Riverside Considerations

Batheaston Riverside Project

 

Background

On 23rd March 2015 Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES) approved the Community Asset Transfer (CAT) of Batheaston Gardens, Car Park and WC block to Batheaston Parish Council (BPC). Details of this decision are available on B&NES website under Executive Forward Plan Reference E2752.

http://democracy.bathnes.gov.uk/mgIssueHistoryHome.aspx?IId=17500&PlanId=439

 

This decision had not apparently been received by BPC and was advised to GR, RM, and NC during a fact-finding meeting with Keith McCombie Estates Surveyor held in his office on 8th July 2015.

 

Following a resolution at BPC 21st September 2010 the previous BPC had applied for the CAT to enable development of the area as part of the wider Village Centre project.

http://batheaston.example-websites.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/files/pdfs/Council_Resolution_on_Village_Centre.pdf

 

Notes of a Lease meeting on 2nd February 2015 show agreement to engage with B&NES to affect a CAT (MT has copy)

 

Initially B&NES proposed a Heads of Terms (HOT) for this CAT and advice was received from Dan Shaw of Stone King who drafted an alternative HOT and raised a number of issues that showed be examined before undertaking the CAT. It is understood that the CAT approval is based on the original HOT. http://democracy.bathnes.gov.uk/documents/s34811/Appendix 1 Heads of Terms for CAT to Batheaston Parish Council.pdf

 

BPC also commissioned D R Mills & Assoc’s to prepare a Schedule of Condition for the area under consideration as an asset transfer.  (MT has copy)

 

It is understood that the land may be subject to conditions of use under a covenant when it was gifted to the Council by previous owners; details of this need to be examined. (MT investigating)

 

The current BPC now have to decide whether or not to proceed with this CAT under existing or perhaps modified terms and this paper endeavours to identify some of the issues that may need to be considered in reaching a decision.

 

Issues to be considered.

1. Is the Village Centre resolution still appropriate and is it deliverable.

2. Is development of the Riverside area beneficial to the village?

3. Does the CAT present a benefit to the community of Batheaston.

4. Can those benefits be achieved by another route?

5. What are the risks of not securing the long-term future of this area?

6. What are the risks associated with ownership and are they manageable.

7. Can the 3 areas be considered independently or collectively?

8. Are there stages that could be delivered in advance under licence?

9. Should the Riverside area be developed in partnership with commercial interests?

10. How does the Riverside fit into the Avon recreational concept?

 

1 Is the Village Centre resolution still appropriate and is it deliverable?

The original resolution referred to an interpretation of the 2009 Vision Plan survey that introduced new concepts including relocation of the football field, creating a new car park entrance, prioritizing the High Street for pedestrians, changing the road layout at Fiveways and expansion of the buildings to accommodate commercial activities.

 

Given the financial constraints advised to us by B&NES it is highly improbable that the scheme as previously envisioned is deliverable within the next ten years.

 

Action – discuss and agree if a new resolution should be passed that focuses on a deliverable improvement to the Riverside area.

 

2  Is development of the Riverside area beneficial to the village.

A – toilet block

BPC have resolved that the Disabled Toilet should be opened as a pay facility under control of BPC at the earliest opportunity regardless of the other plans for the area.

The new footbridge has increased the number of visitors to our Village and will improve the commercial viability of the businesses currently operating in the High Street.

Previous information on usage confirms the need for a toilet facility and operating costs are estimated at £300 per month

Action – obtain a license from Banes to reopen this facility        

 

B – 1 – Car Park

The High Street shops are used by most of our community and this parking area is necessary to maintain the current level of use by customers.

Expansion of the parking area may be desirable but is a second stage that requires further investigation at a later date.

Access to the car park is presently satisfactory and any expense of moving as was proposed can be avoided.

The survey states that car park and roads are in generally good condition and no major expense is anticipated

See point 5 for future risks

Action – maintain free limited time parking for residents and visitors

 

B – 2 – Grassed surroundings to car park

This area is underutilized at present with fringes heavily overgrown with nettles and brambles but has considerable potential for recreational development particularly to allow use of the River Avon for water activities.

