The Committee considered this report circulated with the agenda.
Mrs Hotchkiss, Mrs Peyman and Mr Whitty were in attendance.
Mrs Peyman introduced the report, providing details of the background to the provision of an ice rink in Priory Park, Chichester open to the public from 1 December 2018 to 6 January 2019, lessons learned and the procurement exercise for the ice rink. The Chichester Vision included themes aimed at providing more events in Chichester to support the night time economy and the high street. During March 2018, it was decided to explore an ice skating event further. Chichester Bid had not been able to hold its large Christmas event within the City Centre due to repair works at Chichester Cathedral. During the event 19,072 skaters took to the ice and a large number of spectators attended. A number of Council departments were involved in the process, including Licensing, Development Management, Health Protection and Culture & Sport and representatives were in the audience should any questions arise. The Culture and Sport Division was responsible for the use of the land, insurance, health and safety, and compliance monitoring. A planning application was submitted and the Environmental Protection Team had assessed the applicant’s desktop noise assessment, monitored noise during the event and responded to complaints about noise. The chillers and generator initially exceeded the imposed noise limits, but was solved by the installation of additional sound proofing material, so there was no breach of the planning condition relating to noise and no statutory nuisance was identified.Due to a significant number of objections to the premises licence application, it was considered by the Alcohol and Entertainment Licensing Sub-Committee and granted. No incidents were reported concerning the sale of alcohol or regulated entertainment. Car parking tickets purchased during December 2018 increased by nearly 5,000 when compared to the previous year and the recent pattern of a fall in the use of these car parks. The use of the Christmas Park and Ride also increased slightly during this Christmas period compared to last year. Chichester Bid had reported an increase of 67,480 visitors to the City compared to the previous December, to which visitors to the ice rink are likely to have contributed.
Following the success of the event, the contractor was keen to hold the event again this year. The preferred site was Priory Park. The contractor intended to work with other partners to complement the event, such as combining it with the Christmas Market and other festive activities. With regard to the lessons learned, set out at paragraph 5.3, it was acknowledged that the timescale for the implementation of the initial event had been short. Therefore, steps had been put in place to start discussions earlier for an event this year. A land licence template had been developed for future applications, planning officers had made some comments about their requirements if the event went ahead again relating to aesthetics and investigation of a three phase electrical connection to negate the need for the use of generators. Following a procurement exercise the land was offered at a peppercorn rent, with all costs and risks with the contractor. Chichester BID and Chichester Vision had supported the proposal. The Friends of Priory Park (comments attached at appendix 1) were supportive of an ice rink but considered that Priory Park was not a suitable location. The aim of the project had been to provide a fun event for all ages that complimented the Chichester Bid’s activities and encouraged visitors to the City during the Christmas period.
The Committee asked a series of questions and received answers from Mrs Peyman, Mrs Hotchkiss and Mr Whitty to questions as follows:
· Suggestion made that more suitable locations should be considered, such as the Northgate car park, Cattle Market car park: Other sites looked at were not deemed suitable. Oaklands Park and New Park were not available during this time because of the winter sports provision. Chichester Cathedral land was not available due to the building works and restrictions on consecrated land. The Council’s car parks had been investigated but during the Christmas period space was at a premium. Northgate car park was not suitable in the evening due to Chichester Festival Theatre performances, and the Cattle Market car park provided parking for the market traders and a car boot sale.
· Who will make the decision if the ice rink is to go ahead? The Council’s Constitution delegates authority to staff to make decisions on the letting of Council owned land. However, high profile events were considered in consultation with the Strategic Leadership Team and District councillors.
· Were non-Council owned sites looked at for suitable locations? With regard to potential sites not owned by the Council, Chichester College has been considered in the past for events. The University of Chichester had not been contacted due to its location outside the City as the intention was to improve the economy and increase footfall into the City Centre. Other sites had not been identified as their size and location was not suitable. However, she advised that officers and the contractor were not closed to suggestions for other suitable alternative locations and would be happy to look into other sites if deemed appropriate. However Henty Fields, suggested by a member, was outside the City Centre.
· Why was the hire price of £5,000 for the Real Ale and Jazz Festival, who lost their deposit, significantly higher than the £1 lease paid by the Ice Rink contractor?: The Real Ale and Jazz Festival lost its deposit as works carried out to reinstate the grass after the event were not satisfactory. If the event went ahead again the hire charge for an ice rink would form part of the negotiations to decide the value of the land in future years.
· During the Christmas Period Chichester Bid reported a general increase of visitors to Chichester. However, the camera count had decreased by 7.3%in East Street?: The footfall sensors that counted mobile phones passing were located at different points in the City to the footfall camera.
· The Friends of Priory Park had commented that a Design and Access Statement should have been submitted with the planning application: A Statement had not been required, as although the site was located in a conservation area, the application was for a change of use and the structures were temporary.
· Concern was raised about the condition of the land since the event: Without any grass coverage currently on the ground in this location of Priory Park it did look uneven. However, this was the case before the event and was noted by the contractor who had carried out their own land level survey to ensure the rink was level. Some unevenness would be dealt with by grass cover in these areas. The grass was growing back but further work was recommended to include scarifying in the small area where there was puddling in the centre, a small amount of top soil, fertilizing and over seeding. As a result of the hot weather following the archaeology dig the land was not re-instated at the time. However, due to the area being required for the cinema event, as a temporary measure, the area was back filled with wood chippings and soil in order to make the area safe. The further reinstatement work required was a result of the archaeology dig as opposed to the ice skating event.
