Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: No
Is subject to call in?: No
The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar submitted a report, the purpose of which, was to advise the Joint Committee on the progress of the construction of an extension to the Flower Court facility at Coychurch Crematorium and to request approval to award the Contract resulting from the tender process as detailed in the report.
The proposed extension was designed to improve the mourners experience and the movement of the congregation by providing a larger covered facility on the currently unused grass area, the design being in keeping with the Crematorium’s Grade 2* listed building status and the design ethos of the extremely eminent original architect, Maxwell Fry.
At the meeting on 14th June 2019 the Joint Committee was introduced to the architect, Jonathan Adams (of Percy Thomas Architects, Capita Real Estate and Infrastructure), a previous president of the Royal Society of Architects in Wales and noted for various prestigious projects including the millennium centre in Cardiff Bay. Members were provided with a detailed presentation of his proposed design for the extension works. The Joint Committee were then shown pictures of the works, expanded upon by the Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar, as follows:
(i) The design is most impressive, effective for the requirements of the bereaved and staff but also compliments the religious ethos of the existing buildings and grounds.
(ii) It maximises the use of space – being a large structure.
(iii) It provides a new door aperture from the rear of the chapel that leads directly into the extended covered Flower Court, greatly improving the speed at which mourners can vacate the chapel to view the floral tributes while additionally improving safety in the case of an emergency evacuation.
(iv) It also provides covered access between the door at the top of the Cloister walkway to the chapel exit doors.
The design takes its dome-like form from historic religious buildings of different faiths, displaying handkerchief vaults built from steel and hardwood frames and featuring stone walling, stone paving and stained glass, all high-end natural materials beautifully crafted, which complement the current architectural style of the building.
The Joint Committee approved the design and authorised that officers proceed to apply for planning permission and invite tenders for the construction works, subject to further approval. The funding for the project was then estimated at £540,000 and would be accommodated from the crematoriums reserve funds.
At the meeting on 4th September 2020 the JC was again updated, that despite the pandemic, work had progressed in some areas, mainly that:
- All statutory approvals had been achieved, including listed building consent from Welsh Government. The Crematorium had worked extremely closely with our conservation planners and CADW on this project, who have very positively endorsed the design.
At the meeting on 5th March last year, Members were advised that the pandemic had impacted upon the timetable and funds were moved to the 2021/22 budget, to enable the architect to continue to actively progress the procurement stage and the preparation of tenders.
The pandemic has had a detrimental impact upon the speed at which the tender stage could be reached and at the meeting of 4th March this year, the Joint Committee was advised that tenders would be invited through E-Tender Wales in March, in accordance with BCBC’s Contract and Financial Procedure Rules, with construction works planned to commence summertime this year. The original estimated budget cost of £550,000 was included in the Crematorium’s Business Plan and 2022/23 revenue budget, and approved by the Joint Committee.
Members delegated to the Clerk and Technical Officer the power to approve the acceptance of the most economically advantageous tender, unless the tender amount exceeded the allocated budget cost, at which point a further report would be submitted to the Joint Committee to confirm final approval of tenders. The Crematorium’s reserve fund would be able to accommodate a higher construction cost if required.
On the 18 March last, Bridgend County Borough Council invited tenders via an open tender process through E-Tender Wales and an advert on Sell2Wales. The final date for the return of tenders was 17 June 2022 and one tender was opened by BCBC’s procurement manager and cabinet/committee. The invitation to tender contained several quality questions as well as a commercial submission and Capita Real Estate and Infrastructure was instructed to carry out a qualitative and quantitative tender evaluation. The combined Quality and Commercial Scoring can be seen in the table on page 40 of the report
The most economically advantageous tender, taking into account Quality and Price, was submitted by South Wales Contractors Ltd in the sum of £1,269,956.74. The quality element of the tender submission was scored extremely highly.
The Tender Review Report produced by Capita is attached at Page 49 of the report, which included a recommendation to engage South Wales Contractors Ltd as the successful tenderer.
The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar advised, that whilst it is recognised that the commercial sum for the project is substantially higher than the estimated budget amount originally provided by Capita back in 2019 and with one tender submission, the architect, Mr Jonathan Adams, has provided a number of reasons and reassurances for the current status of the project, those being:
· The impact of the pandemic largely placing the project on hold in 2020, following the first Covid-19 lockdown. The bespoke design depended greatly on the input of specialist suppliers and manufacturers, to finalise the design of the timber roof structure, including the construction of a prototype frame, all of which closed down. The design team began working with specialists again in 2021, the resultant staff resource issues prevented them from also submitting tenders.
· The unconventional bespoke design creates procurement challenges. It has been tailored to the unique character, history and listed building status of the Crematorium so, like the existing building, the new design has few standard components, so the accurate execution of the details and good quality workmanship is crucial, limiting those capable of tendering.
The positioning of the construction site directly adjacent to Crallo Chapel and the existing Flower Court, demands special care to ensure public safety and also limited working hours to enable the Crematorium to remain operational. These constraints are specific to the Crematorium and add significant risk for the contractor.
The scale of the build, the high quality of skills required and the challenging site constraints, all taken together, have the effect of making the project unattractive to potential bidders from outside the South Wales area, as they would incur additional costs that would represent a significant percentage of the contract value, especially as their supply chains are also likely to be geographically remote.
Having conducted a search, Capita concluded that tender submissions would be low in number and received from firms with prior knowledge of the Crematorium site. Consequently, although unusual to receive one tender, it is not unexpected.
