Wheels Park and Festival Lights

What is accelerator funding?

As part of the invitation to submit a Town Investment Plan to secure up Town Deal funding, Todmorden was given an upfront “advance” of £500K whilst the Bid by the Town Deal Board for the full amount was being considered.

Todmorden Town Council were approached in July 2020 whether they had any projects that if funded could be delivered by March 2021.

Todmorden Town Council made a bid for funding for two projects the Wheelspark and Christmas Lights and were awarded funding in August 2020.

Why Festive Lights?

Todmorden Town Council had taken on responsibility for providing Christmas Light Displays many years ago from Calderdale MBC, rather than see the town without displays at this important time of the year.

Displays at the time had been replaced/repaired over several years but many were past their best.

Potential costs and options had been considered at the request of the Resources Committee in early 2020, with many of the display’s rope lighting starting to fail in the 2019 installation.

To replace all in one go financially was not an option and it looked like a phased approach was going to be necessary.

The opportunity to replace all in on go was too good an opportunity to miss despite it being late in the year to put together tenders for supply and for suppliers to be able to meet late orders.

How were these chosen?

On award of funds a Tender was prepared and approved for issue by the Resources Committee and issued in August 2020. Of six suppliers that expressed interest, three suppliers responded that could provide in time a full set of displays.

A working group of the Resources Committee selected a supplier based on a combination of quality and ranger of offer, pricing and ongoing maintenance cost.

From the submissions, LITE, a supplier based in Burnley was chosen, contract agreed and orders paced all under a very tight deadline for a December 2020 installation.

Why were the children’s displays not replaced at the same time but the following year?

For many years as part of the Christmas Lights display, we featured several displays designed by children. We wished to continue with this but such displays are bespoke, and once designed then take time to make.

Local schools were invited to take part in a competition to design eight displays, submitting ten designs for each school. In May 2021 eight winners were selected . Six schools entered the competition, one from each school and two runners up from all school entries were selected and bespoke orders placed for a December 2021 installation.

The Mayor at the time Cllr Pat Taylor, visited each school to announce the winner(s) for that school. All students received an illustration of what their design would have looked like had it been made up into a display, and each school received a £100 voucher to spend on art and craft materials for their school.

The displays were included in the Dec 2021 installation and placed on the Market Hall wall facing onto Bramsche Square Car Park. Winners of the competition were invited to switch on the lights at the Christmas Lights Switch on event.

Can we have more in the town or other areas ?

We need to be realistic on this. We took the opportunity to replace schemes in Cornholme and Walsden and added new schemes to Eastwood and Portsmouth.

Apart from the cost and ongoing maintenance cost it is also about the lighting columns and where they are actually situated . There are safety issues about distracting drivers to consider so what looks like a good location may not be allowed to be used.

We were able to access some “one off” funding in Feb 2022 to include a further eight displays in the town centre which will be included in the 2022 installation.

Who puts the lights up and takes them down?

Todmorden Town Council pays Calderdale MBC to put the displays up and take them down after Christmas. Whilst they just appear and are taken down each year this is big logistical exercise.

Our supplier LITE test the displays each year to make sure they are electrically safe, undertake any repairs under a maintenance contract and then co-ordinate delivery of them to Calderdale MBC for them to install, usually overnight, and then delivery back to them when taken down.

Will the Town Council be able to financially afford to replace them if they fail or need replacing?

Whilst our maintenance contract has an element of warranty, the expected life span is around eight years at which stage a full replacement may be needed.

As part of financial planning in our annual revenue budget we currently include a figure of £8,300 that is moved each year into an Earmarked Reserve specifically to be able to afford to replace these .

Why a new Wheelspark?

Prior to the new Wheelspark what was in place was a set of two ramp structures built on a tarmac area that offered little by way of variety or challenge and was on each occasion it rained, out of action until it literally dried up.

How long was the project in the making?

Calderdale MBC were keen to make improvements but could not secure grant funding to do so. It was likely that Todmorden Town Council may be in a better position to attract such funding and it was agreed back in 2012 that Todmorden Town Council would consider supporting such an initiative.

In practice to secure grant funding a fully worked up scheme would be necessary and that would involve substantive costs up front at financial risk to Todmorden Town Council.

It would also require land agreements and other permission to be obtained.

The 2015 flooding event in Todmorden included new challenges that again would require additional costs simply in obtaining permissions from the Environment Agency.

What is the Wheelspark to do with flooding prevention?

The original intention in 2012 when considering what to do was to build on the previous tarmac base, requiring then little cost by way of ground works.

The Flooding event of 2015 led to a need to review flooding issues and Centre Vale Park received enormous investment from the Environment Agency into putting new drainage into Centre Vale Park and is now used as a Flood Alleviation Area.

The Wheelspark in situated in the Flood Alleviation Area – a “bowl” that runs from the culvert near the entrance near the Bowling Greens right up to the Wheelspark itself.

If needed, water will be released into the park as in initial measure to reduce river levels.

