Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

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Cabinet Decision: 14th February 2008
Title of Item/Report
Billingham Forum
Record of the Decision
Members considered a report that provided an updated position statement regarding the Billingham Forum Complex. In particular it highlighted the redevelopment options and continuing operational issues affecting Billingham Forum.

Cabinet noted that the condition of the Billingham Forum was fragile. Given the frailty and condition of the structure, services and fabric of the building, and the desire to keep it fully operational and open for use, extensive monitoring arrangements had been put in place to mitigate Health and Safety concerns.

Since 1980 £4.5 million (at current day costs) had been spent on improvements and repairs to the complex. However, given its age and construction type, many components were collectively reaching the end of their natural life. Recent difficulties including electrical problems, issues with the roof, and structural damage, all reflected the increasing difficulty of maintaining the building as a safe and reliable operational venue.

Following an application for PFI credits in 2005, which although unsuccessful received positive feedback, the Council in conjunction with The Billingham Partnership (TBP) prepared a refined 2007 PFI bid for submission. However, given the timescales involved with a PFI scheme and uncertainty regarding the announcement of 2007 PFI credits, Officers investigated contingency options and completed detailed financial appraisals.

Following the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review, DCMS advised that they had not been allocated funding for PFI credits for leisure projects. As the Comprehensive Spending Review provided budget allocations until 2010/11, it could be confirmed that a PFI credit bid was not a feasible redevelopment option.

A non-financial options appraisal of all the facilities concluded that with the exception of the climbing wall (which was not considered to be well used or have the necessary demand) and sauna/solarium, the existing facility mix in addition to a dance studio, play barn & /or crèche, and 80 station health and fitness studio would be desirable. An 8 lane x 25m pool was also considered to be desirable in order to provide good competition facilities, whilst the creation of exhibition space to display art work was considered to be essential.

In total eight options were identified to demonstrate the range of facilities that could be provided in a redeveloped/refurbished Forum. Members were provided with overview of the options and indicative costs associated with the options (including the PFI scheme for comparative purposes). Details of delivery options were also provided.

Having considered all the information provided relating to facility mix, costs and delivery options Cabinet considered that the refurbishment option offered value for money and provided an expedient solution to the structural problems. In particular the refurbishment option would retain all of the present facilities, including the unique regional attraction of the ice rink and would enhance the Forum's facilities, appearance and layout to attract new customers.

Furthermore, the use of prudential borrowing to fund a Council led refurbishment was considered to be the most favourable option as the Council could retain control of the end facility and Tees Active Ltd would remain as the operator in line with the Council's strategic aims.

Although the timescale was slightly longer for the refurbishment option than other approaches it would allow the building to remain partially open whilst works was being carried out. This was considered to be important for continuation of service, and in order to minimise the impact on Tees Active Ltd and Riverside Leisure Ltd. Furthermore, given the current state of the building any major repairs that would need to be carried out before the works started (such as the recent works to the ice rink plant) could be factored into the refurbishment. In contrast any monies spent on essential maintenance works before a Design Build Operate Maintain approach commenced would essentially be non-recoverable.

English Heritage had agreed in principle to a refurbishment option, although detailed discussions regarding structural improvements to the theatre would need to be held.

RECOMMENDED to Council that:-

1. the enhanced refurbishment of Billingham Forum, Option 1 and Appendix 4 as detailed in the report, be approved.

2. the Corporate Director of Development and Neighbourhoods Services in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Transport be authorised to enter into an Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) process to establish a target cost for the refurbishment of Billingham Forum and undertake a full evaluation of risks.

3. it note that a final target cost will be prepared for Cabinet and Council for approval prior to construction works commencing.

4. the funding proposal as detailed within this report and Appendix 3 be noted.

5. it note the ongoing works to underpin the Forum's existing facilities
Reasons for the Decision
To enable the progression of proposals to secure funding to facilitate a redevelopment of Billingham Forum.
Alternative Options Considered and Rejected
Seven options considered as detailed in the report.
Declared (Cabinet Member) Conflicts of Interest
Councillors Mrs Womphrey and Mrs Beaumont declared a personal prejudicial interest in this item as they were both Members of the Tees Active Management Board. Both Members left the meeting and took no part in discussions or voting on the matter.

Councillor Nelson declared a personal, non prejudicial interest in this item as he was a Member of Friends of Billingham Forum
Details of any Dispensations
Not Applicable
Date and Time by which Call In must be executed
By no later than midnight on Friday 22nd February 2008

Date of Publication: 18 February 2008

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