Bright future hoped for as Ocean Lab retained
5:40pm Thursday 7th March 2013 in News
The future of Goodwick’s Ocean Lab is looking brighter, after Pembrokeshire County Council announced plans for retaining the seafront facility.
The Fishguard Harbour facility, which has been under review since January, is likely to be taken over by Conygar – the development company behind the proposed Fishguard and Goodwick marina.
At Monday’s cabinet meeting, cabinet member for economy tourism and communities Councillor David Pugh said that the cafe, soft play area, cyber cafe and exhibition area will be retained, but its Tourist Information Centre (TIC) will close.
Cllr Pugh said: “I think this is the right way forward to look at ways of utilising the building rather than just closing it per say.
“I’m pleased to say that it’s hopeful a final agreement will be reached with Conygar. We intend to move forward with Conygar to take over the building. It’s a win-win situation for the community.”
He added: “It also shows the commitment that Conygar is making to Fishguard and Goodwick with their marina development.”
Pembrokeshire County Council leader Cllr Jamie Adams said that the proposal provided something of a ‘silver lining’ for the facility, but that the council in the current financial climate will have to look closely at its non-statutory services.
He said: “I am pleased that there is an alternative here, but sometimes that will not be the case. Unfortunately that’s the cold light of day in which we operate in the current financial climate.”
Cllr Huw George added: “In the current climate, as a cabinet, we mustn’t be afraid of asking the hard questions. Sometimes there is a positive outcome – but we mustn’t be afraid of making these big decisions.”
A review of the Ocean Lab was launched by the cabinet last month. This included an open survey, which received 734 responses, and discussions with staff and other interested parties.
Cllr Adams said that although visitor numbers had declined in recent years, the centre was still valued by local residents. He said that primarily, the facility was used for its cafeteria and soft play area, while the TIC element was somewhat secondary.
He said: “Many people are bypassing the face-to-face element, and utilising mobile technology and prebooking through the internet.”
He added the council will be making a £73,000 saving by relinquishing its financial commitments to the Ocean Lab, while TIC staff will be redeployed to the nearby Fishguard centre.
Cllr David Simpson added: “We must do these reviews, and even if decisions are going to be bad, as long as we have got justification for them, and do our homework, then we can go forward. Our transparency, background work, justification – that’s the way forward.”
Following the meeting, Sea Trust director Cliff Benson said: “We are sad that the TIC team will no longer be a part of the Ocean Lab, but relieved that they will continue to be employed by Pembrokeshire County Council. We know they were really committed and did a great job there.
“Subject to negotiations with the council’s officers, we can now get on with looking at ways of enhancing the building’s potential as a visitor attraction and community hub. In some ways it’s a dream come true, for Sea Trust and our volunteers, but also reality has to kick in and we will need to work very hard with the help of Conygar, the community and our supporters to achieve the dream.”
A spokesman for Conygar has confirmed that it is in negotiation with the county council, the cafe operator and the Sea Trust over the future of Ocean Lab.