Agenda item

Levelling Up Fund Priority Projects



Councillor John Spanswick - Cabinet Member Communities

Councillor Neelo Farr – Cabinet Member Regeneration


Janine Nightingale - Corporate Director, Communities

Ieuan Sherwood – Group Manager, Economy, Natural Resources & Sustainability

Delyth Webb – Group Manager Strategic Regeneration

Jonathan Parsons – Group Manager Planning & Development Services

Richard Hughes – Chief Executive, Awen



The Corporate Director - Communities introduced the report and explained the fund was the second half of the UK Government’s Levelling Up Agenda which had been announced in the UK Government’s spending review in 2020. It was a programme of mostly capital works with some revenue up to 2025, with an allocation of £4 billion overall across the UK, with £800 million for Wales. She advised each local authority could put in a bid for up to £20 million for each of their MP constituencies, with BCBC having two; Bridgend and Ogmore. Secondly a major transport bid for up to £50 million could be submitted. It was a capital fund which had some very specific criteria, such as supporting cultural assets, town centre and town and community regeneration and transport. She advised that bids submitted had to be 10% match funded, so money would need to be secured from either a third party, National Lottery funding or Bridgend County Borough Council itself. Two bids had been submitted one for the refurbishment of the Grand Pavilion in Porthcawl and one for the Penprysg Road Bridge in Pencoed to remove the level crossing and put in a new road bridge and footpath.


The Group Manager, Economy, Natural Resources and Sustainability presented an overview of the report, following which Members discussed the following:


Members queried whether £20M would be sufficient  for the Grand Pavilion refurbishment project, taking into consideration rising prices and if not , where extra money needed could come from, and also whether Cadw were on board and accepting of the proposed alterations.


Officers advised that when opening up old buildings sometimes other unforeseen issues could become apparent, however lessons had been learned from previous schemes, and it was recognised that this scheme had a significant large contingency in it and a risk contingency against it. If there were unforeseen circumstances or costs rose, there would be a need to relook at the design and re-engineer accordingly, as there were not additional monies to spend on the building. Through value engineering  they would look at the building and what elements they could do in latter phases should more money become available. The Group Manager Strategic Regeneration advised that that Cadw were familiar with the building and were on board along with the Authority’s own internal Conservation and Design Team.


Members expressed concern that if the project went ahead the Grand Pavilion would be potentially closed for up to two years and asked whether options were being explored to retain some stability for events to be provided in Porthcawl.


Officers advised once construction commenced on the building it was subject to the contractors’ risk and liability insurance, so although it had been considered it was not possible to allow the use of the building during that time. However, they would work with Awen who operate the facility regarding facilities in other places. 


The Chief Executive of the Awen Cultural Trust explained that their priority would always be the local users and they would work with colleagues at the Council to try and see what they do, with a possible combination of working with schools and other institutions to see what they can do to support and keep the arts going at a community level as well.


Members enquired if in terms of allocated funding for the Pavilion whether there was any scope to do some feasibility work around a temporary building somewhere in Porthcawl, e.g., Rest Bay playing field was suggested or renting a field or possibly using a  car park depending on what it would be used for in the regeneration. There was interest in seeing any report or outcomes, if those discussions had taken place,  as Members felt money could still be made while the Pavilion project was taking place and suggested alternative forms could also possibly be explored such as the community benefit aspect of the procurement contract and a Section 106 Agreement.


The Corporate Director - Communities and the Cabinet Member for Regeneration advised there had been conversations regarding exploring venues but unfortunately, they could not use money from the Levelling Up fund for a feasibility at that stage, as all the money had to be spent on the project and they had put a spend profile in.


Members inquired whether the anticipated number of seats would  increase once the Pavilion project was completed and had there been any consideration to provide extra parking facilities on site or close to site.  If not was that something that could be taken away and brought back for the Committee to look at.


The Corporate Director- Communities advised there were no plans to increase the amount of parking on site, but she did not believe they were removing the existing onsite parking. She explained they had commissioned a parking study for Porthcawl which was an important part of the regeneration.


Members asked for clarification on the one bid per MP’s area and when the next funding transit would be. They were also aware that Maesteg Town Hall had a few complications meaning an increase in costs and time scales, so wondered if there would be a time period when neither of them was available, or whether subject to the bid being successful, the Grand Pavilion would not close until Maesteg Town Hall was reopened.


The Corporate Director explained the work had to be completed by April 2025, so assumed the next round would start then but would probably open in the next couple of years to be able to process beforehand.  The Corporate Director - Communities and the Chief Executive of Awen Cultural Trust clarified that Maesteg Town Hall would open before the Grand Pavilion closed as if they were successful, they would still have to finish designs, submit any planning permission, go to tender, select a contractor, and get them onto site.


