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Item 03


									LEISURE COMMITTEE                                                                      ITEM 03
24 MARCH 2003


Report of the:                                Director of Operations
Contact:                                      Corinne Payne
Urgent Decision?(yes/no)                      No
If yes, reason urgent decision required:      N/A
Annexes/Appendices (attached):                None
Other available papers (not attached):        None stated

This reports updates the Committee on the present situation regarding The Zone and
outlines options for the future use of this area.

(1)    That the option set out in paragraph 3.4 be pursued.

(2)    That, subject to recommendation 1 meeting with the
       Committee's approval, the remainder of the capital money
       (£50,000) be spent on works such as improving the
       acoustics and providing lockable storage space.

1     Implications for Committee Policies/Objectives

      1.1     One of the Council’s key objectives has been to provide a library and lifestyle
              centre in Epsom which offers a holistic programme of activities and fulfils a major
              community role in encouraging healthier physical and mental lifestyles. It was
              envisaged that this would be achieved by a close and innovative relationship
              between various activities within the Centre.

2     Introduction

      2.1     The original brief was for The Zone was to provide:

              2.1.1 Short-stay care for children whose parents/carers were using the Centre;

              2.1.2 A children’s play space, including a soft play area and multi-play spaces
                    for older children

              2.1.3 A space for children’s birthday parties

      2.2     Other suggestions for the area included a space for youth activities; holiday
              schemes for children and after school activities.

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LEISURE COMMITTEE                                                                       ITEM 03
24 MARCH 2003

    2.3       Whilst it was agreed that the inclusion of all the above elements would have been
              ideal, it was noted that it might not have been possible to achieve this vision or
              have been financially attractive to the Council or a contractor. The provisions of
              the Children’s Act and the requirements of Social Services mean that this is a very
              specialised area of provision.

    2.4       Tenders for the area were invited in October 2000 and expressions of interest were
              received from two companies (Soft Brick and Petit Enfants) who were then
              invited to submit their best and final offers for consideration.

    2.5       Following a lengthy debate, Petit Enfants were appointed the preferred contractors
              and negotiations were entered into. In the event, Petit Enfants declined the
              contract and the Council opened The Ebbisham Centre in May 2001 without a
              contractor for the children’s area.

    2.6       At the Leisure Committee on 6 March 2001 it was noted that considerable work
              needed to be done on the project to find the best long-term solution for this area,
              and that this would take some time. The Committee agreed that the children’s
              area should be re-evaluated with the aim of achieving a broader and more flexible
              service. It was agreed that officers should experiment with different hirers and
              options, whilst at the same time remaining open minded about re-tendering the
              area to another children’s contractor. It was also agreed that the £50,000 put aside
              in the capital budget to assist in fitting out The Zone should not be spent until
              future options had been explored and a decision made as to how to proceed.

3   Options explored

    3.1       Crèche/Children’s Day Care facility: Since the original tendering process,
              various creche/childrens’ day care providers have expressed interest in the area.

    3.2       Day Care Unit for the Elderly and Mentally Infirm (EMI): Day care for
              mentally frail older people in Epsom and Ewell has been in decline in recent
              years. The Meadows, a residential unit for EMI people, has been reducing its day
              care facilities for several years now although Surrey Oaklands Trust also supports
              a small facility at Longmead in Epsom. Social Services has expressed an interest
              in The Zone, particularly in view of its town centre location.

    3.3       Rent space to Dyscover and other “end users”: Dyscover, a support group for
              Dysphasic people (i.e. those who have communication problems), has expressed
              an interest in renting The Zone for up to two days per week. On the other days,
              they would be prepared to allow the area to be rented out to other users, who
              could have shared use of some of the facilities.

    3.4       Flexible use of facility: This option keeps the whole area under the control of the
              Council and allows officers to develop a comprehensive programme of activities
              and events within The Zone.

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LEISURE COMMITTEE                                                                       ITEM 03
24 MARCH 2003

4   Implications of each Option

    4.1       Crèche/Children’s Day Care facility: Two very interested parties both pulled
              out last year after looking at the area. Feedback from both these interested parties
              suggests that utilising The Zone for sole use as a crèche/children’s day care
              facility does not appear to be a viable option because of the accessibility of the
              area and the lack of an outdoor children's play area (a facility highly
              recommended by Ofsted).

    4.2       Day Care Unit for the Elderly and Mentally Infirm (EMI): Financing is a
              significant hurdle to pursuing this option. This option could provide the Council
              with a regular income for The Zone, although Social Services has not yet made
              any financial offers or commitment to the Council. However, it would commit the
              Council to finishing off the area to the specific requirements of a day care unit
              (e.g. providing bathing and showering facilities), which could limit any
              future/alternative use for any other group. In addition, based on a quote obtained
              to fit out the room for child care activities, fit out costs would likely be around
              £100,00, i.e. well in excess of the allocated budget.

              Pursuing this option would also provide limited opportunities to develop close and
              innovative relationships with other activities within the Centre. It would,
              inevitably, become a “one stop shop” solely for the elderly and mentally infirm.