· The tender received is a strong submission. The contractor has invested much time and effort into fully understanding the detailed specifics of the design information to ensure that their pricing is comprehensive and accurate. They have given careful consideration to the sequence of works (and I can confirm that they provided an extremely comprehensive and impressive build programme which demonstrated a deep understanding of the technicalities of the build) and, because they have successfully completed several projects at the Crematorium already, they have a better understanding of the constraints and the risks of the site than any other bidder could have.
Their previous experience of working at the Crematorium and providing the highest standards of workmanship meant that they scored highly on the information they provided in the quality section of the tender. It was therefore Capita’s view, that this contractor would most likely have won the tender process regardless of more tenders being received.
· Price Inflation has impacted greatly: The project was approved over three years ago but from the summer 2020 was then on standstill due to the pandemic lockdown.
When the construction industry in the UK re-mobilised towards the end of last year, construction costs rose rapidly and significantly right across the industry due to acute shortages of both materials and labour, with materials costs for timber rising by 80% and steel by 60% for example. Inflation remains well in excess of RPI inflation. We are all aware of Brexit, rising fuel costs, etc, and Capita feels that the tender submission reflects current market prices and risk allowance and is a good tender.
The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar added that having worked closely on this tender and having scrutinised the 80 plus design drawings provided to contractors as part of the tender, she appreciated the large scale and complexity of the very bespoke build and the high quality materials used to complement the listed building status, and therefore why the commercial value of the tender is considered very competitive. When you consider that over seven years ago via competitive tender, it cost the Crematorium 1.2 million to build a basic small block extension and install two new cremators and associated plant, this provided a little perspective.
The Joint Committee is further advised that South Wales Contractors regularly win competitive tender construction projects and civil engineering works with BCBC, which reassuringly demonstrates their reliability to provide high quality workmanship and competitive pricing. When preparing their tender, they would have expected to be in competition with other tenderers.
They are a contractor of choice by the Facilities and Corporate Landlord construction team, having worked on endless projects across all sections of the council, including the Civic Offices, nursing homes, schools and the Highways Department, also proving to be experts in working on live buildings. In relation to Coychurch Crematorium, they have carried out a vast number of building projects won on competitive tender, including the extension of the Waiting Room facility and installation of new disabled toilets, the reconfiguration and refurbishment of the Flower Court toilets and the toilet block adjoining Coity Chapel, the provision of the new road infrastructure and car park in the new land extension, and most recently were awarded the tender for the external lighting project, completed July 2021. They have demonstrated very high standards of workmanship at competitive costs and an ability to work seamlessly around the crematorium while it remains operational, and with timely efficiency.
There has been no structural addition to the public areas of the main Crematorium building since it opened in 1970. The extension will vastly improve the bereavement experience at the facility, resolving the current bottle neck as mourners leave the premises and assist with the safer movement of mourners through the building as a whole. It will provide a large, pleasant, covered open space from which mourners can disperse after a funeral, away from the toilet corridor and with an additional door opening to the rear of Crallo chapel to assist with this. The problems associated with the existing flower court corridor have been further highlighted during the recent pandemic, when the confined space and social distancing requirements meant that it could not be utilised during the period of restrictions, requiring mourners to pass straight through to the outside road area, regardless of weather conditions.
The current plastic side to the existing flower court corridor, which was a new addition and installed prior to the listed building status of the Crematorium does not complement the high standards of architectural design provided by Maxwell Fry and by today’s standards, would not have been accepted by planners, and it will benefit from being replaced by a high end designed facility using the very best of natural materials, which has gained a positive endorsement from the planning Conservation Officer.
Since the Crematorium opened in 1970 the choice for cremation has increased to over 80% and congregation sizes have increased hugely, with complete funeral services taking place at the crematorium rather than in churches first. This has been further emphasised by the need to install screens and speakers in the cloister to accommodate the large numbers of mourners attending the crematorium, despite the chapel being one of the largest in the UK. With the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Crematorium having occurred during the height of the pandemic in 2020 such an improvement to the building would provide a befitting way to mark the occasion and address the needs of modern times, by investing in the Crematorium’s future expansion in a way that embraces its listed building status.
As a result of the increased death rate during the 2020 and 2021 of the pandemic, a total of 570 additional cremations took place which created £400 thousand pounds of additional income in cremation fees and this does not include a substantial amount more revenue created from the sale of memorials.
COST PER CREMATION
The project provides a befitting way of investing that additional income in a manner that improves the bereavement experience for future generations, in recognition of the sadness that has facilitated it.
The additional £720k required for the project will be transferred from the Crematorium’s accumulated surplus/reserve fund which currently has a balance of £3.2 million. This would be reduced to £2.5 million and is considered a sufficient level to fund future cremation plant and improvements and maintain and protect the service in light of unknown demands or emergencies.
A Member asked if the Crematorium had sufficient reserves to accommodate this extra expenditure going forward, to which the Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar confirmed that they had and that such Reserves had been and still were, in a healthy position.
The Chairperson asked when the project would start and would the work be undertaken in the evening, when there were no burials taking place.
The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar advised that the Contract would be awarded next week with the build probably commencing in September 2022.
(1) The Joint Committee approved the Tender from South Wales Contractors Ltd in the sum of £1,269,956.74 and to award the Contract to this contractor.
(2) The Joint Committee delegated to the Clerk and Technical Officer the power to approve the final terms of the Contract in consultation with Bridgend County Borough Council’s Chief Officer, Legal and Regulatory Services, Human Resources and Corporate Policy and thereafter arrange for the execution of the Contract on behalf of the Joint Committee.
Publication date: 15/05/2023
Date of decision: 15/07/2022
Decided at meeting: 15/07/2022 - Coychurch Crematorium Joint Committee