The Labour-run Penarth Town Council has had a secret attempt to acquire The Kymin from its owners – the Vale of Glamorgan Council – not only rejected by the Vale – but roundly-criticised in the process.
For months Penarth councillors have been holding secret discussions (from which the press and public have been deliberately excluded) so that it could hatch a plan to acquire The Kymin from the Vale under a so-called “Community Asset Transfer”.
Back in March 2017 Penarth Town Council secretly submitted an “Expression of Interest” application to acquire The Kymin from the Vale and was then asked by the “Community Asset Transfer Working Group and Insight Board” to go to Stage Two of the process.
[PDN Note: A “Community Asset Transfer” is the transfer of land or buildings from a public body (usually a local authority like the Vale of Glamorgan ) to either a local council (like Penarth Town Council) or a community-based organisation at less than market value to “achieve a local social, economic or environmental benefit”.]
In May 2017 there were local council elections in Penarth – but in no election leaflets did any council candidate mention any proposal for Penarth Town Council to acquire The Kymin.
In November 2017 the re-elected Labour-controlled Penarth Town Council submitted its “Stage Two” application for the Kymin – again under conditions of strict secrecy and despite having carried out zero public consultation, not having published any costings, not told local residents what the impact would be on the local town precept and not having any electoral mandate for such a scheme.
However Penarth Council’s ‘Stage Two’ application turned out to be so superficial, so light on detail and so totally devoid of any element of public consultation, it’s now been not only summarily rejected – but heavily criticised too.
The Community Asset Transfer Working Group came down like ton of bricks on the Penarth Council’s Stage Two bid for the Kymin. It found that:-
- ” There appeared to have been no full consultation undertaken in order to inform the development of the business plan (a requirement of the process).
- “There was no further information on how the public / organisations had been consulted since the Stage 1 application had been received and considered.”
- “The financial element of the proposal was identified as having insufficient detail to demonstrate the sustainable operation of the asset.”
- “The [Penarth Council] application was light in overall detail, including the level of research being undertaken to develop the business plan.”
In what is a major embarrassment for Penarth Town Council, the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s ruling cabinet has agreed with the findings of the Community Asset Transfer Working Group and has rejected the application.
It’s also been pointed out that “The Kymin is a very strategic asset in Penarth, and indeed the wider Vale of Glamorgan, occupying a highly prominent location adjacent to the Esplanade and the Pier. At a time of financial constraint, work is underway to consider the future use of all [Vale] Council assets. In this regard, it was considered that the application was premature given the need to conduct that review and consider the importance and value of this particular asset in the context of Penarth and the Esplanade”
BACKGROUND ON THE KYMIN
1250 : The present “Kymin” was originally a farmstead called “Worbeys Fote”
1680: There is a “Kimmin Farm” on the site (now known as “The Kymin”). The strange name is a Norse or Celtic reference to the mouth of a stream.
1790: A new farmhouse – called “The Kymin” is now is established . The property comprises a farmhouse grassland and woodland and a freshwater stream.
1841: The Kymin is the home of a retired Irish army captain (38th Regiment) John Minchin and his wife Charlotte. He dies in 1853 .
1875 : The house was rebuilt and becomes the home of James Sidney Batchelor J. P. a timber merchant/commission agent from Newport, Monmouthshire who is one of the 6 Batchelor brothers – three of whom live in Penarth. The freehold belongs to the Earl of Plymouth.
1947: Penarth Urban District Council Council acquires the Kymin estate under a compulsory purchase order for £4,500 with a view to opening it as a “public pleasure ground”. The purchase is funded from the rates charged to the local residents of Penarth . The house itself is let to private tenants.
1952 Penarth UDC leases the ground floor of Kymin House to an aviation firm – Simmonds Aerocessories Ltd. Later the firm takes of the entire house and the private tenants leave the building.
1952 Penarth Presbyterian Church holds a “summer fayre” on the lawn of the Kymin – the first of many events to be held in the grounds by local organisations . Penarth UDC’s Parks Department uses part of the grounds for propagating seeds .
1959 Penarth UDC considers building a brand new public swimming pool at the Kymin to replace the one on the Esplanade/Bridgeman Road – but decides against it “for the time being ”
1960 : A number of developers make offers for the land to build flats on the site – along with a lido, an hotel and a “boating lake“. All are refused
1964: The Kymin House is allocated as living accommodation to the Clerk of the Penarth UDC – who is already occupying part of the premises. The deal is that the Clerk must pay out of his own pocket for any conversion work carried out.
1968: ( or around this date) Penarth UDC obtains planning permission to “develop a recreation centre at the Kymin, including new swimming baths“.
1969: Penarth UDC has negotiations with the Earl of Plymouth to obtain release from a restrictive covenant on the site. However the “recreation centre” is never developed.
1974: Penarth UDC is wound up under local government re-organisation. The deeds of the Kymin are handed over to the Glamorgan County Council and later passed to its successor authority the South Glamorgan County Council – even though the Penarth Council bought the Kymin outright with a rates precept taxed from the people of Penarth .
1982: Penarth Town Council enters a “rolling lease” with South Glamorgan County Council so that it can carry on using what is morally Penarth Council’s own property. This lease obliges Penarth Town Council to carry out minor maintenance but leaves the larger county council responsible for major works.
1996: South Glamorgan County Council goes out of existence . The freehold of the Kymin is passed to the Vale of Glamorgan Council – which refuses to transfer the deeds of the Kymin back to Penarth – even though the people of Penarth paid £4,500 for the house and grounds in 1947 .
2014: The then Mayor of Penarth, Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell), proposes setting up a floodlit “outdoor gymnasium and an indoor gym” at the Kymin – an idea he said he had been “banging on about” since the election of the Labour administration in Penarth in 2012. The idea is not progressed.
2017 : The house and grounds are estimated to be worth £3,000,000. Penarth Town Council holds a “rolling 12 month lease” on the property at a peppercorn rent but says it wants to negotiate a longer term lease of around 99 years which would be enough to justify taking out a Public Works Loan towards the cost of maintaining and developing the building – including upgrading the toilets and kitchens. Taking out such a loan would mean the Penarth Town Council increasing – yet again – the precept it charges to local residents as part of their Council Tax bills.
January 2018: Penarth Town Council clandestinely considers setting up a “charitable arm” to be called “The West House Foundation”. Such a charity has yet to be approved by the Charity Commission. It’s understood the intention was that this charity would have actually acquired “The Kymin” and held the deeds of the property – but only if a Community Asset Transfer been approved – which it hasn’t .
As of today (April 9th 2018) there exists no charity called the West House Foundation.