Belfast City Council




Report to:                  Development Committee


Subject:                      PLACE – Restructuring and Management Agreement with Belfast City Council


Date:                           15 June 2011


Reporting Officer:    John McGrillen, Director of Development, ext 3470


Contact Officer:        Shirley McCay,  Head of Economic Initiatives, ext 3459




Relevant Background Information





















PLACE is the Northern Ireland Architecture and Built Environment Centre. PLACE have promoted understanding, debate and awareness of landscape, townscape, architecture, planning, participation and the broad range of built environment issues since 2004. PLACE is part of an international network of architecture centres and the first in Ireland.


PLACE was established by the Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA) and Belfast City Council in conjunction with the Arts Council in September 2004.


PLACE has existed for six years as part of the RSUA, however the RSUA as part of its development plan 2010 – 2012 along with the board of PLACE have agreed to PLACE becoming a separate legal entity from the RSUA with charitable status.


PLACE have been operating from 40 Fountain Street, Belfast since 2004. These premises form part of a larger area leased to BCC to provide the space for the Belfast Welcome Centre and Belfast Visitor & Convention Bureau offices in 35–47 (a) Donegall Place, Belfast.


PLACE have received in kind support from BCC which includes, provision of premises and BCC being responsible for the rent, rates, insurance, service charge and maintenance of the premises. BCC’s support for PLACE has been based on the recognition by Council that there is an ongoing need to ensure that during a period of rapid development and change in Belfast serious attention is given to the built environment and urban design so that the cityscape can be shaped deliberately rather than by default.




Key Issues
















































BCC has recently agreed to take a further 3 year lease on the premises in Donegall Place and Fountain Street, Belfast. The lease is from 1st August 2010 to 31 July 2013. BVCB and BWC will continue to occupy the first floor premises accessed from Donegall Place


PLACE are currently still occupying the premises in Fountain Street. Members received a briefing session from PLACE in January 2011 on the wide range of their activities. Attached in Appendix 1 is a copy of PLACE’s annual report for 2010 – 2011. PLACE are seeking to continue the close working links with BCC and are requesting to remain in the premises in Fountain Street for remainder of BCC’s lease until 31 July 2013.


The rationale behind PLACE having its own legal entity and being independent of the RSUA is that PLACE did not previously have a legal structure. Having a legal structure ensures accountability and enables PLACE to grow and develop its remit under the Northern Ireland Government Architecture and Built Environment Policy 2006.


PLACE have different roles and audiences from the RSUA core activities even if there are clear synergies.


All key stakeholders and the Arts Council are fully supportive of the new structure. The new company’s memorandum and articles of association became effective on 26 April 2011.


PLACE’s full name is Planning Landscape Architecture Community Environment. A company limited by guarantee and with an application for charitable status. The members of the company will be institutions rather than individuals, in order to have the company registered the RSUA became its first member. Other bodies proposing to become members include but not exclusively Royal Town Planning Institute, Landscape Institute Northern Ireland, University of Ulster, Queens University and the members will nominate individuals to the PLACE board.


The objects of the new company will continue to be based on education, advocacy and participation and reflect the same principles as held by the organisation since its inception. The opportunity exists for BCC to become a member of the new company or continue as an advisor to the board a role which it currently occupies.


The new company will take on the responsibilities of the RSUA for managing staff and utility costs. The primary funding for staffing has come from Arts Council, Department for Culture Arts and Leisure, Department for Social Development, Department for Environment, Department for Finance and Personnel and Strategic Investment Board.


PLACE are considering a presence in Derry in the run up to UK City of Culture 2013 initial discussions have been held with Derry City Council and ILEX. 






Resource Implications


The area occupied by PLACE in Fountain Street has limited shop frontage, is long, narrow, not suitable for retail and would be difficult to let. BVCB have no requirement for this space. PLACE have occupied the space under a Management Agreement between BCC & RSUA which expired on 31 March 2011. The management agreement was an agreement to provide services and does not create any tenancy in the premises. BCC’s rent has remained the same since 2000 on the premises in Donegall Place & Fountain Street and all rent, rates, insurances and service charge are off charged to BVCB.


Maintenance Costs for the Fountain Street premises have been approximately £6000p.a. and have been included in the Development Department budget.




Equality and Good Relations Implications



There are no Equality and Good Relations Implications attached to this report.



















PLACE is a well respected organisation reaching to the centre of government and into the heart of communities as it acts as a focus for education, information sharing and debate for both the general public and those who have a role in developing the built environment.


As BCC continues to work collaboratively across the government departments in expanding its place-shaping role, BCC’s work is parallel to the aims of PLACE and PLACE is a valuable resource to be promoted and developed with BCC as a key and valued partner.


Members are asked to approve membership of BCC as part of PLACE a company limited by guarantee with charitable status and agree that Chair of Development Committee or nominee be appointed.


Members are recommended to approve the continued support of PLACE by the provision of premises and associated costs in Fountain Street until 31 July 2013 or for a lesser period should BCC’s interest in the premises change.




Decision Tracking

If Members agree to support PLACE a new management agreement to be prepared between BCC and PLACE.


Timeframe: July 2011                                                 Reporting Officer: Shirley McCay




Key to Abbreviations

RSUA – Royal Society of Ulster Architects

BVCB – Belfast Visitor & Convention Bureau           

BCC  - Belfast City Council

BWCBelfast Welcome Centre




Documents Attached

Appendix 1 – Place Annual Report 2010 - 11