Proposals submitted by the Perth City Market Trust to transform the Edwardian B-listed Perth City Hall into a destination shopping centre - an indoor market and food hall - are set to be thrown out by councillors at a full meeting of the council next week.
Officials claim that an assessment of the trust’s bid by independent commercial property experts Jones Lang Lasalle (JLL) shows that the venture, supported by the Prince’s Regeneration Trust and the Prince’s Foundation, is not commercially viable and would rely on ongoing and unsecured public subsidies
And they are recommending that councillors should submit a fresh application to Scottish Ministers to demolish the historic building.
David Burke, the depute chief executive of the council, said today: “Officers cannot recommend proceeding with a concept where there is no clarity in relation to the offer, no evidence of support or commitment from any of those targeted to occupy space, nor any evidence of dialogue or support from any of the potential funding partners. The bid is clearly not self-sustaining and would rely on ongoing, undetermined public subsidy.
“The Jones Lang Lasalle report is clear in its conclusion that the PCMT business case did not add up and have concluded, through this marketing initiative, that they have been unable to identify a deliverable alternative use for this property. We are therefore recommending to council that the PCMT bid is rejected and requesting that the council instructs the Executive Director of Environment to resubmit an application for demolition of the building for determination by Scottish Ministers.”
Last year the Prince’s Regeneration Trust joined the Scottish Civic Trust and Save Britain’s Heritage to help save the 102-year-old city landmark from the threat of demolition. The council’s plan to raze the building to the ground was put on hold while alternative proposals were submitted to the council.
The council announced last month that the authority had received only one bid - from the trust - in relation to the marketing for sale of Perth City Hall.
But the assessment of the trust’s submission document by JLL is damning. Their report to the council states: “The submission confirms that the PCMT proposal is dependent upon substantial funding. However there is no evidence to confirm that funding is in place.
“PCMT have not raised any capital for this venture and the success of the project is dependent on a mix of funding sources including Lottery grant funds, European Structural Funds, bank finance, public funds, trust funds and an element which is unspecified.
“Whilst a list of funding sources has been named, PCMT have not included any evidence or letters of support from these parties to say that this money would be available for this type of project. Furthermore, given the noted support from the Princes Regeneration Trust and the Princes Foundation, there is no evidence of any committed funding guarantees within the documentation.”
The JLL report continues: “Given our experience of working with clients who are trying to secure bank funding for commercial and residential led developments we do not believe, that as it is currently presented, a project of this nature would be commercially fundable.“
In conclusion, based on the information submitted by PCMT, we find some merit in the proposed use and design of the proposal. However, the deliverability of their concept in terms of the proposed commercial terms, business case and funding arrangements are, in our opinion, lacking in detail and raise significant concerns regarding the ability of PCMT to deliver the project. Through our assessment PCMT have not provided us with sufficient information or evidence to substantiate their claim that they could successfully redevelop the City Hall as described in their proposal.”
Mr Burke states in his report to the council: “The previous assessment of options by the council indicated that only conversion for cultural use of the building had the potential to generate a social and economic benefit, but that this would require initial and ongoing public subsidy.
“The council previously indicated that it was not, on the basis of best value, prepared to put resources into the conversion of the building but rather invest in its demolition and the creation of a city square. An extant planning consent exists for this proposal but the council would need to re-submit an application for listed building consent for demolition of the building.”
A spokesman for the Perth City Market Trust said: “The council must now decide whether a sustainable, heritage-led regeneration scheme should be encouraged and supported or whether Perth City Hall, a listed building with a potential future as a catalyst for regeneration, should be demolished.
“It is unclear what commercial benefit, if any, the current alternative, to simply demolish the building, would have for the city. PCMT would welcome a comprehensive assessment of that option, alongside their proposal. “