Go Underhill gets a step closer

Go Underhill gets a step closer

Trustees of Mumbles Community Association (MCA) are a step closer to starting work on site after Mumbles Community Council (MCC) formally signed off on its significant financial contribution to Go Underhill at its meeting on 13 July.

The up to £1.2m in grant funding was offered in May 2020, but MCC subsequently decided that it wanted to make it a condition of the grant that it should itself take the lease on Underhill Park, which is owned by Swansea Council. The tripartite lease agreement now reached involves MCC taking a lease on the terms originally negotiated with Swansea Council by MCA and agreeing to immediately grant the charity an underlease on those terms. This means that the Park will still be developed and run by MCA, the independent charity set up specifically for this purpose.

MCA Trustees have considered the expressions of interest already received from potential contractors. A shortlist of five companies has been agreed, all of which Go Underhill’s team of professional advisers have assessed as having the necessary experience to tender for the work.

Once tenders are issued, contractors will have six weeks to respond. A minimum of two weeks will then be required to evaluate the tenders before a contractor can be appointed. This could take longer, however, as there are concerns about the well-publicised increases in building materials costs due to COVID and Brexit.

Chair of MCA, Simon Tse, said:

“It’s exciting to know that we are getting close to the start of turning the long-held dreams for Underhill Park into a reality.

 

“With the delays over the last year, we do have concerns that our building estimates could fall short of the actual tender prices we get back, so we are anxious to move forward with the tenders as quickly as possible, so we can understand if there is any impact on our plans.

 

“We remain very positive, however. Over the last year, we have managed to secure significant grant funding and support from organisations like Mumbles Community Council, the National Lottery Communities Fund and Welsh Government’s Community Facilities Programme, as well as donations from individuals and local businesses. Alongside feedback from the community who will all benefit from Go Underhill, this reassures us that our plans are good, and we can’t wait to start delivering on the schemes they have supported.

 

“Hopefully, we will soon be in a position to set a firm date for the successful contractor to get on site, and to start the building work this autumn.”

£250k from Welsh Government to enhance Underhill Park development

£250k from Welsh Government to enhance Underhill Park development

A grant award of £250k from the Welsh Government Community Facilities Programme has been given to registered charity Mumbles Community Association (MCA) for Go Underhill. This significant award will enable all of the buildings proposed in Phase 1 of the Underhill Park development to go ahead, given the charity has now secured an incredible £1.6m towards the construction.

Chair of MCA, Simon Tse, said:

“We are thrilled that our grant application to the Welsh Government Community Facilities Programme has been successful.

“Our team put in the initial expression of interest to the grant programme in June 2020 and were then encouraged to submit a detailed application, which we did last November. At each stage, we have worked with sports and community groups, local schools and the wider public to ensure what we are seeking to deliver meets their needs and wants.

 

“The awarding panel clearly recognised the benefits that the development will bring and how our plans will both protect and enhance the valuable role Underhill Park plays for local people and visitors, making it an excellent resource for the whole community.”

Combining the award with the grant of £840k from Mumbles Community Council, a grant of £25k from Welsh Rugby Union, plus donations from companies and individuals, the charity can now push ahead with the building of six new changing rooms, with associated facilities, plus the refurbishment of the existing pavilion.

A new Community Hub and Café will also be built, using the majority of the £489k which was awarded to ‘Go Underhill’ by the National Lottery Community Fund last year. As well as offering refreshments and an opportunity to socialise, the Hub will be the base for a new programme of community leisure and learning activities. It will connect the new changing rooms to the refurbished pavilion, creating a single focal point for everyone visiting the Park, whether for formal sessions or on a casual basis.

Securing the grant from Welsh Government Community Fund means that MCA can tender all six of the new changing rooms, the refurbishment of the pavilion and the new Community Hub and Café in one contract, which is the most cost effective route.

Simon continued

“The new changing rooms and toilets will ensure that Underhill Park offers the standard of support facilities which users should expect, rather than park visitors having to make the best of ones built in the 1940’s, which are no longer fit for purpose.

 

“We know that the existing provision puts people off and having to leave the park to get refreshments or find a toilet stop is less than ideal, particularly for our younger and older visitors. MCA Trustees are already looking forward to the day when we can be proud of what is available in the Park for everyone to enjoy.”

