Penarth Town Council’s controlling “Labour Group” is now considering launching a public petition to put pressure on the Conservative-run Vale of Glamorgan Council over the future of The Kymin.
The “Labour Group” – [which comprises the 11 Labour members of 16-strong Penarth Town Council and the 6 Labour members of the Vale of Glamorgan Council who represent Penarth wards] – is encouraging local residents to appeal directly to the Managing Director of the Vale Council Rob Thomas.
The move follows the abject failure last year of Penarth Town Council’s top-secret (but amateurish and inept ) proposal to acquire the Kymin from the Vale of Glamorgan Council under a so-called “community asset transfer” .
Leading the new initiative is Cllr Angela Thomas (Labour Plymouth Ward) who took a brave solo stand against the the Welsh Labour Government and its decision to allow the dumping of mud from the Hinkley Point nuclear complex off Penarth .
Backing her is Vale Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour St Augustines) who lost his seat last year on Penarth Town Council.
Cllr Thomas had represented Cornerswell Ward on the town council and was chairman of Penarth Town Council’s planning committee.
The group’s full statement is as follows:-
“Penarth Town Council Labour group is appealing to Penarth Residents regarding our immediate concerns about the use of The Kymin. The Kymin is a beautiful and historic building with stunning, landscaped grounds. We have been very fortunate to have this important building available for the use of our community as a meeting place and venue for the past fifty years, and would very much like to keep it open and accessible to the people of Penarth.
“However Penarth Town Council are currently in a difficult situation regarding the future of The Kymin. We have been negotiating with the Vale of Glamorgan Council, which has designated The Kymin as a strategic asset, for the past two years regarding the terms of our licence and have applied for a Community Asset Transfer so that The Kymin could be owned by Penarth Town Council and its community use guaranteed. The Vale of Glamorgan Council has rejected our application for ownership, just as they have rejected all applications for Community Asset Transfers from all Town and Community Councils during the same period. We have also tried to enter negotiations for a lease rather than a licence in order to justify any expenditure on repairs and maintenance, but have also had this request refused. The current licence we hold outlines [sic] that Penarth Town Council are responsible for any repairs and maintenance that should need to be carried out, but also gives no guarantees as to when or if we should have our licence revoked and how long we may continue to use The Kymin.”
“The flat above The Kymin has recently fallen vacant, and there are improvements we would like to make, there are also other repairs and maintenance jobs that will need to be carried out in the near future in order to keep the Kymin a safe and functional building for community use. Penarth Town Council would have to use public money to carry out this work,but currently have no reassurance from the Vale of Glamorgan Council that we are secure in our tenancy. Penarth Town Councillors feel that to commit to spending money from the public purse with no guarantee that it would be a worthwhile investment would be wrong. Our budget for the next year 2019-2020 is to be set in December and we are not in a position to commit any funds to the Kymin.”
“Therefore we are asking for the people surrounding areas, with an interest in saving and using the Kymin, to help us between now and 1st of December. You can appeal directly to the Vale of Glamorgan Director Rob Thomas regarding the matter. You can also use social media platforms to contact your local Councillors. We hope that together we can show the Vale Council how important the Kymin is and are considering launching a petition to publicly demonstrate our position.[ PDN emphasis] . Please contact us of you would like to be involved. With thanks and best wishes,Penarth Town Council Labour Group”
That Labour Group public statement, however, glosses over the real reason for the embarrassing failure of the Labour-controlled Penarth Town Council’s secret bid to acquire the Kymin. The plans were kept secret for months and didn’t become public knowledge until the details were released by the Vale Council.
Penarth Town Council’s proposal to acquire the Kymin was assessed by the Vale Council’s independent Community Asset Transfer Working Group …but this group came down like ton of bricks on the Penarth Council’s amateurish and inept bid for the Kymin.
The Community Asset Transfer Group said 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.”
The Vale of Glamorgan Council accepted the damning verdict of the Community Asset Group and – to the intense embarrassment of Penarth Council – rejected the Penarth bid. The Vale also said it was in the process of assessing all its strategic assets across the county.
One PDN source suggests that the Labour Group’s new statement on the Kymin could be a “softening-up” exercise to justify further increases in the Penarth Town Precept for 2019-2020.
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”. 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 was approved .
April 2018 : The Community Asset Transfer Working Group recommends rejection of the Penarth Council scheme and heavily criticises Penarth Town Council’s proposals . The scheme is rejected by the Vale of Glamorgan Council .