Offering commercial opportunities from beautiful beaches to well trodden trails, the Pop-Up project has generated over £150K additional income for the Council. Kay Roberts, Public Open Space Officer at Cornwall Council, sheds light on this highly innovative and impactful scheme.
Cornwall has a dynamic range of beautiful locations such as beaches, harbours, woods, car parks and promenades under council ownership. After rising requests from the general public and a council drive to optimise underutilised assets, in 2016 the Council started investigating the idea of Pop-Up sites. Thorough investigation was conducted on multiple sites, ensuring they were suitable and worthwhile for tender. During development, close interdepartmental working with car parks was essential, as was maritime input, in order to provide the widest selection of sites possible for our potential entrepreneurs.
Pop-Up sites are mobile businesses which can utilise Council land during the daytime. We stipulate that only footprints are left, so nothing is left on the sites overnight. The majority of the businesses have been converted horseboxes and food trucks, although we have had tenders from people planning to use tuk tuks, rickshaws, bicycles, London buses and everything in between.
A vigorous tendering process was established for the first set of applicants in 2016. Relevant stakeholders (Cornwall Councillors, Town and Parish Councils and Community Link Officers) were consulted during the process, providing invaluable feedback regarding the sites. A tendering pack was created, which included a tender application form, draft licence and information sheet for the prospective pop-ups. The tenders were advertised through the Council website as well as social media outlets, email mailing lists and word of mouth. Due diligence is conducted on each successful application, checking risk assessment, method statements, public liability insurance (£5m) and necessary qualifications. Each year, with new sites being added and existing ones coming up for renewal, the tendering process has evolved and become more streamlined and effective.
The scoring of the tenders is split between 40% income and 60% quality to ensure we have businesses of high quality and suitability. The 60% was split into the following sections: Experience 5%, Business Set Up 15%, Sustainability 20% and Promotion and Protection of Environment 20%. The high scoring of sustainability and environment has been key for the projects supporting the wider community, running beach cleans and charity events, whilst promoting and protecting the environment. Higher marks are awarded for initiatives such as plastic-free, green energy on site, use of local produce, and re-use of waste, such as used coffee beans as fertilizer for local gardens. The innovative tendering process has meant that although the highest bidder may not necessarily win, the most appropriate business is chosen through the rigorous scoring process.
Every year following awarding of the tenders we can reflect and discuss what we have learnt for the next year. One of the main lessons being financial fees are now requested up front due to issues in the first few years where split invoicing was used. This has had the beneficial effect of simplifying invoicing and administration, as well as ensuring applications are serious. Over the years we have had much invaluable feedback, both positive and negative regarding the Pop-Ups. Complainants have been dealt with sensitively and feedback has been vital in designing future tenders.
Since inception, the Pop-Up project has generated over £150K additional income for the Council from land which was previously under-utilised. During this time, we have also experienced the effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic which has affected all walks of life. We have supported our Pop-Ups with reductions in annual rent to cover times the traders could not trade owing to lockdown restrictions. One of our most successful businesses has been the Hungry Horse Box at Gwithian. They have been with the venture from the beginning, have really established themselves as part of the community and have a thriving business.
We will continue to expand the scope of the Pop-Ups to include more diverse activities, such as family experiences, fitness classes, yoga, boot camps, personal training etc, on sites which are not suitable for vehicles. We are continually investigating new sites and opportunities on Council land to ensure that we continue to have diverse activities and successful, interesting, and innovative Pop-Ups.
Kay delivered a presentation on this topic at the APSE Southern Commercialisation, Income Generation and Trading Network Group Online Meeting on 17 June 2021. To get involved with the Network, click here