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Hamworthy Outdoor Education Centre, Hamworthy Park, BH15 4DH.

Updated 15/05/15

General Information                

Hamworthy Outdoor Education Centre (HOEC) is a land and water sports activity centre situated on the South Eastern corner of Hamworthy Park, Poole.  An activity centre has been situated on this site for over 50 years and is comprised of a pavilion building and boat compound with storage facilities and has excellent access to Poole Harbour.
In November 2013, the Borough of Poole (the ‘Borough’) decided (see Cabinet Minutes) to seek a suitably experienced and competent operator to manage the facility and develop provision.  Aiming to maximise use of the facilities at all times and attract new participants, the Borough also sought to provide the best value for money outcomes in terms of revenue and investment, at neutral cost, and welcomed offers regarding the rent and facility improvements.  If an operator could be found, planned changes to the boat compound would be implemented.

The Council feel that the decision making on this issue has been consistently transparent.  The cost of operating the centre had become unsustainable, options were considered and recommendations and decisions were made through the council’s formal processes of Overview and Scrutiny Committee and Cabinet all of which are in the public record.  Officers with a range of specialist expertise have been diligent in ensuring that we carefully complied with any legal requirements in regard to planning and tendering processes in implementing the Council’s decisions. 

As a result of these decisions and the work to implement them, the Council has been able to achieve a considerable saving on the cost of the operation of the previous centre.  This process has enabled improvements in the site and ensured the continuing and extended provision of outdoor adventure activities for the benefit of more residents and visitors at no cost to the Council.   

Selecting a new operator

Officers with a range of specialist expertise have been diligent in ensuring that we carefully complied with any legal requirements in regard to the tendering processes in implementing the Council’s decisions to find a new provider at no cost to the council.

In December 2013, in line with Local Government Act 1972 Section 123 (1), (2A), the Borough decided, following open consultation, to offer the opportunity for a long lease for use of HOEC as an outdoor education and watersports centre. 

The requirement to advertise a disposal of open space  is set out in Section 123(2A)  of the Local Government Act 1972. Under S123 (2) a disposal is anything that is not a “short tenancy”, which is defined in Section 123 (7) as a lease of less than 7 years or an assignment of a lease with less than 7 years to run. So wherever the transaction involves a lease of more than 7 years it will still be classed (for these purposes) as a disposal since we are granting a legal interest in the land even though in layman’s terms a “disposal” would more commonly be understood to be a permanent transfer of the rights of ownership. See Disposal Notice on right hand side of screen.

A procurement exercise to seek a new operator followed and a range of credible submissions were considered.  Harbour Challenge (HC) was selected as the operator offering the best services to the community whilst providing value for money for local tax payers and have managed the centre since 1 st March 2014. 

About Harbour Challenge

Harbour Challenge Outdoor Education Centre Ltd (HC) is a registered charity established to provide and promote outdoor adventurous activities to people of all ages and abilities, including those from disadvantaged or low income households and those with disabilities.   They offer a range of courses for schools, community groups and private individuals.  HC generate income commercially, through the sale of goods and services, as well as through grants and funding streams, as is common for many charities. For more information please visit: http://harbourchallenge.org.uk

HC hold all the relevant licenses, accreditations and affiliations required to operation a high quality facility.  These include:

  • Adventure Activities Licensing Authority (AALA)

  • Adventure Activities Industry Advisory Committee (AAIAC)

  • Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Sailability for disabled sailors

  • British Canoe Union (BCU)

  • Duke of Edinburgh (DofE)

  • John Muir Award and

  • Learning Outside the Classroom (LOTC)

Managing the facility

The Borough have issued a 25yr full-repairing and insuring lease, with consent from ‘Fields in Trust’.  The facilities include the building, compound and the right to use two car park spaces, the slipway and areas of open space (see plan attached on the right hand side) for land based activities and sports such as: climbing; team building & problem solving, picnics, etc. 

The lease ensures the facilities can only be used for the provision of water and land based activities for public use and private tuition and will also govern matters such as vehicle movement. parking and overnight accommodation (see below).  These terms are consistent with similar facilities in Poole and regular meetings will take place with HC to monitor activities in line with the final agreement. 

Use of this facility as an outdoor education centre is lawful. The building can be used for recreational purposes ancillary to the park, including provision of outdoor education, changing, sports use, etc.  Planning permission is not required because there has been a change of management, not a change of use. The service has been run on a commercial basis by the Council for many years.

Fields in Trust (FIT)

In September 2012, the Borough dedicated the park to FIT.  The Deed of Dedication secures the use of Hamworthy Park as a public playing field & recreation ground and ensures that buildings or structures, which fall outside of the permitted use, are not erected without FIT consent. The Borough has requested and received consent for all works carried out to date, this can been seen as an attachment on the right hand side of the screen.

Finance

The introduction of HC brings new and exciting opportunities for local people and has also provided annual revenue savings of £84,000.  The amount of rent paid is reliant on several factors including the: term of lease, assessment of the previous business; condition of facilities & equipment; levels of capital investment; site constraints; etc.   