Action – improve grassed areas and improve river access and valley views

 

C – Batheaston Gardens

This formal walled garden is underused at present and is a major potential asset to our community.

Garden maintenance is provided by B&NES on a limited basis and certain areas are clearly neglected.

Increased footfall by residents and visitors will benefit local businesses and improve social interaction at all ages.

As well as being a focus point for the village it could become a destination for walkers and cyclists using the new bridge from Bathampton Meadows.

Action – improve visual appearance and attractiveness of the Garden area.

 

3 Does the CAT present a benefit to the community of Batheaston?

The proposed CAT subject to satisfactory terms will allow all of this area to be under the direct control of BPC and secure the advantages shown above in 2 as well as allowing further improvements to be considered.

Answer – YES

 

4 Can those benefits be achieved by another route?

A – toilet block could be opened and operated at a cost to BPC under a licence from B&NES subject to their continued agreement

 

B – Car Park and surrounding grassed area are presently a cost to B&NES and that use may not be secured if Banes choose to withdraw support

 

C – Gardens are maintained by B&NES and this internal cost was advised as £10000 per year for maintenance of the whole area. If support were withdrawn there would be a cost to BPC or the alternative of a decline in attraction and use if not maintained.

Covenanted restrictions need to be examined

Answer – NO the existing and potentially improved future benefits cannot be secured with certainty under present arrangements

 

5 What are the risks of not securing the long-term future of this area?

B&NES could dispose of the car park and toilet area to commercial interests or impose charges to enjoy present facilities

The Garden may also be sold off unless there is covenanted protection in which case the maintenance costs may have to be addressed.

All this area could be considered as prime riverside development potential although the likelihood of this is low due to current Green Belt status and it’s positioning in an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Answer – There is a risk to this being available on a permanent basis as an asset to our community

 

6 What are the risks associated with ownership and are they manageable

Ownership is likely to mean a long-term lease at zero rent but with liabilities for maintaining the existing condition by periodic maintenance.

A lease with a requirement to restore all areas to an as new condition should be avoided.

Structural integrity of walls and hard landscaping is reported in the survey and could either be improved by B&NES prior to a CAT or the present condition be clearly defined and agreed as the standard to be maintained by BPC for the future.

Action – Meet on site with B&NES Estates Surveyor to agree options.

Opening up the river frontage may require safety considerations for users and advice should be sought to quantify that risk and identify proper preventive measures and practices.

Action – consult with River experts

Riparian responsibilities are likely to transfer to BPC for the length of the river frontage. In practice this may be a low risk but the upside potential costs of bank repair or pollution need to be identified.

Action – discuss with B&NES to see if the risk for this small length of frontage could be remain as part of their larger responsibility.

 

7 Can the 3 areas be considered independently or collectively?

Other than a licence to operate one of the toilets any further plans for that building are probably linked to the car park because of access so a transfer of the toilet block alone would need to secure access rights.

The Garden could be a separate transfer but again access rights would have to be considered.

In practice it seems that the three areas should be considered together provided terms are acceptable.

We were also advised that separation into one two or three smaller CATs would require resubmission to obtain B&NES approval and probable delays and possible refusal

Answer – Probably not a realistic option.

 

8 Are there stages that could be delivered in advance under licence?

BPC operated the toilet block under a licence until last year when B&NES funding to support this was withdrawn.

Provided BPC accept the cost of operating this facility there seems no reason why a licence could not be speedily re-instated and the facilities brought back into use.

Current structural and mechanical condition needs to be appraised and there may be an immediate and non-recoverable cost to ensure the facilities are in proper working order and insurance cover is obtained.

The door would need replacing with a pay and disabled access arrangement which will have an up front cost that may not be recoverable.

Responsibility for maintaining the garden and grassed areas could be done by BPC with a contribution from B&NES from the savings they would make but given the history of funding withdrawal for the toilets this income stream should not be relied upon indefinitely.