· Proposals for three phase electrical connection, removing the need for a generator, were welcomed: Officers were in the process of completing an application to SSE energy supplier and if installed,the costs of supplying electricity would be charged accordingly.
· If the event was repeated, the planning application should be submitted much earlier: It was hoped that a pre-planning application would be submitted by the end of this month.
· Had the deposit returned to the contractor and how expenditure would be recuperated if the remedial work exceeded the deposit?:The organiser’s £1,000 deposit would cover the cost of £700 to reinstate the whole area with grass and included an additional sum as a buffer. However, the contractor was paying for and carrying out the remedial works themselves. The ground maintenance staff were qualified to assess if the remedial works had been carried out to a satisfactory standard.
· The marshals had been observed doing a good job, however, there was concern that the over 18 wristbands could be taken off and given to someone under the age of 18: The wristbands were sealed, however there was a slight flaw in that they could be removed if loosely attached and she advised that this matter would be looked into to rectify this flaw.
· Need to consider going forward on a commercial ground rent basis. Is there a figure in mind?: Officers would work with the Estates Team to provide an evaluation of the potential income and costs for running an event. Moving forward procedures had been developed and processes were in place to reduce officer time involved. A pre-planning enquiry would streamline the process, and lessons learned from the noise monitoring and desk top assessments previously carried out would reduce time.
· A lower boundary fence was suggested for future events: Officers would prefer the removal of the fence, which had been erected for security and also as a sound barrier for the generator noise.
The Committee confirmed that they were happy with the approach that the decision to lease the land should remain with the Leisure and Sports Development Team under delegated powers.
Mrs Peyman acknowledged that the event had provided both positives and negatives. A record had been kept of the complaints received about the event and the officer responses. To mitigate any issues the contractor had made direct contact with the Friends of Priory Park and had provided nearby residents with contact telephone numbers in case of any issues. Subject to the outcome of the review, the contractor would be asked provided an ice rink again. She confirmed that at this early stage officers had not entered full discussions.
Mrs Hotchkiss advised that due process was followed under the Council’s Constitution. The Council was also meeting the aims and objectives of the Chichester Vision by promoting family events and entertainment and increasing footfall to the City Centre. Members should be mindful that she received approaches about the impact of the high street, the decreasing footfall and how to encourage young people to visit. The Council was looking at the Vision process with its partners to deliver events and activities. During the event comments were made to her that the event brought the City to life again, provided something for the young people, had provided an entertainment eventand generally lifted the atmosphere of the City during the Christmas period. She heard the comments of the Friends of Priory Park but also heard the comments residents, young people and the retailers in the City. It was important when sites and locations were looked into the impact on the High Street was considered by bringing people into the City not only to the event for fun, enjoyment and community activity as well as encouraging them to do secondary spending to support local retailers.
At the close of the debate, members were in support for the provision of an ice rink in Chichester during the Christmas period, which they agreed supported the aims of the Chichester Vision. However, some members had commented that Priory Park was not the right location and that further investigation should be carried out to see if a more suitable location close to the City Centre could be found. Two members who had visited the site had commented that it had been well attended fun event by both skaters and spectators, especially for the younger members of the community. A member commented that feedback she had heard from businesses was that they had been happy with trade during the Christmas period. They agreed that the initial effort to introduce a new event, that was complex in its nature, to the City had been a learning curve and commended officers for the work they had achieved to provide such an event with such a short lead in time. Members welcomed that if the event was repeated the arrangements would start earlier in the process. Officers, with their expertise, had monitored the event andconditions had placed on the planning permission and alcohol and entertainment licence. There was already a precedent for large music events in the Park, many of which had taken place on the grass and it had recovered. The proposal for a three way electric would deal with noise issues was welcomed by members.
A proposal by Mrs Graves that officers provide an update report to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee recording the reinstatement of the grassed area in Priory Park before any deposit is returned to the contractor was supported by the Committee.
Mr Shaxson made two proposals that were supported by the Committee requesting that the Council is provided with a thorough breakdown of all costs incurred by the Council as a result of the ice rink noting that they are offset by various fees; and that the Committee recommends to Cabinet that a future ice rink should be offered at an open-tender commercial rent at Priory Park or any other site.
A proposal by the Chairman to recommend to Cabinet that a decision should not be made on a repeat of the ice rink until the new Council, after 2 June 2019, was supported by the Committee.
1) That officers provide an update report to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee recording the reinstatement of the grassed area in Priory Park before any deposit is returned to the contractor; and
2) That the Overview and Scrutiny Committee request that the Council is provided with a thorough breakdown of all costs that the Chichester District Council are incurring as a result of the Ice Rink, noting they are offset by various fees.
RECOMMENDED TO CABINET
1) that if Chichester District Council officers wish to run a future temporary ice rink, Priory Park or any other site would be offered at am open-tender commercial rent; and
2) that no decision will be made on the repeat of an ice rink until the new Council, after 2 June 2019.
POST MEETING NOTE: Recommendation to Cabinet 2) - The Chairman incorrectly stated ‘2 June 2019’ when her intention had been ‘2 May 2019’.