(The Chairperson, and Councillors Brooks, Hussey, Maskey, and McMullan, who had declared an interest in this item, left the meeting for the duration. Alderman Dorrian, deputised for the Chairperson, in his absence.)
The Senior Development Manager outlined the detail of the undernoted report:
“1.0 Purpose of Report or Summary of main Issues
1.1 To update Members on the progress of the DfC Covid-19 Revitalisation Programme.
2.1 The Committee is asked to:
· Note the updates on the DfC Revitalisation Programme projects contained within this paper and the continued importance of the use of streets and spaces to assist businesses and communities as part of a wider programme of work focused on Reimagining the Public Realm.
· To note the progress and completion of a number of projects within the programme with further detail to be provided in a presentation to this Committee Meeting.
· To note, in respect of the Castle Place Hub project, the current position and in particular the request from DfC to the Council to take ownership of the new kiosk at Castle Place.
· To agree the proposed approach (as below) in terms of the Council taking ownership of the new Castle Place kiosk subject to approval of the business case by DfC and approval by SP&R Committee on the transfer of the kiosk to Council and relevant licences and business case implications.
3.0 Main report
The CG&R Committee have received regular updates and provided approvals relating to the DfC Covid-19 Revitalisation Programme - a £4.039m programme funded via DfC, DfI and DEARA to bring forward and deliver a range of economic, cultural and physical interventions to support businesses to trade efficiently during the Covid-19 restrictions and to maximise and create more outdoor space for businesses.
In terms of progress on delivery of the Programme, at the end of September a total of £2.6m has been spent or directly allocated to delivery partners with a forecast to complete the programme by March 2022. As previously reported, officers are continuing to work with contractors and delivery partners to minimise the impacts of the global supply and contractor availability issues. The majority of the procurement is now complete, and contract works programmes are been finalised with suppliers and contractors for the remaining work packages, minimising the impacts of these issues and further reports will be brought to this Committee as appropriate.
3.3 The following sections provide an outline of a few of the projects recently completed to date and projects in progress, with Appendix 1 Table providing a summary overview of the projects being delivered as part of the overall programme. Appendix 2 sets out the detail of the wide range of projects being delivered as part of the Business Cluster Community Grants. Members are also asked to note that a presentation will be provided to this Committee meeting providing further detail on the projects delivered through the Revitalisation Programme.
Sustainable and Active Travel (DfI Funded as part of the DfC Revitalisation Fund)
The following are some of the projects currently being delivered:
3.4 Queens University Active Travel Hub involves the completion of a new active travel hub, jointly funded by the Covid-19 Revitalisation Programme and QUB to encourage more people to choose cycling as a means of transport in and around the city, officially opened and launched on 17th September 21. The hub will be operated by social enterprise Big Loop Bikes and is one strand of the Universities goal to reach net-zero carbon emissions as set within their Strategy 2030
3.5 Cathedral Gardens Active Travel Hub is currently awaiting planning approval with delivery expected in February 2022. The tender for the construction works is now complete and pending appointment and the Expression of Interest for the preferred operator has now closed and officers are currently assessing the returns.
3.6 The e-cargo bike scheme – a pilot scheme that aims to improve air quality, reduce kerb parking and congestion by providing a sustainable delivery option for first mile/last mile/onforwarding and only mile deliveries has been appointed to local company, Streetdock. Streetdock are currently mobilising to commence operations in December 2021.
3.7 Bolder Vision
On the 30th September we launched a 12 week public consultation on ‘A Bolder Vision for Belfast’ Reimagining our City Centre – an ambitious connectivity blueprint for the city centre on how to create a vibrant place, support our economy and our health and well-being. A detailed report on the Bolder Vision is included on the Agenda for this Committee Meeting, and the projects been brought forward by the Revitalisation Programme form a key element in the development of the Bolder Vision and how the city can better use its spaces and places.
3.8 Business Cluster & Community Grants [£10k - £25k capital grants]
To bring forward this capital grants scheme for citywide environmental improvement schemes, proposals were sought on interventions that would support business operation and recovery; enhance physical spaces; increase civic participation and sense of ownership; and encourage people to live, work, visit and invest in local areas. A total £1,067,204 has been approved for some 51 applications with 7 successful city centre applications and 44 successful applications outside city centre. This grant programme is supporting 35 Community Groups and Social Enterprises and 16 business clusters across the city, with a full list including project description included within Appendix 2 of this report. This funding allocation comprises £700k of funding from the Revitalisation Programme and £450k from BCC as previously reported to this Committee.
