The Director for Commercialisation and Citizens and Shareholder Liaison introduced the item to Members.
The Director said that the Communication/ Consultation project that included Task and Finish Groups were to be put in place to ensure that they could ‘drill down’ into people’s views. She also stated that the previous timeline provided for this work had been optimistic, and the plans originally proposed for taking this Review forward lacked the necessary scope that needed to be broader. An officer workshop had been held in July to identify the aims and objectives of a comprehensive Harbour Review and amongst other things it had been concluded that the Harbour is a ‘key historic asset’ for Bristol.
Members were taken through the timeline of next steps and the outline of the individual projects. A strategic plan and a business plan will be produced that takes the work up until 2022. A Cabinet paper will be presented on 3 December 2019 seeking approval for both the Feasibility/ Case Study and Communication/ Consultation projects, with the Communication/ Consultation project beginning in January 2020. The Harbour Review will report to Cabinet in September 2020 on the Harbour Strategy, with the formal launch of the Strategy to dovetail with the 50th Anniversary of the Harbour Festival in 2020.
The Director said she was fortunate to have the support of the cross party Commercialisation and Innovation Working Group (CIWG). There are a number of challenges that face BCC in creating income growth and achieving efficiency savings whilst maintaining agreed service standards. She said she is working closely with the Director Economy of Place to ensure there is a coordinated approach.
The following points were discussed with further with Members:
Members said that it had previously been stated that that the Government owns the harbour and Bristol rents it. The Director said that BCC owned and has oversight and strategic responsibility for the Harbour but she would double check this point and report back to Members. ACTION: Director for Commercialisation and Citizens and Shareholder Liaison to clarify ownership of Harbour.
Members commented on the varied nature of the Review and asked if that could make it difficult to manage and also expensive. The Director responded that a clear process for effective management of the Review had been established: a full Review had been discussed for many years, and it was important, in order to ensure that the Harbour was sustainable and an asset for future generations, it was necessary to undertake this now.
Members asked how confident Officers were about the timescales being met. The Director said she was very confident that the draft Harbour Strategy that is one of the deliverables from the Review would be ready to take to Cabinet for approval next September 2020, after having completed the consultation exercise and received the Report on this during the summer. It was reiterated that the Members were given a rather optimistic timeline for completion of the Review when it was originally brought to Growth and Regeneration Scrutiny Commission in December 2018. The Chair said she welcomed the new approach and acknowledged that issues were likely to arise that are, as of yet, still unknown. She also stated that she was somewhat uncomfortable about the ‘cost neutral’ standard that was previously suggested for the Harbour. The Director said that, whilst the Review needed to ensure that the Harbour was financially sustainable, the principle focus was on the Harbour as an ‘historic asset’ for Bristol.
It was asked if there were any plans to try and ensure that the Harbour Festival would be cost neutral in future years. The Director of Economy of Place said that it had been discussed, and action was being undertaken to ensure it was sustainable going forward.
Members thanked the Officers for their time. It was agreed that further discussions would take place about if/when this should be brought to the Growth and Regeneration Scrutiny Commission.