    4.3       Rent space to Dyscover and other “end users”: Dyscover appreciate that any
              development would need to be suitable for other users. It has been suggested that
              other users could have an area (or one of the rooms on the mezzanine level) as a
              secure area for their own equipment. Dyscover has asked the Council to consider
              the following specific works:

              4.3.1 Complete the space and furnish for regular use i.e. carpets, false ceiling,

              4.3.2 Provide lift access between main floor area and offices on mezzanine floor
                    for wheelchair access

              4.3.3 Complete small room spaces (3x) at mezzanine level and furnish etc. One
                    set up as a permanent office with telephone and IT connections

              4.3.4 Provide free parking for up to eight cars, or tailor the rent in such a way as
                    to take this into account.

              This option would be very expensive to pursue, especially as the group only want
              to hire the area for 2 days per week and the Council is not in a position to
              negotiate free parking with NCP. No discussions have been held at this stage
              relating to financial arrangements between this organisation and the Council. As
              with the proposals for EMI facilities, pursuing this option would also provide
              limited opportunities to develop close and innovative relationships with other
              activities in accordance with the original vision for the Centre.

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LEISURE COMMITTEE                                                                        ITEM 03
24 MARCH 2003

    4.4       Flexible use of facility: Over the past year officers have utilised the area for a
              mix of functions which have included art and multi-media exhibitions (in
              partnership with Nescot), performing arts groups for children, dance rehearsals,
              church services, day conferences and seminars along with commercial hires
              (market surveys, auctions etc). Regular bookings at present include martial arts
              and kick boxing groups and other groups and organisations have expressed an
              interest in using the area, should it remain available for hire.

              Indeed, one interested party proposes to hold a children’s disco for 12-15 year
              olds in The Zone every Friday night, a use that is entirely compatible with the
              original intentions for this area. Officers have also encouraged use of the area for
              children’s themed birthday parties although these tend to be held in the activity
              room because The Zone is not very user friendly at present.

              Financially, fit out proposals for this option are likely to be within the budget set
              aside as full kitchenette facilities do not need to be included. A servery area, with
              a hot water and electricity supply, may be adequate. Surrey County Council also
              supports this approach, as it believes it complements the library and the other
              activities within The Ebbisham Centre.

5   Financial and Manpower Implications

    5.1       £50,000 has been set aside out of the original capital budget to assist with the fit
              out of The Zone. The only option likely to come within this £50,000 budget is the
              option set out in paragraph 3.4 as the fit out can be adapted to come within the

    5.2       Over the past six months, despite the fact that the area is still incomplete and
              acoustics are a problem, 51 events have been held in The Zone generating revenue
              in the region of £2,400. Keeping the area flexible means that it would be more
              adaptable to use for both small and large events and provide greater flexibility in
              managing bookings throughout the Centre.

    5.3       Should this option be pursued, officers would wish to pay particular attention to
              the acoustics and storage facilities when fitting out the area. It is anticipated that
              this could boost income for this area into the region of £10,000 pa, which would
              be to the overall financial benefit of the Centre.

    5.4       Existing staff resources could cope with the proposals set out at paragraph 3.4.

6   Human Rights and Other Legal Implications

    6.1       Appropriate terms would need to be negotiated between the Council and any
              appointed user/contractor/organisation. There are strict legal requirements
              governing child-care provision.

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LEISURE COMMITTEE                                                                       ITEM 03
24 MARCH 2003

7   Social Well-being

    7.1       Bearing in mind the Council's objectives for the Centre, only the option set out in
              paragraph 3.4 aims to ensure that as wide a variety of community organisations
              and age groups as possible will benefit from the facility. Such an approach will
              also assist the Centre as a whole in contributing to the vitality and viability of
              Epsom Town centre.

8   Economic and environmental Well-being

    8.1       None for the purposes of this report

9   Conclusions

    9.1       Provision of a Crèche/Children’s Day Care facility fits in with the original ideas
              for The Zone. However, it appears that utilising this area for a crèche/children’s
              day care facility is not a viable option.

    9.2       Use of the area as a Day Care Unit for the Elderly and Mentally Infirm (EMI) or
              renting the space to Dyscover and other “end users” are possible alternative
              solutions for the use of this area. The former would result in a sole use whilst the
              latter would involve two or three more specific users. At this stage no information
              is available on the possible revenue these options could generate for the Council
              because the organisations concerned have not yet made any financial offers or

    9.3       However, it appears that the fit out costs for both these options will be well above
              the available budget whilst it is anticipated that essential work such as the
              acoustics and the storage space, together with a servery area compatible with its
              use as a multi-purpose area could be completed within the allocated budget.

    9.4       Therefore, after exploring the available options and weighing up the financial
              implications against the social/community benefits and feedback from Surrey
              County Council, potential hirers and community groups, officers consider that the
              best long-term solution for The Zone, and the Centre overall, is to keep the area
              for multi-purpose use under Council control.

    9.5       This would provide the flexibility to develop a programme of activities and events
              that would benefit a wider variety of community organisations and age groups,
              including some of those in the original brief (for example, by encouraging
              children’s birthday parties and youth activities such as the proposed weekly
              disco). Use of the area in this way would also complement the library and the
              other facilities within the Centre in accordance with the original vision for the
              facilities. Such usage would be compatible with the likely outcome of the Best
              Value review of venues.

WARD(S) AFFECTED: All since The Ebbisham Centre is a facility which serves the whole

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