The tender documentation gave potential bidders the chance to state in their quality & price submission what equipment they were requesting to transfer and the price they wanted to pay for this. As part of the agreement, most of the Council’s outdoor education equipment has been transferred to Harbour Challenge, however a full inventory list and condition survey has been completed.

Boat Compound

Under the Town & Country Planning Act 1990, Section 191 a Certificate of Lawful Use for an Existing Use or Development (CLUED) can be applied for to prove that an existing use of buildings or land is lawful.  This is commonly used to prove that a use has been in existence for some time.  A CLUED was applied for by the Borough in 2012 and granted to allow the lawful use for boat storage, storage containers and enclosure of the compound.

CLUED Application APP/12/01272/J documentation available online via Planning Portal  

Works to the compound have reduced its overall size, the containers have been painted, new boat racking added, replacement 2m high fence added with secure gates, slip way hard standing has been continued to the gates and the shoreline pathway extended.  These works greatly improve the operation of the compound, improve the visual appearance of the area and provide more open park land.  The placement of boats and equipment on the shoreline is permitted for operational use during business hours.

Permitted Development

A independent Planning Enforcement site visit has confirmed that the works in and around the compound amount to ‘permitted development’ under Class A Part 12 of the General permitted Development Order, which allows for minor works amounting to maintenance, improvement or other alteration to be made to property without needing to apply for formal planning permission.  This includes the lawful addition of secure gates to reduce instances of anti-social behaviour, vandalism and theft.  There is no requirement in planning law to intervene in landowners rights as to whether a gate should be locked or not.

Over night accommodation

Harbour Challenge is keen to host Duke of Edinburgh courses for young people and therefore would like to occasionally accommodate small groups.  Site byelaws limit or restrict some activities on the open space, including overnight accommodation, however, as landlord, the Borough can choose to give permission for any lawful activities to take place.  Use of the HOEC building or compound for over night accommodation would require an application to the local planning authority for ‘change of use', if it was a material change of use, not occasional.

The Council believes there would be huge benefit to the small number of young people involved in Duke of Edinburgh to stay overnight at the centre , without any loss of amenity to others (i.e. it will not interfere with other park users ability to access and use the park, nor impact on the visual experience). 
In regard to the issue raised about the tender and the potential for overnight use of the site, the invitation to tender was widely advertised and shared in an open procurement process.  The invitation to tender made allowance for any potential operator to explain their suggestions and vision for operating an outdoor adventure business from the site including if they had any wish to use the facility for overnight stays.  It was always the case that any such use would require a formal change of use planning permission and would also require formal landlord’s consent, neither of which were promised to any operator.

The current trial has Landlord consent

 Permission is grant on a trial basis from March 2015-September 2015 (inc.).
  • We will monitor and review any potential impact on local residents and park users and decide whether it could continue outside the trail period above.
  • The permission is for no more than 12 occasions of overnight. accommodation, varying between one night and the longest four nights.
  • Overnight accommodation would be within the confines of the building only and not for accommodation or camping within the boat compound or other areas for the site.
  • The responsibility of the building being ‘fit for purpose’ lies with the centre management.
  • The permission can be withdrawn at anytime during the trial period.

Archery

Many sports played on public open space carry risks and these need careful management by appropriately qualified activity leaders.  Harbour Challenge are experienced operators who manage public safety during archery sessions, which are very popular with local schools and groups, by occasionally marking out a small area within their designated activity zone to ensure the safety of other park users.  The Council is satisfied that archery and other land or water based activities, are run in accordance with the safety standards of the Adventurous Activities Licencing Authority (AALA) and that Harbour Challenge follow good safety management practices.

Retail & Catering

HC have catering rights to offer refreshments and sell watersports kit to participants and clients but not the general public.

Vehicle movement

Vehicle movements in the park are allowed in connection with the operation of the centre.  This may mean from time to time a vehicle or mini-bus is parked in or around the centre, as was the case with the previous operators.

Signage

The Borough understands the need to ensure visitors can locate the centre and are working with HC to implement appropriate signage in the park.  A-Frames have been allowed on a temporary basis whilst permanent solutions are considered.  Significant changes to advertising and signage would require planning permission.

Footbridge and future path works

Once the new footbridge to Harbour Reach is completed, the Borough will look at possibilities to join up existing and new pathways at the Eastern end of the Park.

Other relevant information

Hamworthy Park East Improvement Project from July 2012 Area Committee Report can been seen on Borough of Poole.

Withdrawn Planning Application APP/13/00002/F all documentation online via Planning Portal

Harbour Challenge Planning Application APP/14/00191/F all documentation online via Planning Portal

Following the approved planning application APP/14/00191/F, the Borough of Poole has considered the views and discussions had at planning committee on 24th April, along with a meeting attended by FOHP and Ward Councillors. Taking all of these elements into consideration we are granting landlord consent for the works outlined in the planning application detailed above.