With detailed designs recently completed, an application has been made to Swansea Council for some minor material amendments to the Planning approval given in November 2019. Once this application has been decided, and a new tripartite lease agreement between Mumbles Community Association, Mumbles Community Council, and Swansea City Council has been signed, tenders for the building work will be invited. It is hoped that this can be done in June, which could enable work to start on site in early Autumn 2021. The new facilities would then be opening 12 – 15 months later.

With funding for the building elements of Go Underhill now in place, Mumbles Community Association will be focusing its efforts on raising the money needed for the final element of the phase 1 plans, a new all-weather pitch (AWP).

Whilst a commitment of £325k towards the cost of the AWP has been made by Mumbles Community Council, this will only become available once MCA have found the remainder of the funding required, a sum of between £350k – £500k, depending on the size of the pitch. The charity is currently exploring potential sources of grant funding and will also be kicking off a fundraising drive amongst local people and businesses over the coming months.

Application made for minor amendments to Planning approval

Application made for minor amendments to Planning approval

Mumbles Community Association has submitted an application for a number of ‘minor material amendments’ to the planning application, which was approved by Swansea Council in November 2019.

The application covers changes to some elements of the roof design of the main changing room block; some minor internal changes with associated alterations to some door and window positions; minor amendment to the siting of the new electric transformer station and vehicle access and compound and associated fencing; and a reduction in the size of the all-weather pitch (AWP) and perimeter fencing, together with a linked reduction in the number and location of floodlighting columns from 8 to 6.

The adjustments in the roof design, the internal changes and the revised location for the new transformer station are the result of the detailed design work being done to prepare the development to go out to tender.

Whilst the main building works are almost ready to tender following the recent signing of the legally binding grant agreement with Mumbles Community Council, funding is still being sought for the full costs of a new AWP.

Having sought advice from potential funding sources, MCA has reluctantly decided to focus efforts on plans for a reduced size AWP. In the view of Football Association of Wales (FAW) and Welsh Rugby Union (WRU), there are already sufficient full size AWPs within the Swansea area to meet local needs. As such, neither body would currently support MCA in their efforts to build a full size AWP.

Chair of MCA, Simon Tse, said:

“Whilst we would dearly love to see a full size AWP in Underhill Park, we have to take a pragmatic view on what it is possible to fund.

 

“We have a commitment of £325k towards the AWP from Mumbles Community Council as part of the recently signed grant agreement, but that leaves a balance of at least £350k that we need to be able to build the smaller pitch, and an even larger amount for a full size one.

 

“It seems advisable to follow the advice of those bodies who might be able to help us with grant funding, as well as seeking alternatives.”

The reduced size AWP being applied for is approximately 80m x 66m, making it suitable for football and rugby training for all ages, for tag rugby games for under 12’s, and for mini size football games for ages 6 – 14, with sufficient room to enable two games to be played at the same time.

The AWP would be available for other uses, with ideas such as keep fit classes, parent & baby fitness and coordination sessions, holiday soccer camps, netball coaching sessions, and schools sport lessons being discussed.

Simon continued:

“Although we are looking at a smaller than desired AWP, this will still be a significant addition to the facilities available for the local community in Mumbles. Having an AWP will also help ensure the sustainability of our management of the Park, and we have not completely given up on the full size pitch.

 

“The on site preparation work to be done will be suitable for hosting a full size AWP, and Sustainable Drainage Schemes have been submitted to the agents for Natural Resources Wales for both options.

 

“If we can secure enough money, then the original planning permission will still be in place, which will enable us to build our ideal full size pitch.”

In addition to the minor material amendments application, MCA anticipate making an application for release of planning conditions soon, paving the way for tenders to be sought and the Go Underhill development to get underway.

Stakeholders updated on Go Underhill

Stakeholders updated on Go Underhill

Representatives from a range of local groups and interested individuals have been updated on the latest position in the development of Underhill Park.

The online briefing, held on 27 March, was a chance for those present to hear about the progress that has been made, see designs for the construction of the new buildings and learn about the timeline for what happens next. Those attending the virtual briefing included officers from local sporting clubs, community and business group representatives, plus individuals who have offered to assist Mumbles Community Association.

The session, which was led by MCA chair Simon Tse, also gave attendees the opportunity to ask questions about any aspect of the development.