3.9 As of end of September £750k has been provided to the successful applicants and officers continue to work with the remaining successful applicants in conjunction with the Integrated Design Team to secure relevant statutory approvals and support delivery of the projects.
3.10 Castle Place Kiosk
This project involves the creation of new public realm and streetscape enhancements within a key junction of the city centre, including the extension of the existing pavement width, reallocation of road space to create a new cycle lane and the creation of a new kiosk that offers a unique city centre kiosk and key attractor located in a prime retail pitch. This project forms a significant project in terms of informing the future treatment of this central city centre location, incorporating enhanced public space encouraging footfall and dwell time, with segregated active travel infrastructure and unique architecture that incorporates the cultural and historical significance of the conservation area.
3.11 This joint DfI/DfC/BCC project was agreed to have DfI installing the roadworks, BCC delivering the Kiosk build and above ground elements, and DfC to undertake the long-term ownership and operation of the kiosk structure.
3.12 DfI have commenced the road realignment works and are due to complete works in early November. DfC were in the process of applying for a Streetworks licence for the structure and had underwent an advertisement process to appoint a preferred operator for the kiosk. Following receipt of 16 applications DfC commenced discussions with a preferred operator and have removed their existing kiosk from this location to make way for the new kiosk. BCC has awarded the contract for the fabrication and installation of the kiosk.
3.13 With regards to the new Kiosk, DfC have recently informed the Council that, on further consideration of the proposal, they do not in fact have the statutory vires to enable them to undertake the ownership of the kiosk and, following detailed discussions, have requested that the Council considers undertaking the long-term ownership of the new kiosk. To enable this a number of considerations need to be made:
· Current Committee (CG&R and SP&R) approval is for BCC to install the kiosk with ownership transferring to DfC on completion.
· Undertaking the ownership of the kiosk will have a resource and revenue tail implication for Council. DfC have requested that Council submit a business case to DfC that outlines the implications and any revenue tail implications associated with this new asset for consideration. However, it should be noted that the operator marketing process undertaken by DfC and subsequent operator proposal was predicated on an annual lease to the operator with a rent payable and the operator being responsible for rates and Public Indemnity and contents insurance.
· BCC will need to undertake their own marketing exercise to secure an operator and thereafter enter into an appropriate lease agreement, which will involve future landlord lease management responsibilities.
· BCC would be required to undertake a Streetworks licence from DfI
3.14 A business case is currently been prepared to submit to DfC outlining the financial implications to the Council and seeking appropriate financial recompense arrangements from DfC to offset this. Prior to formally responding to DfC on this matter Committee is asked to consider agreeing to this approach, which will be subject to approval of the business case by DfC [regarding financial implications] and approval by SPR Committee on the transfer of the kiosk to Council and relevant licences and any business case implications, as well as future approval to any lease agreements.
3.15 Financial and Resource Implications
The capital costs associated with the identified projects are met by the DfC Covid-19 Revitalisation Programme with additional funding from BCC as identified in 3.8 of this report.
As above, a business case is being submitted to DfC in respect of the Castle Place Kiosk to address any financial implications for Council and requesting appropriate financial recompense from DfC to offset this. The intention is to market the kiosk and secure an operator on a lease/tenancy arrangement with an annual rent and responsibility for other outgoings as appropriate.
3.16 Equality or Good Relations Implications/
Rural Needs Assessment
Impact assessment complete on overall programme and kept under review.”
The Committee agreed:
· To note the updates on the DfC Revitalisation Programme projects and the continued importance of the use of streets and spaces to assist businesses and communities, as part of a wider programme of work focused on Reimagining the Public Realm;
· To note the progress and completion of a number of projects within the programme;
· To note, in respect of the Castle Place Hub project, the current position and in particular the request from DfC to the Council to take ownership of the new kiosk at Castle Place; and
· The proposed approach, in terms of the Council taking ownership of the new Castle Place kiosk, subject to approval of the business case by DfC and approval by Strategic Policy and Resources Committee, and relevant licences and business case implications.
(The Chairperson and Councillors Brooks, Hussey, Maskey, and McMullan, who had declared an interest in this item, returned to the meeting at this point in the proceedings.)