Minutes of the Projects Committee held on Thursday 26 February 2015 at 7pm in the Council Chamber, Town Hall, Abergavenny

Present: Cllr M J Hickman JP (Mayor).

Cllrs C Woodhouse, Mrs S Woodhouse, Ms S Dodd, S Horrell, N Tatam, R Harris, Mrs M Harris and Ms M Toombs.

In attendance: Town Clerk’s Assistant.   Ms Heather Myers and Sir Trefor Morris were present for the first item.  Mr Chris Jones was present for the second.

1. Apologies for absence were received from Cllrs D Edwards, J Prosser, P Wadsworth, P Jordan, Mrs M Powell and P Woodley.

2. Declarations of interest to be made as and when necessary during the meeting.

3. The Mayor welcomed Ms Myers and Sir Trefor to the meeting and invited them to address Members.

Ms Myers thanked the Council for the financial support given to both the Food Festival (now in its 17th year) and the Winter Festival.  She reported 2014 saw record attendances (with over 32,000 tickets sold), employed some 120 young local people and was host to two Radio 4 broadcasts.  A fairer system of parking had been introduced with volunteers from a variety of organisations placed in control of car parks (receiving £2 from every £3 charged).  This year instead of the Fanfare Dinner a Night Market was held in Brewery Yard which worked extremely well, despite some teething problems.  Once established it is expected to attract more people to the town. 

Ms Myers reported Abergavenny Food Festival was awarded ‘Best Event in Wales 2013’, is within the top 12 events in the country and is currently shortlisted for ‘Best Event 2015’.   Most services are brought locally and the Festival itself generates some £4,000,000 for the local economy.

The Festival aims to be self-sufficient however is only at breakeven point – whilst it raises £400,000 it costs £400,000 to run.   Funding from both the Welsh Assembly and Monmouthshire County Council has decreased considerably over the years therefore Ms Myers asked the Council if it would consider offering financial support (circa £2,000) towards the running costs of the Night Market, the Park & Ride scheme or for the decorations in the Market Hall.

Members congratulated Ms Myers on the Food Festival agreeing it was fantastic event which benefited Abergavenny enormously.  This year’s Xmas Parade was reported to be superb.   Whilst disappointment was expressed at the decision to axe the Fanfare Dinner it was agreed the Festival has to evolve and it was good to see change.  The Night Market provided a wonderful atmosphere and will no doubt develop over time.  In response to a query as to why can’t the stalls be spread out to prevent congestion Ms Myers explained they had to ensure they did not obstruct shop entrances and whilst they have been asked to place stalls in Frogmore Street  they feel unable to do so as this could jeopardise ticket sales!

Ms Myers informed Members next year ticket prices will have to increase in order for the Festival to work financially however urged them to promote the fact that local residents can save up to 30% by purchasing tickets in advance online or via the Borough Theatre.

Ms Myers finished her presentation by reporting she will email the Clerk with her request.  The Mayor thanked Ms Myers & Sir Trefor following which they left the meeting.  The Clerk was instructed to forward a grant application form to Ms Myers for completion.

 Mr Chris Jones arrived at this point. 

4.   Mr Chris Jones provided an up-date on the current position with Abergavenny BID (Business Improvement District) explaining how BID aims to increase footfall and increase spending in the town for the benefit of all its businesses.  

They are now moving from  a summary business plan to a full business plan.  Both Mr Chris Jones and Mr Owen Davies plan to engage with businesses within the BID boundary (ie from the train station out to Waitrose – Park Road down to the River Usk) in March/April and will explain how BID aims to:

  1. Promote the town centre, festivals and markets  –  provide stronger marketing and promotion;
  2. Travel and Exploring – improve signage – get people to stay longer;
  3. Character and Comfort – clean town and toilets;
  4. Business Support & Influence – reduce business costs through centrally negotiating services, ie waste collection, etc.

The principal aim to is get people to stay in the town longer, spend more and importantly visit again.

BID works by levying a 1.5% charge on the rateable value of the business for a period of 5 years.   The 434 businesses in town could generate some £240,000 pa if they vote to proceed.  For BID to progress over 50% of businesses which vote must be in favour –  of the businesses that vote those voting yes must represent greater total rateable value than the ones that vote no.  Ballot papers will be distributed in June and a vote taken in July on whether or not to proceed. 

BID is based on an agreement between Monmouthshire County Council, the police and Abergavenny Town Council.  Ultimately it’s about safeguarding services in the town with a review carried out on an annual basis – the scheme is very much about mutual agreement and working together for the benefit of the town.   In England virtually all towns have renewed after the initial 5 year period. 

Mr Jones asked the Council if it would agree to sign up to the scheme, explaining BID needs the security of agreement in place.   Councillors were unable to provide guarantees at this stage but were happy to agree in principle.   Mr Jones will contact the Clerk.

The Mayor thanked Mr Jones who then left the meeting.  Cllr Dodd also left at this stage

It was noted the contract for the Wales in Bloom displays with The Willows Garden Centre has also expired although carried over for an additional year last year.  It was suggested however the Council may wish to remain with The Willows for another year considering the relatively few contractors, the development of the Incredible Edibles and the use of wild flowers.  Councillors agreed to this action suggesting wild flower displays be utilised if possible.

6. It was agreed to refer a response to the Wales Government White Paper to a separate Projects meeting devoted entirely to this purpose.

7. There being no other business, the Mayor closed the meeting.

The meeting ended at 8:32pm