Pembrokeshire County Council is looking to buy the Riverside Shopping Centre, Wilkinson’s store and Perrot’s Road carpark in Haverfordwest, to support its ambitious regeneration programme for the town centre.
Cabinet approved the acquisition proposal on Monday (30th November) on condition that it is purchased is at less than market valuation.
While that process is ongoing, Cllr Paul Miller has moved to explain the rationale behind it and discuss some of the issues which have been raised.
“I’m really pleased that this proposal has generated interest and I would like to try and answer for the public some of the questions which have come up so far,” said Cllr Miller, Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Economic Development.
“I’d also like to try and explain how our plans for the Riverside area fit within our wider Economic Development Plan for Pembrokeshire.”
Why is the Council doing this?
“The Council has already developed a wide-reaching plan for the transformation of Haverfordwest.
“We’ve opened Glan-yr-Afon library and cultural centre, returning footfall to the town centre, we’re soon to start on site on Western Quayside – the former Ocky White building – creating an amazing food and beverage hub.
“We’re working on linking Bridge Street directly to the Castle and are committed to the wholesale redevelopment of the town’s unfit multi-storey car park.
“However, right in the middle of all those project sites, there is a fairly enormous space (in excess of 3 hectares) currently in the ownership of a single third party and that’s the Riverside Shopping Centre.
“Securing control of this site makes sense on a number of levels – not least because it enhances our ability to deliver on a whole-town plan. It also links directly to sites already in the Council’s ownership.”
If it goes ahead, how much will the acquisition cost?
“While negotiations are ongoing, and it should be stressed it may still not prove possible to agree a purchase price acceptable to both parties, I do not expect the Council’s contribution to the purchase price to exceed £700,000 including land tax charges.
“There are some maintenance liabilities we’ve identified which will be in addition to that sum.
“This level of capital funding is available from within the Council’s Property Investment Fund and so will not require additional borrowing. Nor will it directly impact on the Council’s revenue budget for other services or Council Tax levels.”
Isn’t this a bit risky, given the current economic climate?
“We’re going into this ‘eyes open’ to the worst case. Our worst-case scenario takes into account the current state of the market and the lease positions of the existing tenants.
“We know that more tenants will leave the centre over the next 12 months and we know things are going to get worse before they get better. Despite all that, our worst-case scenario still shows the centre to make a revenue surplus both in the particularly challenging short term and then to a greater extent in the medium term.
“The financial effect of the short term challenges are included in the modelling and actually the purchase price reflects that fact too. In addition, we anticipate further vacancies in the short term might actually be desirable, making easier some of the physical changes to the site that will inevitably be required.”
Isn’t there a risk this all goes wrong and costs us money in the long run?
“There is always that risk. It’s no different to the risk associated with running our current industrial estate units. If all the tenants suddenly disappear, you’re left with no income to use to maintain the site.
“In this case, we’re very aware of the risks. We’re aware of the wider market position, of the businesses under pressure and aware of the number of leases expiring in the coming years.
“The Council’s officers and advisors put together three scenarios for cabinet to consider. A Best, Worst and Reasonable case. We focused our thinking around the worst-case model and that has driven our thinking on purchase price and determined our appetite for this at all.
“That worst-case scenario still shows the centre to make a revenue surplus both in the particularly challenging short term and then to a greater extent in the medium term.”
Retail is a ‘dead duck’ – what are you thinking?
“I accept completely that there is no future in retail-only town centres. We are not purchasing the Riverside because we think we’ve spotted something no one else has and that suddenly there is going to be some town centre shopping renaissance.
“We do however think our town centres have a future, just a different future. The Grimsey Review (just one example of the many such reviews into town centres) is clear both on the need for local leadership and public sector investment in transforming town centres. The review also has as one of its key findings the following; ‘There is a need for all towns to develop plans that are business-like and focused on transforming the place into a complete community hub incorporating health, housing, arts, education, entertainment, leisure, business/office space, as well as some shops, while developing a unique selling proposition (USP)’.
“That’s exactly what this purchase is about. It allows us to support a whole town plan for transformation not to ensure Haverfordwest continues to provide what people used to want but to ensure Haverfordwest provides what people want know and what people will want in the future.”