The Corporate Director - Communities and the Group Manager for Planning and Development Services outlined the bid for the Penprysg Road Bridge, explaining they had submitted to the Levelling Up Fund for at least £25 million to put the bridge in place. There were initial designs for the bridge, and they had started going through the Welsh Transport Appraisal Guidance (WelTAG) Process as well as some public consultation. It was a complex scheme as they would be taking away an old Victorian era infrastructure, replacing it with a modern bridge and taking away the existing overbridge at the railway station end of Pencoed, then replacing that with a fully accessible, active travel and pedestrian bridge.


Members expressed concern over whether £25 million would be sufficient for the project, whether it would be completed by 2025 and there being no option to scale back due the nature of the project. They also asked if there were any other sources of funding that could be explored.


The Corporate Director - Communities advised that in exceptional circumstances they would allow a transport bid to go into 2026. She advised that the costs could be more than the maximum bid but they did not have the full and costed design and there were attributes that could affect the amount of funding needed. She advised it was a complex project and there were a lot of unknowns at that time, but they would be heavily reliant on other partners and external agencies to play their part, as having the infrastructure in place would have a regional impact.


With regard to the regional element Members asked whether Welsh Government and Network Rail had been approached for funding support and while fully supportive of the project Members sought reassurance that when the level crossing was removed it would not cause a traffic problem through the lanes, specifically through Hendre and Coity.


Officers advised that with regard to the regional dimension Transport for Wales (TFW) and Network Rail had been involved with the steering group they had set up and were fully supportive but there was not any funding from them. To take the project forward, they had funding from Cardiff Capital Region (CCR). They did not know what was going to happen with CCR, Welsh Government and Transport funding but would be looking for funding programmes as they came forward. As the project developed and there was more certainty, the more opportunity they had of attracting additional funding through other means. With regard to assurances sought regarding traffic, before they looked at any future development proposals, they had to have an idea of what the impact would be, some of which would not be known until the new bridge was in place. However, it was something they were mindful of and recognised there was a separate piece of work that would need to be attached to this project.



Members asked whether a bid for the Ogmore constituency  could be included in the next round of plans and funding.


The Corporate Director - Communities advised that over the last twelve months they had put together three different schemes for the Ogmore Constituency, but unfortunately the Levelling Up Fund Officers did not feel any of the three fitted the criteria. She wanted to clarify it was not through the lack of trying and that it had been very disappointing for the Team.


Members asked if it was a lesson learned that Bridgend County Borough Council needed to have a comprehensive strategic investment plan so that aspirations and projects were ready that may or may not fit when an opportunity arises, and whether that was being done.


The Corporate Director - Communities advised that it had been difficult as when the Levelling Up Fund was announced there had been no detailed criteria or guidance, they did not know the individuals involved and they were a new Team, so they had to base on other schemes they had done before. She advised that the Communities Directorate were outstanding at writing funding bids, so it had not been through lack of writing them, but the due to the lack of criteria available. She referred to the 2030 Strategy and the Economic Development Strategy reported to Council in March, which contained a significant number of projects, so they knew what the projects were and would like to take the schemes one step forward and have them ready, but unfortunately the Team were currently busy delivering what was in front of them. However, she would like to think they would hopefully be in a better place in the future.


Following consideration of the report, the Committee made the following recommendations:


1.    Similarly, to the discussions around the SPF, concern is again expressed over the tight timescales surrounding the applications for the Levelling Up Fund as well as the timescales to complete the projects, particularly if there was no extension allowed. The Penprysg Railway Bridge was particularly at risk due to the level of work that this would involve to complete.

2.    That they strongly supported the work around alterative or temporary arrangements and locations during the interim period of the Grand Pavilion in Porthcawl being closed.  Particular emphasis, however, was placed on making sure Porthcawl would not lose footfall and revenue.  Members requested feedback on these plans and mitigating measures when available but furthermore recommended that as part of this work, a feasibility study be undertaken on the potential for a temporary facility being put in place in Porthcawl whilst the Pavilion is closed. The proposal was made to explore the option of utilising the Section 106 aspect of the development contract in relation to mitigate the impact of the building closure on the community.


The Committee requested:


1.    The timeframe for the completion of the Maesteg Town Hall project. Concerns were raised about whether the Town Hall would be completed before the Grand Pavilion closed for redevelopment. Members also requested information on what this meant for Awen revenue.


2.    Further information (including a possible feasibility study requested in the above recommendations) on any proposed temporary facility and alternative arrangements whilst the Pavilion is closed.


Concerns were expressed regarding the Penprysg Railway Bridge around funding, completion and the potential impact of heavy traffic in the area.  The Committee requested a briefing paper once the project had been approved, illustrating the plans that were to be put in place to monitor and mitigate the impact of traffic on both sides of the proposed bridge. On the subject of parking in Porthcawl linked to redevelopment projects such as the Grand Pavilion and the aim to increase footfall in the area, the Committee were advised of a Parking study that was currently taking place in Porthcawl as part of its Regeneration and Placemaking plans.  The Committee requested that they be involved in the development of a Strategic Transport Plan for Porthcawl and that this be added to the Committee’s FWP.

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