Mick Woolhouse, Company Secretary and Director of CSLT and Mike Muir-Smith, Chairman of CSLT will be making a short presentation to Members prior to consideration of this item
Cabinet RECOMMENDED TO COUNCIL that a revenue grant of £261,000 be awarded to Cambridge Sport Lakes Trust towards the cost of an extension and improvements to the Visitor Centre at Milton Country Park.
The Council had received a request for a grant towards the extension and improvements to the existing Visitor Centre at Milton Country Park. Messrs Mick Woolhouse, Company Secretary and Director of the Cambridge Sport Lakes Trust (CSLT), and Mike Muir-Smith Chairman of CSLT, presented to Cabinet their business plan. Local Members Councillors Mrs HM Smith and RT Summerfield spoke in support of the request, describing the increased number of visitors to the park and Council’s 2007 decision to support, rather than close, Milton Country Park. The New Communities Portfolio Holder asked members to keep in mind that there was not any zero-cost option, as there would be on-going maintenance and insurance costs to the Council if the park were to close.
In response to questions, Messrs Woolhouse and Muir-Smith, and the Council’s Senior Lawyer, confirmed that:
Business Plan and Cambridge Sport Lakes facility:
· Although the Business Plan projected losses up to the end of its five-year life, the long-term outlook was positive as completion of the Cambridge Sport Lakes project next door to the Country Park, due in the next 2-3 years, should increase use of the Country Park and comparable facilities elsewhere in the country had a £1 - £1.5 million annual turnover;
· Once the Cambridge Sport Lakes had opened, the Milton Country Park management costs would be included in the CSLT overheads and no longer chargeable to Milton Country Park;
· The Business Plan assumed that salaries were net of any indexation at this point, accommodated the recession and was the result of a comprehensive working method to produce the final figures;
· CSLT was an admitted body in the Cambridgeshire County Council pension fund and employer and employee contributions had continued since the transfer of Milton Country Park from South Cambridgeshire District Council. It was believed that the facilities could continue with the existing staff and that efficiency savings would be sought on wages for casual employees;
· References to “other premises costs” in the Business Plan included £7-8,000 to the insurers, and the increase in capital costs was a result of depreciation costs expected when built facilities progressed through their lifecycle;
· The first flood risk assessment had been completed, subject to conditions, and the planning process, including s106 agreement, for the Sport Lakes was nearly ready to proceed to the consultation stage after slight delays due to negotiations for the transfer of land owned by Cambridgeshire County Council; and
· Once the s106 agreement had been signed, the planning decision notice could be issued: a donor was in place to buy the land and a two-year fundraising phase had begun.
Existing funding and grants:
· The £250,000 dowry granted by the Council in 2007 remained in the CSLT accounts, and the loss shown in 2008/09 of the Business Plan should be netted from that dowry;
· There was regular income from birthday parties and corporate away days, but without expansion of the available space, there were limited options for increasing income through making the Visitor Centre available to hire for functions. The expansion work could begin immediately upon receipt of the grant and CSLT were willing to accept staged payments in line with the construction works;
· Cambridge City Council had been approached with regard to any s106 monies which could be obtained through other development sites and allocated to CSLT, but the project to expand the Visitor Centre did not currently meet the criteria for any City Council grant schemes;
· CSLT staff were pursuing all options for grants, and were in discussion with Natural England and WREN;
· Milton Parish Council had contributed to the Tompkins Mead wetlands restoration project, a funding stream which had not been available before the transfer to CSLT of Milton Country Park;
· There were regular small donations made through the on-site donation box and larger donations from the Friends of Milton Country Park, but CSLT had not yet received any specific pledges of large donations; and
· Without approval of the grant request, it was unlikely that Milton Country Park would be sustainable in its current format beyond another year;
It was noted that there was a 5-year break clause in the 99-year lease agreement. Cabinet members considered the presentation and voiced their support for seeing Milton Country Park succeed and to have the Visitor Centre expansion be complete in time for the opening of the Cambridge Sport Lakes facility. The Leader explained that he had approached other organisations to attend the meeting to see the presentation and consider match-funding, but this offer had not been accepted.
On the proposal of Councillor Dr DR Bard, seconded by Councillor MP Howell, Cabinet RECOMMENDED TO COUNCIL that a revenue grant of £261,000 be awarded to Cambridge Sport Lakes Trust towards the cost of an extension and improvements to the Visitor Centre at Milton Country Park.