- Meeting of General scrutiny committee, Wednesday 22 September 2021 10.00 am (Item 35.)
- View the background to item 35.
To provide General Scrutiny Committee with an update in regards to the operation and future development of the Maylord Orchard Centre.
After a short interlude the Chair reopened the meeting in public session.
During discussion the following principal points were made:
· The acquisition of Maylord Orchards, as a key site of Hereford heritage city, was always part of a strategic approach.
· There was a need to act quickly when the site suddenly came onto the open market and at the right price.
· A full review of Council assets and whether to dispose, retain or review them was being undertaken.
· Moving forward, the Council was looking to make Maylord Orchards a strong community and environmental zone with a vibrant events programme to draw more people to the site. Final decisions on the approach to this had not yet been made by Cabinet.
· A full asset management strategy and asset rationalisation was a priority for officers as the existing strategy ran out last year. Covid pressures had meant there had been a delay in delivering this.
· There had been a significant yield reported on the Council’s overall property portfolio.
· It was important for the Council to make a strategic intervention to halt the ongoing decline of the city centre and the purchase of Maylord was an opportunity to do this.
· Councillors queried whether there was a plan for a cultural input into the Maylord site to provide a unique selling point and encourage footfall.
· A vibrant arts culture was important for city centres as it encouraged people to live and stay in the centre and also bought in considerable income.
· The Stronger Towns Bid which was coming forward would prioritise culture in Maylords. The Council was also working with the Herefordshire Cultural Partnership and the Arts Council to bid for other grants and bring additional income in.
· The development of Brewers Passage would provide a more welcoming introduction to Maylord and the city, and officers would be looking at this as a priority.
· The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) were committed to the tenancy in Blue School House.
· Nationally it had been a very difficult time for retail during Covid and although there were some rent arrears generally the Maylord centre was performing better than other centres.
· Maylord was cash positive and it was confirmed that rental incomes more than covered the running costs.
· Every single decision being made would be examined for any unintended consequences and would go through the Maylord Orchard Strategy Review in order that the Council made best use of the asset for Hereford.
· The centre manager recently recruited by Hoople had a good track record in retail centre management and would provide a focal point to react to tenants’ needs and to coordinate a central programme of activities.
· There had been a procurement exercise that showed Hoople could provide value for money in managing the centre.
· The Section 151 officer confirmed that it had not been a financial risk to take on the site as third parties had been relied on to provided assurances that the asset was in good order and the valuation was reasonable. The process also assessed that it would not be a drain on the Council’s budget and was an appropriate use of the Council’s money.
· More of a risk was not acquiring the site and opening up the Council to criticism for not supporting a site that was hugely important to Hereford.