Aren’t you interfering in the role of the private sector?
“We know that the private sector is not going to repurpose our town centres for us. We also know how the Riverside has fared over the years in remote ownership. In my view we have a choice. We either say we don’t care about the town centre and it’s for the private sector to sort out, or, we recognise the role which a quality built environment plays in the wider offer of the County – and in turn how that supports economic activity.
“What I want to ensure is that we provide the local leadership and vision needed to see a transformation happen in Haverfordwest. We don’t think for a second we can bring about that transformation on our own but we do, absolutely, have a key role to play. In this case, that role is in securing the asset upon which future regeneration interventions will be built.”
Will the Council be managing the centre, if the acquisition goes ahead?
“The authority will not be directly managing the asset either in the short or the long term. This will be done by others and the costs of that management has been included in all of our modelling. To repeat, even our worst case model shows the site always making more income than it costs to run.”
Why should the Council get involved in the regeneration of town centres?
“To start with, because no one else is going to. I believe, strongly, that the quality of key town centres is important for the wider economic wellbeing of Pembrokeshire. We could, of course, just look the other way and say this is something for the private sector but I believe to do so would be a mistake.
“I do not believe that the local authority can transform Haverfordwest Town Centre on its own.
“However, I do believe we have a clear role to play in support and through the strategic acquisition proposed we can make that transformation deliverable.
“Beyond the strategic acquisition we are already in discussion with prospective private sector development partners and we anticipate taking those discussions forward with more vigour if the sale is completed.
“We don’t have a dream of doing this all on our own – but we know we have to play our part if we’re to deliver.”
Haverfordwest multi-storey car park to close ahead of transport hub construction work
The Haverfordwest multi-storey car park at Cartlett Road will close to the public on Monday 20th June and remain out of use while the existing facility is demolished and a new Public Transport Interchange built.
Pembrokeshire Council say that following the closure, work will begin on an initial strip out of the building ahead of full demolition.
The council say letters will be sent to nearby properties and businesses, and signs are to be placed at the car park to notify travellers of the closure. Existing signage leading to the facility will also be amended.
The project to create a new Public Transport Interchange is part of Pembrokeshire County Council’s wider regeneration work to revitalise Haverfordwest town centre.
The council say the current multi-storey car park is in a poor state of repair and is an unwelcoming space at the heart of the County Town.
It is also difficult to negotiate for larger, modern vehicles so is often under-utilised.
It adds that the new Public Transport Interchange will create “a seamless journey and a clear transition for passengers using the transport facilities – including integrated bus station – encouraging people to alight and explore the town centre”.
Cllr Rhys Sinnett, Cabinet Member for Residents Services said: “The Haverfordwest Public Transport Interchange is an important project for the County Town and a significant opportunity to provide a modern facility, sensitively designed in a gateway location.
“We will aim to keep disruption to a minimum throughout the demolition and rebuild and kindly request that members of the public plan ahead when visiting Haverfordwest to consider alternative parking sites.
“The bus station has been moved to what was the Bridgend Square car park to ensure that bus services can continue throughout the demolition and rebuild phase.”
(Lead image: Pembrokeshire Council)
£10k lottery grant to fund castle community engagement project
Pembrokeshire County Council has been awarded a £10,000 grant by The National Lottery Heritage Fund to carry out Community Engagement on the future of Haverfordwest Castle.
This community engagement will inform planning over the future heritage redevelopment of the medieval castle.
The Council say they will engage with local people to ensure the project benefits the local community and shapes the castle’s future as a heritage asset for Haverfordwest.
They say this will aid their ongoing regeneration of the County Town and provide a popular space for local people and events.
A consultant will be appointed to assess local views; collate ideas and perspectives; capture local people’s memories and stories; identify audiences and ensure engagement with people of all ages and all sectors of the community.
Pembrokeshire Council say that further information will be made available following the appointment of the organisation that will undertake this important work.
Built in about 1110, Haverfordwest Castle dominates the County Town visually from its hilltop site.
It is a Grade 1 listed Scheduled Ancient Monument and the extensive castle fabric that survives, dates mostly from the 13th century.
