Documents on the planned conversion of the People’s Market to an Arts Hub have been mistakenly released by Wrexham Council, detailing proposed changes to a town centre car park.
The documents erroneously sent yesterday afternoon by Wrexham Council to Wrexham.com and other media included the full ‘Arts Hub’ business plan detailing the financial plans for the proposed centre that will be paid for with a £1.5m contribution from Wrexham Council plus possible ongoing support due to a predicted ongoing net operating deficit.
Part of the plans would see a new entity, likely a new ‘Arts Trust’, given a long term peppercorn lease for the People’s Market and associated car park. This would transfer control, costs and destination of the revenues raised from the car park to the new entity that would also run the new arts centre, making up just over 10% of its income.
The business plan is marked ‘restricted’ and is due to be discussed in secret by Councillors in two weeks time, a route usually taken to ensure individuals maintain privacy over pay or to retain commercial advantages for tendering or similar. Due to the encompassing nature of a business plan there are elements that could be considered not to be commercially sensitive, and that would fit a discussion and analysis in a public arena, such as the parking prices.
The document states “…car park rates are assumed to be doubled from the current rates (ie. £1 to replace the 50p for up to 1 hour, £2 to replace £1 for 1-2hrs and £4 to replace £2 for over 2 hours)” along with a note that suggests the current free-after-3pm system would be scrapped with charges right up to 6pm.
There is a note that explains ‘patrons of the OW’ (Oriel Wrecsam) are assumed to be 10% of all of the parking charges, a group who could benefit from an ‘incentive scheme’ to encourage visit and spend inside the OW specifically at the new cafe bar facility.
Regeneration of the car park is suggested to a specification that reads similar to the current look and feel of Eagles Meadow, although it is noted the costs to do so are ‘not included within the capital budget’.
Wrexham.com attempted to query with Wrexham Council today how the price rises fits with the overall aim to ‘increase footfall and dwell time’ in the town centre, with around 90% of those parking identified as non-Oriel Wrecsam patrons.
Parking charges have been an ongoing controversial issue in the town, with some ideas such as incentivised ticking where reimbursement of parking charges is made in local shops, being rejected for being too costly. In the business plan such a reimbursement scheme is proposed.
Previously Wrexham Council have fed back the difficulty in lowering parking prices due to the revenue raising nature of their operation. Wrexham.com have attempted to query how this matches with offloading an entire car park for a peppercorn rent plus a £1,500,000 initial cost and an apparent ongoing subsidy.
Along with the issues relating to the slow down around the festive and new year period, and to the source of the above information being in the secret ‘Part 2’, Wrexham Council is declining to comment until such things are formally public.
Speaking this morning with the Chairman of Wrexham Town Centre Forum Nigel Lewis, someone who has persistently challenged car parking charges in the town centre as well as conducting a u-turn on supporting the arts hub plans, he told us he was unaware of the proposed car park plans. Mr Lewis has been involved in the discussions and planning, although it appears such car park changes were separate, and said he had been requesting further information on parking that has not been forthcoming from Wrexham Council. UPDATE: Mr Lewis has been in touch, adding he has asked for a full range of documents from Wrexham Council: “I have asked for a full copy of all of the consultants deliverables including full business case for capital and ongoing costs. WCBC response unable to provide any further information until reports to Scrutiny and Executive Board are released as public documents.”
One representative of the market traders, also similarly involved in discussions and planning, also said they were unaware of the planned changes to the parking charges with ‘possibilities bandied about’ but Wrexham Council ‘never confirmed when asked’. A further note mentioning a ‘marginal’ market stall rent increase, one of the few mentions of the markets in the business plan document, was also new information to the trader representative.
If the above remains in ‘Part 2’ it will be discussed behind closed doors on January 6th, however if it is seen as not ‘commercially sensitive’ and in the public interest it could be brought into the ‘Part 1’ public discussion.