As part of the budget cuts and cost savings being implemented by Stoke-on-Trent City Council the City Farm at Bucknall Park is being put out to tender.
The City Farm which was quoted in
Poor old Stoke does not get into many top tens but in their city farm they have a real treasure. Tucked into the south-east corner of Bucknall Park, the farm is home to llamas, kune kune pigs, chipmunks and a glorious sweep of domestic fauna. There’s also a sensory garden to thrill and tantalise all five senses. For afters, Bucknall Park has a children’s playground and, in the summer, a cafe too
seems doomed to close as part of the deep cost savings being made by Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
According to the tender document pack, (which is one of the worst compiled packs of documents I have set eyes upon in a long time), the City Farm costs £178,519.24 to run in the 2010/11 financial year while. A majority of this cost is salaries for the 5 staff. The park does apparently generate a small income of just under £4000 this is in the form of donations of £2000 and sales of livestock, animal feed & bedding.
The tender is for 5 years with an option to extend to 7 years, although the Deed Of Agreement supplied in the tender pack, gives details of a 3 year contract to lease buildings at Carmountside Cemetery.
As well as the £178,500 annual running costs, anyone wishing to tender to run the City Farm will need to cover the costs of:
Repairs totalling £219,200
£34700 Stable Block
£12,000 Farm Lodge
£750 New Stable Block
*Initially the tender document quotes £150,000 for repairs to the bridge, however Annex 12 of the document gives a breakdown of costs estimates for repairs to the bridge totalling £171,000
In addition to the issues concerning the bridge over the River Trent, most of the Farm’s existing timber fencing around and between enclosures is in a poor condition and needs replacing. In addition, the Farm does not have a completely secure perimeter fence, potentially leaving it vulnerable to vandalism and theft.
The majority of footpaths around the Farm are in poor condition and require significant resurfacing work to make them safe and / or suitable for people with disabilities.
If there was any further selling point needed for this business venture, the following paragraphs sum it up nicely.
The River Trent runs through the south west side of the park, forming a boundary between park and farm for some of its length. Unsurprisingly much of the park is low lying, particularly the southern half, and there are associated drainage issues. The Farm has little in the way of installed land drains, the only form of drainage being soa-kaways[sic]. Consequently this frequently leads to problems with surface water pooling and some paddocks and fields becoming waterlogged.
So a minimum investment of around £250,000 is required for the leasehold of the City Farm, although,
Recent consultation with visitors to Bucknall Park has confirmed: 75% of existing visitors are prepared to pay an entrance fee, no one was prepared to pay more than £2.50 for a family, the average an individual was prepared to pay was 50p, 62% travel to the the farm by car, 66% only stay between 30 mins to 90 mins, 59% of visitors to Bucknall park do not visit the farm they visit the playground area or walk their dogs. From the above it would be difficult to charge the necessary entrance fee that would put the farm in a break even position. To breakeven would require the current estimated number of visitors (89,600) each to pay £2 every visit, every time, irrespective of age or ability. If we take out children & OAPs the fee is more likely to be £6 for every adult for every visit in order to breakeven. As most visitors travel by car there are existing facilities within a 30 minute drive: Blackbrook Zoo, Amerton Farm and Shugborough Park Farm. These facilities are– all excellent and Amerton farm is free. In order to compete or to implement an entrance fee providing value for money would require a minimum capital investment of circa £740k.
Return On Your Investment
So how do you get a return on your investment and cover the annual running costs of £178,500?
The farm is required to be open every day of the year apart from Christmas, Boxing & New Years days, so 362 days. On each one of these days you would need to take £493.14 just to pay the staff and keep the farm open before you start getting any return on your investment of between £250,000 & £740,000.
According to the information in the tender document, the city council carried out a survey of visitors between June & September 2010, the figures are
for guidance purpose only and no guarantees can be given regarding the accuracy of the information supplied.
In the 88 days of the visitor numbers being counted (9 July – 4 October) there were 34,700 visitors to the City Farm or an average of 395 per day. This is somewhat higher than the previously quoted average annual visitor figures are 89.600 or 248 per day.
It is worth noting that school visits to the farm are free of charge and almost certainly there will have been school visits included in the count of visitor numbers.
Any charging policy you implement as part of the tender need to be affordable to all groups and is one of the evaluation criteria that tenders are scored on.
There is a cafÃƒ© operating in the grounds of the park (refer Annex 4) that is not included in this tender. It is understood the cafÃƒ© operator does not have exclusive selling rights in the Park but this would need to be verified by the Operator prior to undertaking any similar operations.
So you could sell refreshments but nobody is really sure.
If you are interested in taking the farm on as a going concern you need to get your skates on the tender closes on 28 January 2011, so not long to get your business plan together.