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Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Minutes of Evidence



1. Memorandum by the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation

WIMM ACQUISITION

1.   SUMMARY

  1.1  The Development Corporation spent £4.6 million acquiring the Welsh Industrial and Maritime Museum site. The amount is based on actual value and the cost the National Museum will incur in moving to a new site. Cardiff Bay Development Corporation has offered the Museum a number of new sites, which are available for development, and is doing all it can to persuade the Museum to choose a site in Cardiff Bay.

2.   BACKGROUND

  2.1  The Cardiff Bay Development Corporation was set up by Government in 1987 with the following mission statement:—

    "To put Cardiff on the international map as a superlative maritime city, which will stand comparison with any such city in the world, thereby enhancing the image and economic well-being of Cardiff and of Wales as a whole."

  2.2  In 1988 the Corporation published a Regeneration Strategy which provided the blue print for the Corporation's work throughout Cardiff Bay.

  2.3  This work has progressed primarily through the acquisition and decontamination of land, the construction of new infrastructure and working with private sector investors on specific schemes of development, all in accordance with principles set out in the Regeneration Strategy.

  2.4  In relation to the Inner Harbour area (now renamed Millennium Waterfront) the Regeneration Strategy and subsequent more detailed plans designated the site comprising the Welsh Industrial and Maritime Museum (WIMM) and surrounding land for comprehensive commercial redevelopment due to its prime location in the heart of the Bay. It also designated the adjoining Oval Basin as an area of new public infrastructure.

3.  NEGOTIATIONS FOR SITE

  3.1  The Corporation's ambitions for a comprehensive redevelopment of the site resulted in a private sector initiative from Sovereign Land Plc, a specialist retail/leisure development company and their funders, Schroder Exempt Property Trust. The scheme proposed to the Corporation comprised the construction of approximately 15,000 cubic metres (150,000 sq ft) of mixed retail/leisure development with associated decked car parking and Bayside public realm, at a cost in the region of £25 million.

  3.2  The scheme, known as Mermaid Quay, which comprised a mix of cafes, bars, restaurants and shops and undertook the comprehensive development of land held in the ownership of the National Museum and Galleries of Wales (NMGW) which comprised the site of WIMM, Associated British Ports (ABP) and the Corporation. The Corporation agreed with the developer to support the scheme through the planning process and procure the land necessary for their scheme by the use of its land acquisition powers.

  3.3  The Corporation also brought forward plans for the development of the adjacent Oval Basin as a major new area of public realm, complimentary to both Mermaid Quay and the proposed Wales Millennium Centre.

  3.4  Negotiations with NMGW resulted in the Museum agreeing to dispose of their land interests by private treaty at a figure of £4.5 million plus VAT. This sum was agreed by both parties' professional advisors as a fair and reasonable figure based upon the anticipated costs of an equivalent reinstatement of WIMM to an alternative site of equal prominence.

  3.5  Cardiff Council and Cadw gave their support to both Mermaid Quay and Oval Basin by granting the necessary consents and highway orders earlier this year.

  3.6  The land acquisition contracts signed with the Museum allowed them adequate timescale for closure and decanting. The Museum did not link the disposal of the WIMM site to the acquisition of an alternative.

  3.7  The Corporation was aware of, but not party to, an agreement between NMGW and the Welsh Office in relation to further monies that may be available to the Museum direct from Government should the Museum proceed with the construction of a new Museum within Cardiff Bay within the deadline. This agreement did not form part of Corporation's acquisition of the WIMM site.

  3.8  Construction of Mermaid Quay started in April 1998 and has a target opening date of August 1999.

4.  REPLACEMENT SITE

  4.1  NMGW has long stated its keenness to redevelop a new museum within Cardiff Bay not simply the upgrading of WIMM.

  4.2  This intent was reinforced with the arrival of Colin Ford as a Director of NMGW, when a number of exciting ideas, include a large screen IMAX theatre were stated by the Museum to be part of their plans for a new museum.

  4.3  Over a lengthy period of time the Corporation assisted the Museum in examining a number of serious alternatives including an option to become part of the Wales Millennium Centre Project (WMC), an option for a free standing new Museum on part of the WMC site and the procurement of space within the Mermaid Quay scheme itself.

  4.4  For one reason or another none of these options has progressed and are now not available.

  4.5  In addition, the Corporation has offered other sites in the Bay which are within its ownership. Namely, a site within the Graving Dock area adjacent to Techniquest and a site currently used for car parking at the junction of Bute Crescent and James Street. The latter site is currently on the market and we know that the Museum may express an interest, which the Corporation will consider, balanced against other bids, or proposals which may be received.

  4.6  We are also aware, but not party to, other proposals that have been put to NMGW for alternative options within the Bay, namely a site at Queen Alexandra Head by the Barrage and the former Post Office buildings in Bute Street.

  4.7  The Corporation was not asked to be party to the consultation recently undertaken by the Museum to establish options for a new museum location and has no knowledge of alternative sites put forward to the Museum in relation to locations outside Cardiff Bay.

  4.8  The Corporation remains of the view that a new Museum, maybe one that told the story of Cardiff's export of coal to the world and its significance to the world economy, would be a major asset to the leisure attractions currently located or planned for Millennium Waterfront.

  4.9  Indeed, the compensation figure paid to NMGW includes within it a sizeable element for the acquisition of an alternative site, equal in value to the NMGW's assets given up in WIMM.

5.  CONCLUSION

  5.1  The Corporation acquired the land interests of the National Museums and Galleries of Wales on a private treaty basis at a mutually acceptable figure and agreed to a closure/decanting programme which enabled the Museum to deal properly with the transfer of its collection to locations which it judged appropriate.

  5.2  The Corporation remains willing to assist NMGW in its search for a site or opportunity to remain within Cardiff Bay for a new museum project which adds to the quality leisure attractions currently located or planned for Millennium Waterfront.

M Boyce
Chief Executive

September 1998


 
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