Report by Head of Place, Property and Regeneration (attached).
The Committee considered a report by the Head of Place, Property and Regeneration (circulated previously) regarding Lynbridge car park at Lynton.
The Head of Place, Property and Regeneration highlighted the following:
· The car park was owned by North Devon Council but managed by Lynton and Lynmouth Town Council as part of an Agency agreement between the two Councils.
· The car park provided 10 car parking spaces, which were let annually to local residents as part of a permit scheme. These cost £200 per annum and generated £2000 income to the Council each year.
· A structural survey had been commissioned and found the car park to be unsafe. It advised that the elevated section of the car park should not be used until such time as investigations have established the adequacy of the concrete deck and that appropriate vehicle barriers have been installed.
· As a result the car park was closed on Monday 14 February 2022 for severe health and safety reasons. The condition of the surface, edge protection and the structure itself required investigation to establish the integrity of the car park. Permit holders and local members were advised that such investigations would take time and that we could not give any indication of the timescales involved or the likely outcome of these inspections. The closure was publicised in a press release and shared on social media.
· Photographs of the car park were detailed on pages 93 and 94 of the report.
· The car park was built in approximately 1952 and a structural survey had been commissioned ten years ago. Unfortunately, a copy of that report was not available but it concluded that remedial works involving the installation of new internal columns, beams and bracing members were required. It was noted that the perimeter columns along the rear of the car park were retained and have been painted with anti-corrosive paint. The new internal steel columns have been positioned against the existing columns and were supported on top of the original footings which were founded into the underlying rock formation. The bases of the perimeter columns were now encased with a new concrete plinth laid over the top of the existing footings.
· The more recent report inspected all areas which could be viewed at ground level and from accessible areas. Those parts of the structure which were concealed such as the car park deck, encased steel beams or the foundations were not inspected unless the report identified otherwise. The report made a number of recommendations as detailed in paragraph 4.5 of the report. Recommendations (1) and (7) were highlighted.
· Following the closure, officers sought a quote for additional investigative works to inform our decision making. The conclusion was detailed in paragraph 4.7 of the report.
· A further quote was then sought for additional investigation works. This came back at £46,000.
· Given the cost of these investigative works, officers considered it necessary to prepare an internal report to understand our options for this structure. The Senior Engineer had now completed this initial assessment and concluded that there were 4 options as detailed in paragraph 4.9 of the report.
· The structure was 70 years old and situated in a coastal environment. Visual inspections have proven that elements of it were in poor condition and potentially in stages of failure, and it would continue to deteriorate without intervention. The structural engineer had also reported that in addition to the structural issues, there was some undermining of the deck that would also need attention going forward.
· Officers were aware of social media concerns that the car park had not been suitably maintained. Works were carried out in 2010 to try to preserve the structure, but with any structure of this nature it had an economic and structural life. The structure itself was made up of various components, all of which must work together to maintain the structural integrity. There were now issues which each of these elements.
· The costs of the investigative works alone were significant before the cost of any mitigation works on a structure that was of an age that could be considered end of life could be understood.
· Whilst the loss of parking for residents was regrettable, the cost of replacing the structure, estimated at £500,000 was significant and the cost of providing this facility for these residents which only generated an annual income to the Council of £2,000 per annum had to be balanced against the wider impact that this would have on the Council’s financial position. The borrowing costs alone for the investment, over a 50-year period would cost the Council £22,000 per year and therefore unfortunately was not a viable investment proposal.
· In the first instance, option 4 could be explored and identify whether either the Town Council or community would wish to take on the land, in the knowledge of the associated risk.
· If there was no interest in the land from either the Town Council or local residents then given the age of the structure, its state of repair and the cost of investigative works/replacement of the structure, officers considered that option 2 should be progressed and the structure removed.
In response to a question, the Director of Resources advised that any revenue surplus from the Agency Agreement between the Council and Lynton and Lynmouth Town Council came back to North Devon Council and that any repairs required to be made to assets were the responsibility of North Devon Council.
RESOLVED that the Council proceed with option 4 and offer the land to the Town Council or community, disclosing the concerns with the structure and that if after a 6 month period it was clear that there was no interest in the land that a report be brought back to the Committee for consideration.