Action – Progress opening of Disabled Toilet for general use under licence.

 

9 Should the Riverside area be developed in partnership with commercial interests?

Refreshments, bike and boat hire have been mentioned before with a view to obtaining revenue for the maintenance and benefit to the community. Local businesses would need to be consulted because of potential impact on their viability

Whilst a seasonal pop up facility may be feasible any larger scale commercial interest such as a permanent café would require building extensions that would need careful consideration and probably should not be assumed at this time.

There are also potential ties and commitments with any commercial partners that could reduce the get-out potential should BPC want to withdraw from the CAT lease at some future date.

Answer – probably not at this time other than on a seasonal basis.

 

10 How does the Riverside fit into the Avon recreational concept?

We understand there are plans to develop the Avon valley as a recreational facility but details are not known.

Action – investigate this potential

 

Recommendations

  • · discuss these options at BPC to establish if there is a consensus to develop the Riverside generally for the benefit of our community                                                                                                                        BPC
  • · obtain a licence to open the toilet block at the earliest opportunity                                                                     NPC
  • · meet on site with B&NES Estates to examine the survey report and identify urgent safety works and other pre CAT works and agree what standards are appropriate to apply to any future repair and maintenance liabilities                                                                                                                                                     GPC
  • · start preparations to negotiate a HOT with B&NES based upon legal advice received and other considerations and subject to BPC approval                                                                                                                             GPC
  • · develop a strategic plan for enhanced community and recreation facilities at the Riverside and any associated facilities                                                                                                                                                                  SPC
  • · meantime start improvements to the gardens and grassed areas using volunteers and supplemented with handymen support                                                                                                                              HFL
  • · based upon above findings prepare a business plan with appropriate financial modeling of best and worst case scenarios before final approvals                                                                                                                            GPC
  • · establish a sub-committee of the SPC to manage this project                                                               BPC

 

NC draft 1 15 July 2015

Batheaston Riverside Project

 

Background

On 23rd March 2015 Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES) approved the Community Asset Transfer (CAT) of Batheaston Gardens, Car Park and WC block to Batheaston Parish Council (BPC). Details of this decision are available on B&NES website under Executive Forward Plan Reference E2752.

http://democracy.bathnes.gov.uk/mgIssueHistoryHome.aspx?IId=17500&PlanId=439

 

This decision had not apparently been received by BPC and was advised to GR, RM, and NC during a fact-finding meeting with Keith McCombie Estates Surveyor held in his office on 8th July 2015.

 

Following a resolution at BPC 21st September 2010 the previous BPC had applied for the CAT to enable development of the area as part of the wider Village Centre project.

http://batheaston.example-websites.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/files/pdfs/Council_Resolution_on_Village_Centre.pdf

 

Notes of a Lease meeting on 2nd February 2015 show agreement to engage with B&NES to affect a CAT (MT has copy)

 

Initially B&NES proposed a Heads of Terms (HOT) for this CAT and advice was received from Dan Shaw of Stone King who drafted an alternative HOT and raised a number of issues that showed be examined before undertaking the CAT. It is understood that the CAT approval is based on the original HOT. http://democracy.bathnes.gov.uk/documents/s34811/Appendix 1 Heads of Terms for CAT to Batheaston Parish Council.pdf

 

BPC also commissioned D R Mills & Assoc’s to prepare a Schedule of Condition for the area under consideration as an asset transfer.  (MT has copy)

 

It is understood that the land may be subject to conditions of use under a covenant when it was gifted to the Council by previous owners; details of this need to be examined. (MT investigating)

 

The current BPC now have to decide whether or not to proceed with this CAT under existing or perhaps modified terms and this paper endeavours to identify some of the issues that may need to be considered in reaching a decision.

 

Issues to be considered.

