Great Britain

Operator secured for Kirkleatham Walled Garden

A NEW operator has been appointed to run Kirkleatham walled garden.

Redcar and Cleveland Council has appointed national and international catering and support services firm Elior to be the operator of the borough’s newest attraction – the £10m Kirkleatham walled garden.

The company, whose main headquarters are based in Paris, recently began advertising for staff to work at Kirkleatham, which is yet to formally open, after a ten year agreement was reached between the two parties.

The Grade II listed walled garden on the outskirts of Redcar has been transformed into a cultural attraction complete with a high end restaurant and events venue, while also incorporating a catering and horticultural academy.

But after originally being due to open in April last year, the coronavirus pandemic hit, which meant the main contractor had to be off site several months, causing severe delay to the project.

Last year a report also revealed that it had gone over budget by more than £1.6m.

The council began a procurement process last November to find a new operator for the 1.5 hectare site visitor attraction.

It incorporates a large events pavilion with capacity for 350 people and a 90-cover restaurant with external seating and an associated shop.

Parking will be available via a new 300-bay council free to use car park adjacent to the walled garden.

A recent delegated decision report said three bids had been received by the council with the Elior bid scoring highest.

It said: “They [Elior] manage a range of prestigious venues and deliver the catering and events side of a number of significant venues including Osborne House [Queen Victoria’s former holiday home on the Isle of Wight] and the National Glass Centre [in Sunderland], alongside operating catering and events in a range of stadium contracts. 

“They see the operation of Kirkleatham Walled Garden as a flagship site for the company and have created an exciting business model that will drive the site forward and deliver against outputs.”

Having agreed a lease of the site with Elior, the council will be paid a proportion of ‘turnover rent’, estimated to be £185,000 over the first five years.

A review will then take place in year five to agree the rent for the next five years of the lease.

The council has agreed to cover some initial costs worth approximately £200,000 to be paid in the first year to enable Elior to establish the Kirkleatham walled garden as a “first class” visitor attraction.

These will include site security, garden maintenance and business rates.

The report said this was due to the impact of covid-19 which had led to “extraordinary times, especially in the hospitality industry”.

The £200,000 will be funded by a covid pressures grant previously awarded to the local authority by the Government.

A spokeswoman for the council said: “The contract with Elior is a ‘concession’ contract. 

“In short, this means that beyond some initial direct costs being covered by the council, the council will not be paying Elior to deliver the services. 

“Instead, a proportion of ‘turnover rent’ will be payable by Elior.

“Turnover rent means that the council will receive rent from Elior, which can go up and down based on how well the business does. 

“This is instead of agreeing a fixed sum.”

The spokeswoman did not confirm an opening date, but indicated that an announcement would be made shortly once the contract with Elior had been signed off.

The LDRS has contacted Elior for comment.

The Kirkleatham walled garden project has been largely funded  by the Tees Valley Combined Authority with money also being secured by the council from the Coastal Communities Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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