Simon also set out the different work strands that MCA will be following in formulating the plans for operating the Park and the new facilities, once the building work is complete. These include Catering, Marketing & Events, Admin & Finance, Pitch Management, Buildings & Grounds Maintenance, and the new Youth Group. MCA will be seeking assistance from the community to help with these work streams, and those attending the session were asked to identify any areas where they could offer practical support.

Speaking about the importance of the session, Simon said:

“Whilst MCA is driving the development of Underhill Park, we are doing it on behalf of the local community and want people to feel involved. What we aim to deliver is for everyone who lives, works, or plays in the wider Mumbles area, so it is important for us to share the progress – and the challenges still facing us – with everyone who has an interest.

 

“The positive comments made by those who attended were heart-warming, and hearing their questions and comments was invaluable. Further briefing sessions are therefore being planned for later this year and we would welcome more people attending.”

Future update sessions will take place on Saturday 03 July and Saturday 06 November. Anyone interested in taking part, or willing to help MCA with any aspect of the future operations, is asked to get in touch with MCA by emailing: info@go-underhill.com.

MCA plan to issue a general progress update later on in April. The update will be posted on the noticeboard in Underhill Park – situated opposite the children’s play area, posted on the Go Underhill website – and sent to people who have registered to receive updates.

Anyone wishing to receive an update directly should register below

Grant agreement for Underhill Park approved by Mumbles Community Council

Grant agreement for Underhill Park approved by Mumbles Community Council

Another milestone in the development of Underhill Park was achieved last night when Mumbles Community Council approved a legally binding Grant Agreement with Mumbles Community Association.

The agreement grants MCA up to £1.2m towards the cost of developing new facilities in the Park.

At the meeting, the Council also agreed the recommendation to borrow £840,000 to cover a portion of the grant, following the Welsh Government granting approval for the Community Council to do so.

Mumbles Community Council’s Chair of the Community and Social Well-being Committee, Cllr Rebecca Fogharty, said:

“The full Council decided last year to offer our wholehearted support to the development of Underhill Park and to underwrite a significant portion of the funding to enable it to progress and ensure it offers services for all of our community. Following the permission from the Welsh Government for us to take out a loan, putting this grant agreement in place will enable MCA to move forward with the development of new changing rooms, public toilets, and ancillary services.

 

“Taking out a loan which will be repaid over 10 years will enable us to use money generated through the annual precept to follow wider plans for improvements in the Mumbles Community Council area as well as supporting Go Underhill. This approach ensures the best use of the annual funding we receive from the community without needing a bespoke increase.”

Simon Tse, Chair of MCA, paid tribute to all the hard work that has gone into getting the Grant Agreement in place, and thanked solicitors from Douglas Jones and Mercer (for MCA) and Peter Lyn & Partners (for MCC) who have played a key role in achieving this.

Looking ahead, Simon commented:

“We are almost over the line in terms of getting the development of Underhill Park underway. MCA are awaiting the outcome of our grant application to the Welsh Government’s Community Facilities Programme, which should be known later this month, and hoping for a positive result.

 

“If approved, this additional money will enable us to tender all the Phase 1 building works at the same time, in a single cost-effective package.”

One final legal matter needs to be concluded to enable the works to go ahead. A tripartite agreement with Swansea Council that will grant a Head-Lease on the Park to MCC who will then grant a sub-lease to MCA needs to be in place. Work on the agreement between the three parties is underway, with everyone working hard to get this done as soon as possible.

Simon concluded:

“Whist we still have some fundraising to do, once the lease agreement is finalised, tenders will be invited for the first phase building works. With a fair wind, we hope to start building on site this summer, so exciting times ahead for Underhill Park and for the community.”

 

New trees planted at Underhill Park

New trees planted at Underhill Park

Led by Mumbles Development Trust (MDT), a group of volunteers and children has planted 105 native woodland saplings in the grounds of Underhill Park.

The work was carried out in co-operation with Mumbles Community Association, Friends of Mumbles Parks and Oystermouth Primary School PTA.

After all the organisations agreed that planting of the woodland area adjoining Underhill car park needed improvement, MDT made a successful application to the Woodland Trust for the pack of saplings.

The young trees were selected to reflect the current diversity of woodland in the area and will ensure that there is continuity of growth on the periphery of our community park for many decades, for the enjoyment and well-being of future generations in Mumbles.

It is hoped that pupils from Oystermouth School will be able to make regular visits to the saplings from 2021, to water, monitor and measure growth.