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March 31, 2020 at 9:03 am #10075Anonymous
South Quay Site, Pembroke, a Redevelopment led by Pembrokeshire County Council.
25 years (yes, 25 years) ago, Pembrokeshire County Council (PCC), funded by the Welsh Development Agency (WDA), purchased most of the land and buildings surrounding the Castle Pond, downstream of the Mill Bridge.
Phases 1 and 2, North Quay and Rocky Park, were completed by late 1990s, gaining PCC a 'profit' of almost £1m.
South Quay, however was different to North Quay. Whilst the North Quay was relatively flat and with few buildings, the South Quay's topography included 10 metre differences of height over short distances, three listed buildings (of five purchased by PCC), and several other privately owned buildings including the Royal George public house.
The South Quay Site is also the adjacent neighbour to the Ancient Monument, Pembroke Castle, is bounded on the North side by the Grade ll Town Walls, and traversed by historic and listed burgage (plot or garden) walls. The site is difficult to develop, both logistically and financially, and it was not surprising that it was left until last.
Unfortunately, developers thought likewise and it was difficult for PCC to find one to agree to take the site on. Competitive presentations and interviews were held (2004?) at which I put forward a scheme of management, not dissimilar to the current proposals. PCC chose Allied Land, an Irish investment company who the 'preferred developer', but nothing much happened until they ceased their interest following the the banking crisis in 2008.
After an elapse of years, PCC repeated the process of inviting developers to submit a scheme, and a building company led by a Mr Cathal McCosker was appointed as 'preferred developer' in Allied Land's stead.
Unfortunately Mr McCosker was subsequently unable to explain his involvement in the Pembroke Dock Commercial Grant Scheme and also left Pembrokeshire, owing PCC a six-figure sum.
Concerned that the Welsh Government (WG, and successor to WDA) funding would be withdrawn and that the wrong sort of development and developer was being sought, I made a representation to WG to 'encourage' PCC to take on the role of developer itself. WG promptly withdrew funding briefly, restoring it after consultation with PCC.
PCC then invited Guy Thomas to market the site, but no realistic interest was shown. By now, the buildings on the site, having been empty from their purchase and before, were in a progressively deteriorating condition and falling in to a state of negative equity.
PCC resolved that if by Autumn 2017 no preferred developer had been found, it would take on the development itself. Thus a £4.5m relaunch was announced through a splash in the Western Mail in March 2018.
A project manager (Rachel Moxey, PCC) was appointed, architects appointed (Darntonb3 from Loughborough, England) without public scrutiny, and Public Engagements took place on 28th August 2019 and 25th February 2020 in Pembroke Town Hall.
A long history, and between the lines, a failure of corporate responsibility, a sad lack of competence and due diligence. But read on, please, all that is under the Mill Bridge.
I did not attend the first Public Engagement in August 2019. Although I was in Pembroke, I was not aware of its taking place. Apparently it was advertised in one of the local papers (Western Mail?) but I, and probably only a portion of the public buy.
So I requested the information presented under freedom of information (Environmental Information Regulations 2004, EIRs), (Requests nos. 10224 and 10332, search PCC website for Disclosure Log, requests titled South Quay).
Request no. 10224 asked for a brief, budget and programme: the programme was supplied, the brief was indeed brief and there was no recognisable budget supplied.
Request no 10332 supplied the figures already known from the relaunch almost two years before, and the response was 5 days after the legal limit of 20 working days.
I have also asked for other information – copies of the current proposals, copies of the public's comments invited at the Public Engagement, sight of PCC's comments of the proposals. None has been forthcoming.
PCC did email me an attachment, an hour before the second Public Engagement, seeming to be of the proposals, but they did not match those presented at the event. They appeared to be from the August 2019 Public Engagement.
I don't think it is going too far to describe the twenty five years vacancy and virtual destruction of three listed buildings in the centre of (historic) Pembroke as a scandal, although some comfort can be taken that the site has survived the ideas that PCC had for it using the agency of their PCC 'preferred developer'. It is with not a little irony that I see that the current proposals are very close to those I presented to the PCC Development Committee eighteen years ago.
My current concern is that although times have changed (and we must take into account the economic and logistical effects of covid-19), through institutional defensiveness or sensitivity to their failure and inactivity, PCC are not properly engaging the Public and are withholding information by delaying or declining the disclosure of potentially compromising information.
At the Public Engagement of 25th February 2020, PCC were surprised and somewhat embarrassed by the high turnout on a cold February evening. (Unasked, I had advertised the event in my shop window for a few days beforehand).
Although only the second consultation in ten years, PCC intend February 25th to be the last.
I think that there are serious and fundamental flaws in the design (which I have made known to PCC as invited) but which have still not been made public.
Scrutiny is over, apparently.
If anyone is interested enough to discuss any of this, or be directed to sources of information, or support a complaint or a compliment ONLINE, email me please,
Richard Naylor firstname.lastname@example.org
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