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Agenda item

Bristol Beacon


The Executive Director for Growth and Regeneration delivered a presentation on Bristol Beacon, available in the papers. Key points included:

·       The Bristol Beacon was on track to open on 30th November 2023.

·       An agreement in principle had been reached with Bristol Music Trust which was anticipated to be turned in to a contract by 30th November.

·       The increased costs of the project were noted with acknowledgement of the difficult circumstances.

·       Bristol Music Trust were to be given the Bristol Beacon building on a 30-year peppercorn lease, with an £8m ‘deemed sum’ to be repaid following a 2-year grace period. It was later clarified that the two-year period would begin from March 2024, and was a target that could be reviewed if necessary.

·       Louise Mitchell of Bristol Music Trust thanked the Members present for their support and patience with the project. Feedback about the building had been enthusiastic and ticket sales were promising.

Members thanked Officers and Bristol Music Trust for the report and were pleased to hear enthusiasm about the building and the plans for the opening night. It was noted that the Bristol Beacon would be a cultural asset for the city.


Members highlighted the key issue of the significant and unexpected financial outlay of the project. It was queried how the figure of £8m for the deemed sum had been achieved considering this was a small percentage of the final cost. The Executive Director stated that this figure had been identified as part of the structure of the initial agreement in 2018 as an amount to be achieved by BMT through fundraising and underwritten by Bristol City Council. The conditions for repayment were to be in effect once a surplus had been achieved by the Trust. It had not been considered appropriate to have an underwritten agreement considering the Trust’s charitable status. A Member challenged that in light of the increased cost of the project the original £8m figure was no longer relevant. The Chief Executive agreed that the arrangement had significantly altered but emphasised that at each point where the original agreement had been revised it had been agreed that the most appropriate course would be to continue with the increased costs of the project.


It was confirmed that the project was now within the revised budget. A Member queried what the carrying value of the Bristol Beacon would be, whether this would reflect the peppercorn rent or the full cost. It was agreed that further detail on this would be sought from Finance Officers.


A Member queried whether the debt servicing or the peppercorn lease were over a longer period. It was clarified that the duration of the peppercorn lease was 30 years while the debt would be written off after 50 years.


The term ‘soft landings’ (as used in the presentation) was clarified to mean continuity of support in operating the building during the first months of opening. This provides onsite support to quickly address arising issues. It was confirmed this remained within budget under ‘professional support’.


The ‘opportunity’ cost and cultural implications were raised. In the original agreement assurances had been made that the success of Bristol Beacon would help to fund other projects. As loan repayments had become necessary it was assumed this would no longer be possible. It was queried how social and cultural outcomes would be supported across the city. The Head of Capital Projects responded that along with the wider economic contribution of having the Bristol Beacon as an asset, the social value as measured in the last full year of events 2017/18 using the Social Value Calculator had come to £8.5m, not including outreach work. Further detail on this could be provided.


The long-term maintenance of the Bristol Beacon was discussed. The assumption was that these issues would be brought to Policy Committees (which would be implemented from May 24) as public meetings. Bristol Music Trust welcomed discussion around the suggestion of a ‘critical friend’.


The agreement for representation on the BMT Board was raised as it was thought that two places were open. The Chief Executive confirmed that all places were expected to be filled by the time of the first Board meeting following opening.


RESOLVED; That 1) information regarding the Social Value of Bristol Beacon be provided to Members; that 2) clarification of the carrying value of Bristol Beacon be sought, and that 3) the report be noted.

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