Meeting documents

TDBC Full Council
Tuesday, 11th December, 2018 6.30 pm

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Considered report previously circulated, concerning the feedback from consultation with local businesses, on the previous Council resolution to invest and develop a new mid-market hotel on Firepool south-side site.


The original hotel report was approved by Full Council 10 April 2018 (Minute No. 12/April 2018 refers).  Subsequently, at the Full Council meeting on 10 July 2018 a motion was agreed - "To defer the decision to build a hotel at Firepool and consult with businesses in Taunton Deane in order to safeguard public funds and to ensure the maximum return on our capital". (Minute No. 8/July 2018 refers).


The consultation process involved the creation of a ‘Question and Answer’ leaflet and an on-line survey.  The consultation period was during the whole of October 2018 and the Taunton Business Community was informed as follows:-


·         Press release issued and published on the Council and www.investtaunton websites (on 1 October and follow-up on 24 October 2018);

·         E-mails sent directly to 312 Taunton / town centre businesses on the Council’s Business Development and Visitor Centre databases (together with sending a message directly to the Taunton Chamber of Commerce);

·         Social media – The consultation was promoted regularly throughout October via Twitter (Taunton Deane and Taunton Business Twitter accounts);

·         Taunton Business twitter feed = c.2700 followers; and

·         TDBC corporate twitter = c.4000 followers.


The feedback from the consultation with local businesses, on the previous Council resolution to invest and develop a new mid-market hotel on Firepool south-side site, had been noted.   The full results were submitted for the information of all Members.


Reported that the response rate had been very low despite extensive promotion by the team and direct contact with the business community.  As such there was no clear pattern of response from which to draw definitive conclusions.  Whilst the hotel specific question brought a higher "no" response, if the no response from the hotel/ bed and breakfast sector was taken into account, the responses were broadly even.  There was support for the principle of Council investment to support the town and to generate income to support essential services.  However on such a low response rate firm conclusions were clearly hard to draw and must be viewed accordingly.


Noted that the original decision was made based on delivery of the Council’s prime objectives - the investment would secure longer term benefits for the town centre and the Taunton area economy creating jobs and footfall; it would spur regeneration of the currently under-developed riverside site; and, critically it would create a new source of income for the Council to support service delivery.  


The Council was working closely with professional construction and design advisors (AECOM) in planning the layout of the new hotel and services on site and were engaging with representatives of our preferred Hotel Brand and Management Operations organisations.  This was necessary to identify the highest quality and affordable design for a hotel that best fitted with the Council’s aspirations for the site and within an agreed budget, supported by a robust Business Case. 


Early pre-application consultations were continuing with local authority and highways planners to reach general consensus around a suitable site access, layout and services, before developing a concept design into more detailed plans.


Members would be kept informed as proposals for the new hotel developed into architect plans that could be shared.


Further reported that there were no planned changes to the original Business Case that supported the planned investment in the hotel, which was based on robust information and uses informed estimates and assumptions.  The details of the Business Case had been reported previously to Councillors and remained confidential.


The proposed investment had been assessed as attaining best value for the Council, supported by the findings of independent feasibility studies, commercial valuations and construction cost estimates.  A detailed review of the existing supply of hotels within Taunton had provided positive income projections thereby supporting proposals to develop a new type of hotel in this preferred location.


The hotel as a commercial venture added value to the capital Land and Building investments of the Council and would provide a positive contribution to the Council’s General Fund.  The Council as landowner had the opportunity to develop and retain income from the new asset.  Noted that the preferred model was for the Council to create a new Special Purpose Vehicle to trade enabling surpluses generated to be returned to the Council.


During the discussion of this item, an amendment urging the Council to delay a decision on the new hotel until the new Council was formed was proposed by Councillor Habib Farbahi and seconded by Councillor Simon Coles.


The amendment was put and was lost.


Resolved that in light of the response to the business consultation exercise and confirmation of the robustness of the original Business Case, the Firepool Hotel Project be continued in accordance with the approval of the 10 April 2018.

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