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Garstang Business Centre Q&As

What is the background to the sale?

In order to get best value for money for Wyre residents, a review of all council assets was carried out and a decision was made to sell Garstang Business Centre, which was underperforming. The building is not fit for purpose and isn’t accessible to people with disabilities.

Following a request from Garstang Town Council it was listed as an asset of community value on 6 February 2014.

The aim of the Community Right to Bid is to give local community groups a fairer chance to make a bid to buy local assets on the open market, to prevent the decline in assets, which benefit the local community. It does not grant a right to buy or a right of first refusal but introduces, in certain circumstances, a moratorium on disposal of the asset to give community groups time to develop a proposal and raise the money required.

The council supported a proposed purchase of the building by the community and worked in partnership with the town council to progress this, extending the leases held by the current tenants to allow a reasonable timescale for discussions.

Notice of intention to dispose was made on 19 June 2014 placing the property in the moratorium period and following a request to bid for it received on 24 July 2014, the council was prevented from disposing of the building for six months (until the 19 December 2014), to give the town council, and indeed any other community groups, time to put together proposals to bid.

No bid was received from Garstang Town Council or any other organisation during that period.

The building was advertised on the open market (The Gazette, Garstang Courier, Estates Gazette and Propertylink website and the council’s website, in August – November 2014) a bid received from a prospective purchaser, and on 18 February 2015 Cabinet agreed to the disposal in principle of Garstang Business Centre.

Keyworker Homes have since undertaken a public consultation exercise on their plans. However a formal planning application has not yet been submitted.

What will happen to users of the centre?

From the outset the council stated its intention to assist, practically and financially, the remaining tenants in relocating to suitable if not better accommodation.

On 13 March 2015 the council announced plans to invest £150,000 in the new church hall at St Thomas' on Church Street for community use via the local media and on the council’s website. The investment would see the hall established as a community hub and used for a range of activities, including those currently based at Garstang Business Centre.

Who has the right to sell this land?

The building and car park are owned by Wyre Council.

How much was the centre used?

The building was approximately 50% let with nine tenants including Lancashire County Council Youth Service and Garstang Town Council. Casual hirers were also contacted to advise them of the proposed disposal.

How much money will be made from the sale of the centre?

A final deal has not yet been agreed so this information has yet to be determined. However it is commercially sensitive because it relates to the financial or business affairs of the authority and would therefore not be publicly available.

How much of the proceeds will be reinvested in Garstang?

The council does not earmark money received from any one area to be spent in that area whether this is council tax, business rates, fees and charges generated by the use of facilities or capital receipts. As a council we are responsible for the needs of the whole area and some will obviously have greater needs than others e.g. certain areas will have a higher number of benefit claimants or pensioners claiming council tax support. This is no different to Lancashire County Council, the Fire Authority, the Police or indeed the Government who all manage complex budgets and funding streams in order to meet very diverse needs.

Investment in Garstang can be seen here.

How does the subsidy at Garstang Business Centre compare to some other council venues?

For the following venues between the financial years 2010/11 and 2014/15 the five year average subsidy is as follows:

Venue

Including notional charges such as depreciation and impairment

Excluding notional charges

Wyre Civic Centre

£632,751

£497,000

Fleetwood Marine Hall

£595,876

£338,000

Thornton Leisure Centre

£375,748

£73,000

Fleetwood Leisure Centre

£374,936

£174,000

Poulton Swimming Centre

£157,982

£67,000

Garstang Leisure Centre

£133,520

£92,000

Thornton Little Theatre

£105,532

£142,000

Garstang Community Centre

£32,986

£31,000

Using an average over a five year period does not reflect the excellent work that has been going on at some venues such as the Marine Hall to reduce the subsidy provided by the tax payer, with a reduced subsidy of £257,000 (excluding notional charges) at Marine Hall in 2014/15.

What is the income and expenditure for the centre in the last five years (including notional charges)?

Year

Expenditure

Income

Net

2010/11

£79,575

£36,157

£43,418

2011/12

£77,425

£38,647

£38,778

2012/13

£67,567

£47,047

£20,520

2013/14

£84,414

£47,166

£37,248

2014/15

£72,849

£47,881

£24,968

Why is the centre deemed an under performing asset when amenities like the Marine Hall run at a far greater loss?

We take into account the income generated from the asset as a percentage of the asset’s value.

The costs of operating the asset have also been taken into account.

As the costs net of rental income for Garstang Business Centre result in a need to subsidise the operation of the centre, then in effect there is no return on the asset.

Assets achieving a rate of return less than 3% are identified as underperforming.

This is only applied to assets held as investment assets not those the council uses to deliver its services, which are referred to as operational assets. Marine Hall is an operation asset whereas Garstang Business Centre is an investment asset.

What investment has the building received?