The castle was once owned by Queen Eleanor of Castile and within the castle is the Georgian former county gaol and governor’s house, both Grade II listed.
Mike Cavanagh, Head of Culture, Leisure and Registration Services said: “We’re delighted to have received this support thanks to National Lottery players.
“The castle is an integral part of Haverfordwest’s rich history and this money will help ensure the community is at the forefront of shaping this magnificent piece of history to be an important part of the future too.”
(Lead image: Pembrokeshire Council)
Young carers urged to capture their lives on camera
Action for Children and the Royal Photographic Society have launched a new photography project challenging young carers to get creative and show what’s important in their lives.
Action for Children and the Royal Photographic Society, supported by Arts Council England have launched a nationwide photography project to celebrate young carers across the UK.
The charities who share HRH The Duchess of Cambridge as Patron are asking young carers to get creative to photograph what’s important to them in their lives and learn a fantastic new skill along the way.
Selected entries will form a nationwide photography exhibition entitled ‘Young Carers – A Life in Focus’. This will follow a series of free online workshops and resources available to all young carers across the UK, created by leading photographers, on how to take unique images on their mobile phone, device or camera.
Caiden Meacham (10) from Haverfordwest is supported by Action for Children’s young carers service in Pembrokeshire. He said: “I want to learn how to take good photos and can’t wait to learn. I like taking photos of lots of different things like nature and my pets which mean a lot to me.”
Vikki Phillips, service coordinator for Pembrokeshire Young Carers, added: “The project has generated a lot of excitement amongst our young people like Caiden. It’s a generation that love to take photographs and document their lives so this is a perfect opportunity to do that while learning new skills from experts in the field. I’d love to see some of their work showcased in the exhibition.
Celebrated photographer and visual artist Jo Bradford has produced the innovative and creative online workshops, which will cover technical topics such as composition through leading lines and interesting placements of subjects, lighting using objects you can find around your home to achieve professional results and editing using homemade filters and apps found on your phone.
With an estimated 800,000 children and young people across the UK caring for a family member with a disability, illness or mental health issue – some as young as five years old – Action for Children and the Royal Photographic Society are encouraging young carers to capture their thoughts, emotions and life experiences.
Typically, young carers help with practical tasks around the home such as cooking, housework and shopping; physical care, such as helping someone out of bed; and personal care, such as helping someone dress.
To launch the project, photographer Jo Bradford shares her top three tips for young carers to get them experimenting with their photographic skills:
- Shine a torch on reflective, shiny objects around your home to make interesting light patterns in your photographs. A CD, vase or glass can create a glimmer or reflection
- Use the objects in your home to create frames by placing them in the fore and background. Placing plants in the foreground could give a great jungle effect or a hole in some bubble wrap could make a fun frame for a face
- Get experimental with your phone settings – using the panorama setting and shaking your phone up and down can produce abstract patterns around you
Action for Children supports over 3,700 children and young people who are young carers across the UK, giving them advice and respite through short breaks, activities and the chance to connect with other young carers.
Melanie Armstrong, Chief Executive at Action for Children, said: “We see first-hand the impact of loneliness and stress on young carers, who are dedicating a large part of their childhood to helping loved ones. These children and young people are often desperate for a break from their duties so it’s important for them to have some fun by doing a hobby or something they enjoy.
“Our photography project will offer young carers the chance to do something for themselves while learning a new skill. We can’t wait to see the creative contributions later this year!”
Evan Dawson, Chief Executive of the Royal Photographic Society, adds: “There are thousands of inspirational young people in the UK performing regular caring duties for their loved ones, whilst also completing their education and somehow finding time to have a childhood.
“Every situation is different – but these remarkable lives are rarely seen in the media or understood by their peers. We will provide new photography skills to these young people, and help celebrate their vital contribution to UK communities.”
If you are a young carer in the UK, we’re asking you to take photographs of what’s important to you in your everyday life and we’d love to see them. Selected entries will be part of a nationwide exhibition called Young Carers – A Life in Focus.
For more information: https://rps.org/opportunities/young-carers-a-life-in-focus/
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