was submitted in January 2022 for permanent planning consent.  This application will be determined in March 2022.

·        The report outlined the investment works being commissioned to be undertaken during February/March 2022 utilising an otherwise underspend in the European Regional Development Fund Welcome Back Fund (ERDF WBF).

·        A bike rack and new gates are also being explored to determine whether deliverability is possible within the timeframe required to utilise the ERDF WBF.

·        The Event Space, Fitness Area and the Big Wheel (proposed for Beach Gardens) have been marketed and expressions of interest will be assessed using a scoring matrix.  Once operators have been selected, the Portfolio Holder and the Delivery Group Chair will be informed.  It has been made clear to interested parties for the Big Wheel that planning consent will be required.

·        Marketing of the Trading Area and Bar has been delayed.  It was recognised that this was frustrating for traders but due to lack of in-house resource, the work had had to be outsourced.  The consultant would make contact and seek to agree a commercial rent with each trader, and bar operator from last year, by the end of February, and we would market one vacant/additional pitch at the same time.  Should any previous operators not wish to at the new rental level, those pitches would be marketed in March.


Discussion and questions from Members included the following:

·        It was clarified that the former car park is not included in the planning application for the Queen’s Drive Space as it is the subject of planning consent granted last year for a period of 2 or 3 years, therefore is not due for renewal at this stage.

·        The cost for the investment works for this season is in the region of £20-30k.  The budget for this is already in place following a change request related to the ERDF WBF, which has been approved. 

·        A Member asked if the new benches being procured as part of the investment works were future-proofed, to ensure best value for money.  The Service Lead Place, Assets and Commercialisation remarked that timber benches were being replaced with recycled composite material type benches which by their nature would be expected to last much longer. 

·        In respect to the events space that had received expressions of interest, it was confirmed that the offers aligned with the vision of wanting something a little different, more variety, and sustainability.

·        A Member asked if there was a contingency in place if it was not possible to procure the gates and bike racks in time to utilise the available ERDF WBF funding.  The Service Lead Place, Assets and Commercialisation responded that once the costs are known, if the ERDF WBF was not suitable, he could liaise with the Strategic Lead Finance to ascertain whether other existing budgets are in place which could be used.

·        Responding to a question about the length of the lease for the fitness space, the Service Lead Place, Assets and Commercialisation stated that a 2 year lease might attract more interest but the current offer is for a 1 year lease.  He commented that since these are temporary uses, it is important that they do not conflict with any longer term plans for the site but 2 years is a term officers could consider.

·        In response to a Member’s question about discussions with other authorities that had seafront regeneration schemes, the Service Lead Place, Assets and Commercialisation stated that conversations had not taken place over the past 12-15 months as the focus had been on temporary uses.  Prior to that, there had been extensive discussions with a range of authorities and consultants, and talks with other councils would resume once there was some clarity on the direction of travel for permanent uses.

·        It was noted that the site for a Big Wheel is a prime seafront location and a Member asked whether there was a back-up plan for an alternative attraction in the event that an operator for the Big Wheel did not come forward.  The Service Lead Place, Assets and Commercialisation responded that the Big Wheel is a concept generally accepted as a good use of that site but if this is not possible, they would explore with Streetscene potential other uses for the site, depending on planning consents.

·        A Member sought to understand how the team arrived at the fees for the sites, and what benchmarking had been done.  The Service Lead Place, Assets and Commercialisation responded that a formal market valuation report had been produced by Torbay Development Agency.  This was a confidential document detailing comparable evidence within Exmouth and elsewhere, including strong evidence from Queen’s Drive itself.  He added that the Council is under a duty to get best consideration and it is important to ensure fairness and consistency across the site and more widely across the district.

·        Concern was expressed about the impact on marketability of the height restrictions for fairground equipment on the events space.  The Service Lead Place, Assets and Commercialisation responded that the height restriction was part of the planning conditions but there had nevertheless been good interest in the site.

·        In response to Member’s question, the Service Lead Place, Assets and Commercialisation commented that it was not known whether all traders would be signed up by 31st March, enabling them to operate for Easter, because only individual traders know how profitable the site is to their business and whether the worth to them of the pitch equals the market value of that pitch.  He added that no deals were done until leases were formally in place so whilst some positive response had already been received, leases still need to be progressed.

·        In view of traders’ feedback from last year, the team were exploring extensions to opening times and opportunities for small events to be held on the front space, to benefit all traders.

·        A Member observed that the play park is very well used by young children and expressed the view that it should be expanded to increase capacity and include equipment for older children.  The Service Lead Place, Assets and Commercialisation recognised that retention and enhancement of the play park needed to be considered when looking at longer term uses for the site.

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