Building maintenance costs for Garstang Business Centre have on average cost the council £6,300 per year. This is similar to the investment in cemeteries and more than our visitor information centres. The council has limited funds which it must prioritise and has seen no increase in the council tax for five years.

Why did Wyre Council move the visitor information centre from Garstang Business Centre to Cherestanc Square?

The visitor information centre was moved as part of the Garstang Market Town Initiative to encourage environmental and economic uplift in the town centre. The council supported the development of the site with a new Booths store, adjoining retail units, public car park, public conveniences and pedestrianised public space. The rent is less than market value.

Why was the car park put up for sale?

The council initially sought expressions of interest in order to establish the market demand predominantly of the Business Centre but did not want to limit the market by restricting development solely to the footprint of the building. Having tested the market we have established that demand for the Business Centre is dependent on the inclusion of the car park.

However, it has always been the attention to retain an adequate level of public car parking.

Has the car park been declared a surplus asset?

There has been no agreement by councillors currently to declare any part of the car park as surplus.

How well used is the car park?

Surveys undertaken in June 2015 revealed only one instance out of seven counts where the expected level of car parking would not be sufficient.

Surveys undertaken in October 2015 revealed no instances out of 14 counts where the expected level of car parking would not be sufficient.

What is the income and expenditure for the car park?

We don’t analyse costs across each car park but for an Overview and Scrutiny review in 2013 we estimated the cost of each car park, with High Street reflecting a loss of £14,620 (based on 2012/13 expenditure and income).

We publish the overall trading position on our fee-earning car parks on our website. For 2013/14 overall we are showing a loss for off street car parking of £163,702.

Why has Wyre Council been working with Keyworker Homes on the plans before a formal application was submitted?

The council encourages all prospective applicants/developers to discuss their proposals informally with planning officers before submitting a formal planning application. This is fully in accordance with advice set out in the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which, at Paragraph 188 states that “Early engagement has significant potential to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the planning application system for all parties”. The NPPF also encourages applicants to engage with the local community before submitting their application. There is, however, no requirement for the applicant to do so but they have done so in this case.

Is the land designated as a conservation area?

Yes, the site lies within the Garstang Conservation Area.

Will construction by the river lead to more frequent instances of flooding?

This is a matter that will be determined as part of the consideration of any planning application submitted. The applicant will have to submit a Flood Risk Assessment which will be considered by the Environment Agency, Lancashire County Council, and by the Council’s own drainage engineers.

If I have already written to you outlining my objections to this proposed development, do I have to write again to object after plans have been submitted or will my original letter be considered when the planning application is considered?

If a planning application is made we will include all letters already received about the development in the application for consideration. You are welcome to comment at any time up to the date of any decision and you may wish to do so again depending on the details of any planning application.

How do I comment on a planning application?

You may comment on, object to, or support an undecided planning application online at www.wyre.gov.uk/planningcomments, by e-mail to planning@wyre.gov.uk or in writing to Wyre Council, Civic Centre, Breck Road, Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, FY6 7PU.

What type of comments will be taken into consideration when determining a planning application?

The law requires that decisions must be taken in accordance with the development plan unless there are material considerations that indicate otherwise. More details of what constitutes a material consideration can be found at www.wyre.gov.uk/planningcomments

How can I monitor planning applications?

All planning applications can be found on our website at www.wyre.gov.uk/planning

Alternatively, view all planning applications in your area by visiting www.wyre.gov.uk/myarea

You can also track the progress of planning applications by registering an account on our website.

What is the Local Plan?

The council is required by law to prepare a Local Plan which will set out the development strategy and detail policies and proposals for a 15 year period. The Local Plan is the starting point for the consideration of any planning application. As required by law a planning application must be determined in accordance with the adopted Local Plan.

Currently the relevant Local Plan is the Wyre Borough Local Plan adopted in 1999. Some of the policies expired on 27 September 2007 but many were ‘saved’ and they are relevant to the consideration of any planning application, although the weight to be afforded to them may vary.

Further information here

The Council is preparing a new Local Plan for the period 2011 to 2031. The new plan will set out how the borough physically develops over the next 15 years and be used to guide planning decisions. During summer, public views were sought on an early stage of the plan - Issues and Options, which considers how best to meet the demands of an increasing population and provide suitable housing, employment and infrastructure.

There were three alternative options to consider, reflecting different approaches to the distribution and location of new homes, employment and shops, as well as which areas should be protected. All the feedback is now being considered and will be used to produce an initial draft of the Local Plan. There will be two further stages of public consultation on the initial draft and a subsequent final draft of the plan currently scheduled for next year.

The Local Plan will then be submitted to the Government for examination with the final version due to be adopted in 2017. Find out more at www.wyre.gov.uk/localplan

Has a Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) to work out how many homes are needed been carried out?

A Fylde Coast Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) was prepared jointly with Blackpool Council and Fylde Borough Council. The SHMA was published in February 2014 and can be viewed here.