In the “bowl” any development is subject to permission from the Environment Agency with the principle being that there should be no net increase in volume that would lead to increased displacement of water.

How did Todmorden Town Council take this forward so quickly?

Ahead of any funding in place, Todmorden Town Council had reviewed progress in Dec 2019 and in an effort to move things forward re-opened negotiations with Calderdale MBC about future ownership of the then skatepark.

Progress was made to the extent that by June 2020 lease terms in principle were agreed subject then to funding being obtained and all permissions in place including not only Lease Terms but also Environment Agency , Fields in Trust and whether any formal Planning Permission was needed.

(Fields in Trust champions and supports our parks and green spaces by protecting them for people to enjoy in perpetuity. Calderdale MBC received substantive funding for improvements and as part of that support are legally obliged to seek permission for any changes to the park of a substantive nature.)

Todmorden Town Council had also reaffirmed in June 2020 its earlier appointment of “Groundworks Leeds”, to act as consultant architects, surveyors and engineers for practical project delivery.

It also reaffirmed an Earmarked Reserve of £10k to take forward the project at financial risk to get it to a stage where at least grant applications could start to be made.

The opportunity to bid for Town Deal Funds was too good an opportunity to miss and an initial bid for £150k was made and subsequently approved in August 2019.

What challenges did Todmorden Town Council need to overcome?

Calderdale MBC worked quickly with us on two major issues – Planning Permission, Fields In Trust permission and the legal agreement to take forwards construction.

Planning Permission was not needed and would be regarded as Permitted Development provided the new footprint did not exceed 10% of the original footprint. It ended up 5% greater.

An “Agreement to lease” including all construction related issues was agreed, including the formal 25-year lease transferring ownership to Todmorden Town Council that would come into place and be executed within 14 days after construction handover.

Fields in Trust permission was obtained and included as a covenant within lease terms, as was the need to execute a Deed of Covenant to comply with Deed of Grant conditions between Calderdale MBC and the Environment Agency.

Prior to 2015 flooding event, correspondence with the Environment Agency had indicate informal agreement to build on the existing tarmac base.

How was the wheelspark provider selected?

The Town Council worked with Groundwork Leeds to put together a tender specification for works based on a construction on top of the then existing tarmac footprint and issued the tender.

Tender responses were received from three potential providers. A panel consisting of Todmorden Town Councillors, Calderdale MBC officers on the technical construction side, and a group of interested youngsters from local schools and experienced adult users, met to consider the Tender responses following which Freestyle were selected.

Final designs were agreed and submitted to the Environment agency as part of the formal seeking of permit approval. Freestyle were appointed subject to funding being received and Environment Agency approval being obtained.

The Environment Agency responded in February 2021 refusing to give permission at which stage potentially the project was going to have to be shelved forever.

What extra was needed to satisfy the requirements of the Environment Agency?

This was potentially a “showstopper”. The Environment Agency helpfully rather than simply refuse and incur further permit applications costs and time delays agreed to accept a modified submission if we could find one.

That meant that a more costly engineering solution needed to be provided and our partners in this project Freestlyle and Groundwork Leeds agreed to do some extra work at risk including pricing the additional works required.

This required a series of complex flooding calculations, involving hundreds of measurements of levels, to arrive at a solution that would see a lowering of the previous skatepark base to compensate for any additional structure above (our ramps and walls).

As part of investigations into drainage solutions it was also established that to drain water from the Wheelspark that a main culvert crossed the site and that any drainage solution had to go over this.

The overall engineering solution proposed was major in terms of new foundations/base and drainage needed. With some further ramp modifications this added some £100k to the original cost.

How did we bridge the funding gap?

Todmorden Town Council put forward a proposal to the Town Deal Board to increase their contribution to £225 and on this basis Todmorden Town Council would also contribute £25k.

That was agreed and a resubmission made to the Environment Agency which after several detailed meetings, was eventually approved and their Environmental Permit issued for works to commence.

When did works commence and when were they completed?

Once the Environment Agency had issued the permit, formal Risk Assessment and Method Statements were provided by Freestyle and approved by Calderdale MBC, as then landowners, including a methodology to install a “trackway” to safely bring in heavy loads into the site to avoid any damage to existing drainage.

The site was secured for construction activity and work commenced in May 2021 and completed by the end of July 2021 on time and in budget for an official opening in August 2021.

Have there been any issues since opening?

Inappropriate graffiti has occasionally had to be removed but other than an odd paint over there have been no major issues. There are odd occasions when experiencing really heavy rainfall that parts may flood but that is consequence of having to lower it into the ground to find the engineering solution to build it and to create the depth of “bowl” to skate into.

The difference now to the original skatepark is it is designed so that water will flow off through a series of drains around the perimeter directly into the interconnected drainage system built under the grass surface of the park.

Once the levels in these drains fall back to normal use any water pooling on the Wheelspark surface is expected to drain away over a two hour period.

How well is it used?

There are no formal measures in place to count how many people use this but at holiday times , summer evenings and weekends a visit into the area will often see it being used by all age groups.

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