Agenda item

Valleys Regional Park Future Funding


The Corporate Director – Communities submitted a report, the purpose of which, was to provide an update on the Valleys Regional Park (VRP) scheme and the request from the VRP board that BCBC continue in its role as host.  The report also sought approval to accept grant offers, subject to their full approval, from the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO) and Welsh Government for future funding from the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Rural Development Programme (RDP) respectively, to fund the continued development of the Valleys Regional Park to June 2023. 


She advised that the Valleys Regional Park (VRP) has been developed through the Welsh Government Ministerial Taskforce for the Valleys in partnership with the Valleys local authorities (Merthyr Tydfil, Blaenau Gwent, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Caerphilly, Torfaen, Bridgend, Neath Port Talbot, Swansea and Carmarthenshire), Natural Resources Wales, Visit Wales and Welsh Government officials in Health and Environment Divisions. It reflected the views of stakeholders from Valleys communities, the Third Sector, Public Health Wales and feedback received through a series of engagement events. The VRP prospectus was published on 18th October 2018 and plans have been further developed through the partnership led by the VRP team, hosted by Bridgend County Borough Council (BCBC).


She reminded Cabinet, that in the autumn of 2019, Welsh Government and WEFO indicated that funding opportunities existed through RDP and ESF resources to potentially support the continuation of the VRP delivery from March 2021 to June 2023.  At its meeting in March 2020 the VRP Board invited BCBC to apply for funding through ESF and RDP in its role as host.  This invitation was subsequently supported by the VRP Forum.


In June 2020 BCBC officers under delegated authority submitted two full business cases to Welsh Government and WEFO.


The proposal to Welsh Government was submitted under the RDP Co-operation and Supply Chain Development Scheme to support the continued development of the VRP Guardians Scheme.  The current work will provide an evaluation of the development phase which is funded by Welsh Government and is currently being delivered through a contract with Groundwork Wales working to the VRP team. This proposal would deliver the ongoing Guardian Scheme that will utilise the facilities being delivered through the Discovery Gateway capital investments that have been made directly by Welsh Government.  The proposal would also enable a procurement process to be undertaken that would seek to take forward the current approach and enable funding to be in place to June 2023 for the Guardians element of the VRP.


The second was a proposal submitted to WEFO for ESF Priority 5, Specific Objective 5: Public Services Reform.  This proposal was based on an approach to regional working that would strengthen sustainable management of natural resources through strategic regional collaboration to establish and enable the long-term vision and aims of the VRP to provide significant social, economic and environmental benefits. This proposal would support the VRP team and the development of the partnership with funding in place to June 2023.  The proposal supports the development of proposals for the long term governance, operating model and funding mechanism for the VRP. Welsh Government and WEFO have agreed to allow the current funding for VRP to be used as retrospective match for the ESF proposal and attract the grant offer.


Based on the request of the VRP forum to do so, these proposals outlined that BCBC will continue to act as host for the programme team and to extend the appropriate financial and legal agreements with Welsh Government and the Local Authorities that form the VRP.  The VRP Strategic and Operational lead would remain as a Welsh Government employee but be hosted by BCBC via an extension of the terms and conditions of the existing hosting agreement. 


The Corporate Director – Communities reminded Members that there were two park areas in Bridgend that were part of the VRP, namely Parc Slip Nature Reserve and Bryngarw Park.


The Cabinet Member – Education and Regeneration commended Officers in BCBC, for their hard work which had seen the Authority continue to host this initiative and whilst he was happy to note the level of ongoing funding that had been made available, he was also sorry to note, that this was only until 2023.


The Leader advised that the funding to date had gone a considerable way to improving facilities that were now available at both Parc Slip Nature Reserve and Bryngarw Park. He encouraged people to visit both these parks to see these enhanced improvements.


The Cabinet Member – Communities gave his support for what was a good news story, particularly for open areas such as park land during the pandemic.


The Cabinet Member – Future Generations and Wellbeing concluded debate by commending the 3 valley locations that were situated in the BCB area, adding that it was worth people paying a visit to these scenic locations in order to see what was available there, which included a warm welcome from the residents.


RESOLVED:                              That Cabinet:


1.         Noted progress to date in developing the VRP.


2.          Noted the request from the VRP board that BCBC continue in its role as host of the VRP


3.          Approved the proposal for BCBC to extend its role as host of the VRP delivery team to June 2023 and delegate authority to the Corporate Director Communities, in consultation with the Section 151 Officer and the Chief Officer of Legal, HR & Regulatory Services, to:


(i)         Approved the final terms of the grant offers and accept the offers of funding from Welsh Government and WEFO for RDP and ESF resources upon their receipt; and 


(ii)         Approved the entering into any appropriate funding and legal agreements necessary to fulfil its role as host the VRP delivery team and its obligations in relation to RDP and ESF funding.


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