1. Is the Village Centre resolution still appropriate and is it deliverable.

2. Is development of the Riverside area beneficial to the village?

3. Does the CAT present a benefit to the community of Batheaston.

4. Can those benefits be achieved by another route?

5. What are the risks of not securing the long-term future of this area?

6. What are the risks associated with ownership and are they manageable.

7. Can the 3 areas be considered independently or collectively?

8. Are there stages that could be delivered in advance under licence?

9. Should the Riverside area be developed in partnership with commercial interests?

10. How does the Riverside fit into the Avon recreational concept?

 

1 Is the Village Centre resolution still appropriate and is it deliverable?

The original resolution referred to an interpretation of the 2009 Vision Plan survey that introduced new concepts including relocation of the football field, creating a new car park entrance, prioritizing the High Street for pedestrians, changing the road layout at Fiveways and expansion of the buildings to accommodate commercial activities.

 

Given the financial constraints advised to us by B&NES it is highly improbable that the scheme as previously envisioned is deliverable within the next ten years.

 

Action – discuss and agree if a new resolution should be passed that focuses on a deliverable improvement to the Riverside area.

 

2  Is development of the Riverside area beneficial to the village.

A – toilet block

BPC have resolved that the Disabled Toilet should be opened as a pay facility under control of BPC at the earliest opportunity regardless of the other plans for the area.

The new footbridge has increased the number of visitors to our Village and will improve the commercial viability of the businesses currently operating in the High Street.

Previous information on usage confirms the need for a toilet facility and operating costs are estimated at £300 per month

Action – obtain a license from Banes to reopen this facility        

 

B – 1 – Car Park

The High Street shops are used by most of our community and this parking area is necessary to maintain the current level of use by customers.

Expansion of the parking area may be desirable but is a second stage that requires further investigation at a later date.

Access to the car park is presently satisfactory and any expense of moving as was proposed can be avoided.

The survey states that car park and roads are in generally good condition and no major expense is anticipated

See point 5 for future risks

Action – maintain free limited time parking for residents and visitors

 

B – 2 – Grassed surroundings to car park

This area is underutilized at present with fringes heavily overgrown with nettles and brambles but has considerable potential for recreational development particularly to allow use of the River Avon for water activities.

Action – improve grassed areas and improve river access and valley views

 

C – Batheaston Gardens

This formal walled garden is underused at present and is a major potential asset to our community.

Garden maintenance is provided by B&NES on a limited basis and certain areas are clearly neglected.

Increased footfall by residents and visitors will benefit local businesses and improve social interaction at all ages.

As well as being a focus point for the village it could become a destination for walkers and cyclists using the new bridge from Bathampton Meadows.

Action – improve visual appearance and attractiveness of the Garden area.

 

3 Does the CAT present a benefit to the community of Batheaston?

The proposed CAT subject to satisfactory terms will allow all of this area to be under the direct control of BPC and secure the advantages shown above in 2 as well as allowing further improvements to be considered.

Answer – YES

 

4 Can those benefits be achieved by another route?

A – toilet block could be opened and operated at a cost to BPC under a licence from B&NES subject to their continued agreement

 

B – Car Park and surrounding grassed area are presently a cost to B&NES and that use may not be secured if Banes choose to withdraw support

 

C – Gardens are maintained by B&NES and this internal cost was advised as £10000 per year for maintenance of the whole area. If support were withdrawn there would be a cost to BPC or the alternative of a decline in attraction and use if not maintained.

Covenanted restrictions need to be examined

Answer – NO the existing and potentially improved future benefits cannot be secured with certainty under present arrangements

 

5 What are the risks of not securing the long-term future of this area?

B&NES could dispose of the car park and toilet area to commercial interests or impose charges to enjoy present facilities

The Garden may also be sold off unless there is covenanted protection in which case the maintenance costs may have to be addressed.

All this area could be considered as prime riverside development potential although the likelihood of this is low due to current Green Belt status and it’s positioning in an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Answer – There is a risk to this being available on a permanent basis as an asset to our community

 

6 What are the risks associated with ownership and are they manageable

Ownership is likely to mean a long-term lease at zero rent but with liabilities for maintaining the existing condition by periodic maintenance.

