Agenda item

Agenda item


To consider a joint report by Councillors Hugh Evans, Leader and Lead Member for Economy and Corporate Governance and Julian Thompson-Hill, Lead Member for Finance, Performance and Strategic Assets (copy enclosed) updating Cabinet on the Queen’s Buildings Rhyl project and seeking approval of the updated business case and for additional funding to deliver Phase 1.


RESOLVED that Cabinet approves the updated business case and the allocation of additional funding to the project as detailed in section 6 and 9 of the report.


Prior to presenting the report the Leader recorded his disappointment that a Denbighshire County Councillor had made a statement in the press which could damage the reputation of the Council, the project and Rhyl in order to enhance their own standing.  Denbighshire was an open, transparent authority and there was always opportunity for members to question and scrutinise beyond the Cabinet.  It had taken years of hard work to create confidence amongst the residents of Rhyl and potential investors to help change the face of Rhyl which had not been helped by the misinformation in the press.  He suggested if the member was present they listen to the debate, read the report and note the facts of the matter. [During the course of debate other members also expressed their views on the issue and the Leader directed the focus of the debate to the report and its recommendation.]


The Leader presented the joint report with Councillor Julian Thompson-Hill updating Cabinet on the Queen’s Buildings Rhyl Project and seeking approval of the updated business case and for additional funding to deliver Phase 1 of the project.


The project was critical to the regeneration of Rhyl and future economic success of the area and would provide a key link in joining up investment on the promenade and the proposals through the Levelling Up Fund bid for improvements on the high street.  The success of the Council’s wider regeneration programme with partners was also highlighted, and the project was a key part of that programme of work to provide trading places and jobs in the town and future phases to provide new homes and further employment.  Welsh Government also recognised the importance of the project and remained committed to the development.  The financial elements and reasoning behind the project cost increases had been set out in the report and further elaborated on at the meeting, which had been due to factors beyond the Council’s control and which could not have been foreseen, which included raising the finished floor level of the building to meet planning conditions and increased costs associated with construction materials and demolition/asbestos removal.  Whilst all possible funding avenues were being pursued to cover the funding shortfall to deliver Phase 1, at this stage the Council would need to fund the full amount required.  It was noted that failure to complete the project would likely involve significant grant claw back.


Cabinet discussed the report at length and support was voiced as follows –


·         Councillor Brian Jones considered that progressing the project was the right thing to do for Rhyl and he had been pleased to note the support from the Welsh Government and potential for Levelling Up Funding to benefit the area; he also acknowledged the hard work of the Lead Members and officers on the project

·         Councillor Bobby Feeley had been disappointed to note the cost increase but recognised the global rise in construction costs; she accepted the need for regeneration in Rhyl and reported upon the improvements over recent years and also paid tribute to the role of Denbighshire Leisure Limited in that regard

·         Councillor Mark Young was clear that the cost increases could not have been foreseen, referencing construction material cost increases of between 23% - 78%, and he noted that it would be more cost effective to progress the project to completion than lose the investment.  He commended the officers for the work undertaken and looked forward to delivery of the scheme.  In response to Councillor Young’s question as to whether the additional funding requested was sufficient, Councillor Julian Thompson-Hill advised that the amount represented a fair assessment based on best assumption at the present time

·         Councillor Huw Hilditch-Roberts also drew attention to the significant increase in construction costs which had impacted on a number of school projects and he commended the work of the Council and its commitment to regeneration in Rhyl, highlighting key projects and a focus on investment in the high street.  He fully supported the recommendation noting that the project would generate jobs and create a better standard of living for the residents of Rhyl

·         Councillor Richard Mainon paid tribute to all those involved in progressing the project which was a key part of Rhyl’s redevelopment and would connect the promenade to the town centre, and pivotal in offering aspiration and opportunity in the town.  He highlighted the hard work undertaken on the project with good controls on costs and fully supported the scheme.


The Leader invited questions from non-Cabinet members.


Rhyl Members Councillors Joan Butterfield, Alan James and Barry Mellor took the opportunity to highlight the Queen’s Building Project as pivotal to the regeneration of Rhyl and thanked the Council for prioritising the regeneration programme which had resulted in significant improvements both on the promenade and other areas in the town and had been much appreciated by the residents of Rhyl.  The project would be a catalyst for investment with significant economic benefits for Rhyl and the wider area.  The support of both the Cabinet and all councillors across the authority in those regeneration efforts were recognised and much appreciated as was the continued support of the Welsh Government.


As the Scrutiny Committee representative on the Queen’s Building Project Board, Councillor Hugh Irving confirmed he had been happy with the information presented to the Board which he had kept under close review, and from a scrutiny perspective he had no issues with any actions to date.  In response to a question from Councillor Meirick Davies, Councillor Julian Thompson-Hill clarified that the Levelling Up Fund bid included an element for enhancement at the Queen’s Buildings to improve the visual appearance such as landscaping.


The Chief Executive acknowledged members’ thanks and support of officers, particularly when undertaking difficult projects, and he had pride in the regeneration work carried out in Rhyl.  He extended an open invitation to all members to discuss the approach to regeneration in Rhyl and highlighted other projects in the process of being planned or developed together with work to tackle deprivation in the town.


RESOLVED that Cabinet approves the updated business case and the allocation of additional funding to the project as detailed in section 6 and 9 of the report.


At this point (11.50 am) the meeting adjourned for a short break.


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