Examination of Witness (Questions 380
WEDNESDAY 29 NOVEMBER 2000
380. The question is that I did not know there
was this difficulty with BWB because that was not in the newspaper,
that was not in the Prince's visit. What you are doing is criticising
BWB because of their unco-operative way with the project. I am
saying that you are unco-operative when it comes to prime figures
who could take an active part in this project. Why?
(Mr Taggart) Our concern has always been to get a
resolution of these issues and not to get involved in a public
exchange of views with British Waterways. That is what we have
sought to do. We did seek the good offices of the Member of Parliament
for Wakefield who was extremely helpful. I felt that that was
381. On this very point, you know that we have
the Calder Corridor Group who is looking after the river right
from beyond Wakefield into Stanley Ferry which goes through my
constituency. I am a member of that group, and yet no reference
at that group was made of this issue. My concern is that here
we have a problem in the area that serves my constituency with
BWB, people that I meet very frequently, and I know nothing about
the problems that you are expressing in your report, and I think
that that is deplorable, Mr Taggart.
(Mr Taggart) I cannot accept that it is deplorable.
Our concern has always been to get a solution to this problem
and we used what we considered to be the most effective avenues,
which was direct discussion with British Waterways, direct approaches
to the Chief Executive and Chairman, and direct approaches to
the relevant Member of Parliament. I think anything more than
that would have been overkill.
382. What you said before was that they had
actually refused you meetings.
(Mr Taggart) We had difficulties and we thought, "We
want to resolve this. We want to resolve it in an amicable way",
so we approached the relevant management, and they would not meet
383. I have come fresh to these issues because
obviously, not representing anywhere near Wakefield, I did not
know about these issues. Reading the papers that you presented
and British Waterways presented, it seems to me that you can summarise
it like this. You think they are philistines that are only interested
in the bottom line. They think you are a dreamer who does not
have a viable business plan. I shall put that to them when they
give their evidence, but what evidence do you have that that you
actually have a viable business plan that will lead not just to
the regeneration of this area but which will be sustainable and
will not require considerable amounts of public money?
(Mr Taggart) I think there are two points there. I
am flattered to be called a dreamer; first of all, I have never
been called that before. Secondly, the building in Wakefield has
stood empty for 25 years. British Waterways have never brought
forward a proposal for its re-use. The Wakefield Waterfront Partnership
have brought forward a proposal and, more important than that,
have brought forward a funding package to make it work. That is
supported by technical work undertaken by consultants on the whole
waterfront site and by consultants who have looked at the viability
of the gallery, so there is a lot of technical work and support
for that position. A developer has also been found who has taken
over development of the whole site. That would seem to indicate
to me that it is a viable project. The City Council certainly
think so, and there is a revenue stream in place to keep the gallery
going so that it will not be a drain.
384. So this package you bring forward is not
just capital for the initial work; it is long term revenue?
(Mr Taggart) A long term revenue stream to run the
gallery has been identified by the City Council. The City Council
has proposed to close its own gallery which contains many important
works of art by Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, and merge it
with the gifted collection of Hepworth sculptures to form the
new collection, and has devoted its current revenue budget to
sustain the gallery.
385. Where do the guarantees come from? Who
takes the risk if that revenue stream you are talking about does
(Mr Taggart) The mechanics of setting up the gallery
are currently being discussed. The indications we have from the
City Council are that the revenue that they have agreed to devote
for the gallery will be sufficient.
386. Who takes the risk if that is wrong, if
those guarantees are not there? Are you asking British Waterways
to take the risk?
(Mr Taggart) No. British Waterways are not being asked
to take any risk.
387. So who takes the risk?
(Mr Taggart) The gallery will be run by a trust which
is being established for the purpose which will contain representatives
of the City Council and reflect an agreement between the trust
and the City Council on the revenue element.
388. Who will be the trustees?
(Mr Taggart) The trustees will be appointed and that
is to be discussed between the City Council and the Waterfront
Partnership but it will be a representative trust, representing
the public sector and appropriate skilled people from an arts
389. What changes would you like to see to the
(Mr Taggart) There are a number of things that I would
like to see based on my experience. This is not a review of British
Waterways. This is just where we see difficulties. The most important
thing is to ensure that heritage assets which British Waterways
holds on behalf of the nation are removed from the hands of the
operational managers and put into the hands of people who understand
regeneration, who understand heritage issues, and understand property
development. That might need some re-thinking about skills within
British Waterways, because they do have the skills but they are
not being brought to bear in an appropriate way on these sites.
British Waterways should take on board the wider public benefits
created by the regeneration of their heritage assets and they
should take note of the Government guidance note
which was published by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport
in the summer of last year, which says that securing the highest
receipt for an asset is not necessarily the best thing that they
should go for but the receipt which gives the longest term economic,
cultural and social benefit to the community, and that is quite
clear. I would like them to do that. I think they should get some
rules to govern their participation in partnerships, particularly
as we are going to see more partnerships which involve community
groups and which involve a wider range of people than strictly
commercial ones. I do not think it is acceptable for British Waterways
to sit in on a partnership which agrees a way forward and then
for British Waterways to retain a veto at all stages and to continually
move the goalposts. I do not think they should unreasonably withhold
agreement in partnership forums or engage in the kind of property
speculation that we have seen in both cases. I think they also
need to be given flexibility when dealing with cultural and heritage
assets in terms of the financial returns that they are seeking.
They are required to seek too high a financial return. In Wakefield
they were talking about 13 or 14 per cent return on capital invested
on heritage assets in a city like Wakefield, which I think is
going to be extremely difficult. The Government needs to give
British Waterways a bit more space to be able to respond more
390. What additional statutory duties should
they be given?
(Mr Taggart) I do not think they need to be given
any more statutory duties. I think they just need to focus more
effectively on delivering the ones they have got.
Chairman: Thank you very much indeed, Mr Taggart.
That is very helpful and very clear.
1 Note by Witness: Guidance note to all government
departments and non-departmental public bodies, "The Disposal
of Historic Buildings", Department of Culture, Media and
Sport, June 1999. Back