A lease with a requirement to restore all areas to an as new condition should be avoided.

Structural integrity of walls and hard landscaping is reported in the survey and could either be improved by B&NES prior to a CAT or the present condition be clearly defined and agreed as the standard to be maintained by BPC for the future.

Action – Meet on site with B&NES Estates Surveyor to agree options.

Opening up the river frontage may require safety considerations for users and advice should be sought to quantify that risk and identify proper preventive measures and practices.

Action – consult with River experts

Riparian responsibilities are likely to transfer to BPC for the length of the river frontage. In practice this may be a low risk but the upside potential costs of bank repair or pollution need to be identified.

Action – discuss with B&NES to see if the risk for this small length of frontage could be remain as part of their larger responsibility.

 

7 Can the 3 areas be considered independently or collectively?

Other than a licence to operate one of the toilets any further plans for that building are probably linked to the car park because of access so a transfer of the toilet block alone would need to secure access rights.

The Garden could be a separate transfer but again access rights would have to be considered.

In practice it seems that the three areas should be considered together provided terms are acceptable.

We were also advised that separation into one two or three smaller CATs would require resubmission to obtain B&NES approval and probable delays and possible refusal

Answer – Probably not a realistic option.

 

8 Are there stages that could be delivered in advance under licence?

BPC operated the toilet block under a licence until last year when B&NES funding to support this was withdrawn.

Provided BPC accept the cost of operating this facility there seems no reason why a licence could not be speedily re-instated and the facilities brought back into use.

Current structural and mechanical condition needs to be appraised and there may be an immediate and non-recoverable cost to ensure the facilities are in proper working order and insurance cover is obtained.

The door would need replacing with a pay and disabled access arrangement which will have an up front cost that may not be recoverable.

Responsibility for maintaining the garden and grassed areas could be done by BPC with a contribution from B&NES from the savings they would make but given the history of funding withdrawal for the toilets this income stream should not be relied upon indefinitely.

Action – Progress opening of Disabled Toilet for general use under licence.

 

9 Should the Riverside area be developed in partnership with commercial interests?

Refreshments, bike and boat hire have been mentioned before with a view to obtaining revenue for the maintenance and benefit to the community. Local businesses would need to be consulted because of potential impact on their viability

Whilst a seasonal pop up facility may be feasible any larger scale commercial interest such as a permanent café would require building extensions that would need careful consideration and probably should not be assumed at this time.

There are also potential ties and commitments with any commercial partners that could reduce the get-out potential should BPC want to withdraw from the CAT lease at some future date.

Answer – probably not at this time other than on a seasonal basis.

 

10 How does the Riverside fit into the Avon recreational concept?

We understand there are plans to develop the Avon valley as a recreational facility but details are not known.

Action – investigate this potential

 

Recommendations

  • · discuss these options at BPC to establish if there is a consensus to develop the Riverside generally for the benefit of our community                                                                                                                        BPC
  • · obtain a licence to open the toilet block at the earliest opportunity                                                                     NPC
  • · meet on site with B&NES Estates to examine the survey report and identify urgent safety works and other pre CAT works and agree what standards are appropriate to apply to any future repair and maintenance liabilities                                                                                                                                                     GPC
  • · start preparations to negotiate a HOT with B&NES based upon legal advice received and other considerations and subject to BPC approval                                                                                                                             GPC
  • · develop a strategic plan for enhanced community and recreation facilities at the Riverside and any associated facilities                                                                                                                                                                  SPC
  • · meantime start improvements to the gardens and grassed areas using volunteers and supplemented with handymen support                                                                                                                              HFL
  • · based upon above findings prepare a business plan with appropriate financial modeling of best and worst case scenarios before final approvals                                                                                                                            GPC
  • · establish a sub-committee of the SPC to manage this project                                                               BPC

 

NC draft 1 15 July 2015