Ealing to decide on a commercial gym for Gunnersbury

A report from the Project Board to Ealing Council (to be considered on Tuesday 18th October) describes a number of issues.

Sports Facilities

Perhaps the most significant is the future of the Sports Hub building. The Cabinet are being told that the Project Team have secured £7.5m in external and partner funding for the sports-related developments, of which £4m comes from the Football Foundation.

The report is not immediately clear about the relationship between that £4m and a possible grant from the Parklife Football Hubs Programme (a partnership between Sport England, the FA and the Premier League) which “differs from traditional football investment streams as the Funding Partners are keen to see a portfolio approach to provide an area wide solution, rather than one-off site investment.”

The package being proposed by the Project Board is that Rectory Park in LB Ealing and Duke’s Meadows in LB Hounslow would be upgraded with £3m each, and that in return Gunnersbury would build a commercial gym, with some of its long-term income being dedicated to the upkeep of the two satellite parks. The Project Board is asking for permission to find a commercial partner to adapt the existing plans and contribute to the cost of the building, and is offering a 10 year lease with a possible 5 year extension. The revised business plan appears to show that this partner would pay £150,000 p.a. to the Community Interest Company, invest £105,000 each year to the operational reserve for the pitches in the two satellite parks, and make a profit of perhaps £235,000 p.a. by the 10th year.

The planning permission for the Gunnersbury building was for “a new two storey building on the site of the redundant bowls green comprising team changing rooms for the external sports facilities, 5 court sports hall, multi-use studios and associated changing facilities, café, community room, archive store and office accommodation”. At that point the cost of the building was estimated at £5m for the changing rooms and the floor above, or £8m with the 5 court sports hall. It is not possible to work out from the current report what is the estimate for the cost of the re-designed building. The whole sports project (pitches and building) is now estimated to cost £13.9m.

The report also records that the University of West London will not be able to form a £2m sports partnership with Gunnersbury, and the Project Board makes a request for £1m from Ealing’s capital budget to mitigate the effect of this decision.

Museum, Small Mansion and Stables

Two elements have affected the finances of the restoration projects. It has not been possible to use grant money from Historic England to pay for the same projects which were included in the HLF grants, and the targets for the Development Trust have been revised downwards due to progress reducing the number of “attractive elements of the capital scheme”. There appears to be a gap of £1.8m in the £21m funding for the two projects. There is no reference in this report to the extra costs of refurbishing the Round Pond.

The Project Board are asking for permission to market the Small Mansion and Stables (as lots) and for the Cabinet to regard offering 100 year leases as “enabling development”. Repair costs for Mansion and Stables are estimated at £5m each.

For a long time the Board has considered applying for an HLF Heritage Enterprise Grant to fund what is called the “conservation deficit” (putting the Small Mansion into good order for an occupier to only have to fit out). It was reported to the last GP Joint Advisory Panel that HLF had signalled that if it awarded such a grant, the occupier/partner would have to be from the cultural sector. While this still might be an ambition, the text is written to enable the Project Board to select a preferred partner who would not attract such an Enterprise grant.

As with the previous effort, the appointment of the partner will be confidential and public consultation will only start once they have been announced. This, rather patronisingly, is to ensure that “unrealistic expectations are not raised within the community”. Last time, it was not the community which had the unrealistic expectations.

James Wisdom
16 October 2016