Following the publication of the 2012 population projections and 2012 household projections the council is updating the SHMA in two Addendum Reports.

A SHMA does not give a single figure of how many homes are needed. It considers a number of demographic and economic scenarios and sets out a range of the ‘Objectively Assessed Need’ (OAN). The SHMA identified an OAN range for Wyre of 340-485 dwellings per annum.

In determining the OAN figure the council must ensure that housing and economic evidence and subsequent policies are aligned. In basic terms there must be sufficient housing to support job creation.

Why are there so many large developments proposed around Garstang?

In preparing the Local Plan the council is required to consider options in meeting the OAN figure in full. The sites identified in the Issues and Options document represent the gross list of potential development sites and include land that has been put forward by landowners for consideration as well as areas of land identified by the council as having development potential.

It is NOT a list of sites that are proposed to be allocated for development and therefore cannot be considered as proposed sites for development at this stage of the plan making process.

The council wanted to show to the community at this early stage what is being considered so that people had an opportunity to put forward their concerns. Large potential sites are being considered in relation to all settlements.

Some landowners, however, want to seek planning permission for the development of their land in advance of the adoption of the Local Plan, and they are perfectly entitled to do so. The council is obliged to consider such applications. National policy requires that in the absence of a five year land supply planning applications must be determined in accordance with the presumption in favour of sustainable development. The overriding Government policy is to increase the number of houses nationally.

What about the loss of green space due to proposed development?

The council will seek to meet its housing needs by using previously developed land where possible and has, in the recent past developed over 60% of its housing need on previously developed land. Unfortunately Wyre does not have a large supply of unused previously developed land to meet land requirements for housing. It is inevitable that we will need to meet most of our future need using greenfield land.

How much investment will Garstang receive as part of the Local Plan?

As we progress the Local Plan further and begin to identify the amount of development required and where it should be located, we will, at the same time, produce an infrastructure delivery plan, which identifies what infrastructure is required to support such development. The provision of such infrastructure, however, is not a matter for the council as it is the responsibility of a large number of agencies and organisations e.g. Lancashire County Council for roads and education.

The council will also prepare and adopt a Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) Schedule. Developers are required to pay a levy on the square meterage of each dwelling. The money collected through the levy will be spent on infrastructure across the borough. Until such time as the CIL is adopted developers will be required to make direct financial contributions to support the provision and maintenance of key infrastructure (e.g. highways and education) impacted upon by their development.

What investment has Garstang received?

View the latest investment paper for the area here.

The council’s 2015/16 Capital Budget includes £300,000 for improvements to Garstang Leisure Centre.

We’ve invested £90,943 in Rural East (Garstang and surrounding villages) through our Shaping Your Neighbourhood (SYN) initiative. (This name is used solely in relation to SYN for the purpose of identifying the neighbourhood area within the borough).

The funding has gone towards 13 projects covering everything from a new and improved riverside footpath at Garstang Millennium Green and a number of community gardens to a support service for people affected by cancer and an expansion of a local gymnastics school.

If you look at the 2014/15 original budget for capital schemes, only 3.6% of the Leisure and Culture Portfolio expenditure of £7.3m is being spent in the rural area – why is this?

The council relies in the main on external grant funding in order to be able to deliver capital schemes. Often the programme for each year reflects where we have been successful with funding bids. If you look at the 2015/16 financial year, 100% of the schemes in the Economy Portfolio are funded by the Coastal Communities Fund.

Garstang Leisure Centre at £300,000 was announced as part of the overall investment in leisure centres, agreed by council on 7 March 2013, which was funded by revenue contributions i.e. money that we had saved over a number of years or capital receipts from the disposal of assets. 100% of the schemes in the Neighbourhood Services Portfolio are externally funded, and in the Street Scene Portfolio the Memorial Park scheme in Fleetwood and the restoration of the Mount are both heavily dependent on grants and external contributions.

£85,000 is available for playground refurbishment, as yet unallocated, along with £227,500 for vehicle replacements and both of these required savings over a number of years - a bit like using some of your day to day income to put away to purchase a new car. The 2015/16 budget for capital schemes totals £22.2m.

If you look at the Leisure and Culture Portfolio in 2015/16, expenditure in the rural areas equates to 66%.

If you consider the budget for civic amenities, Garstang Business Centre only equates to 1% so why can the council not continue to support it?

The council does not identify or categorise sites as civic amenities but analyses its budgets across the six portfolios.

Actual expenditure on Garstang sites (for example the Business Centre, swimming centre, leisure centre, Visitor Information Centre, Market Town Initiative and festive lighting) averages £328,593 per year based on the past 10 years.

There are of course lots of other council services which we provide borough wide such as waste collection, street cleaning, planning, environmental health and economic development which cannot be broken down to individual areas.

Garstang council taxpayers contribute just under £300,000 recognising that Wyre only keeps 12%, or £180.16, of the total amount raised.

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