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New Senedd office could be built in Cardiff Bay when current lease expires

09 Feb 2024 5 minute read
The Chamber – Senedd Cymru Welsh Parliament

Chris HainesICNN Senedd reporter

A new Senedd office could be built in Cardiff Bay to house MSs and staff when the lease on the current Tŷ Hywel building expires in 2032.

Four options are thought to be on the table as part of the ‘Bay 2032’ project: building new offices, extending the lease, buying Tŷ Hywel, or taking up a nearby property.

Elin Jones, the Welsh Parliament’s speaker or Llywydd, stressed that no decision has been made – other than that the offices must be adjacent to the Senedd building itself.

In a letter to MSs, she confirmed the Senedd Commission, which is responsible for the estate, will launch a market engagement exercise to seek interest in providing new offices.

Lease

Tŷ Hywel, the red-brick building behind the Senedd, which houses members’ offices, Senedd Commission staff and the Welsh Government, is leased for about £2m a year.

But the clock is ticking on the 25-year lease on the building, which was valued at £42m in 2021, prompting the commission to examine all options for the future.

Ms Jones wrote: “You may be aware that the current lease on Tŷ Hywel expires in 2032, which means we will need to make a decision on what course of action to take well in advance of that date.

“This also gives us an opportunity to rethink what we need from our office spaces in the long term and ensure that we make a decision that delivers the best value for public money.

“This project is not related to Senedd reform.

“A 96-member Senedd could be accommodated in Tŷ Hywel in May 2026.

“Commissioners have asked officials to consider post-2032 accommodation, working closely with our professional property and legal advisers, and so we will shortly be undertaking a market engagement exercise to understand what viable options we have beyond 2032.”

Tŷ Hywel, which was previously owned by Kuwaiti investors, was bought by Equitix – a London-based infrastructure fund manager with nearly £9bn in assets – in 2019.

The 120,000 sq ft building, which is linked to the Senedd by purpose-built glass walkways, housed the then-National Assembly’s first debating chamber until 2006.

Investment

The terms of the lease require the commission to maintain Tŷ Hywel and replace end-of-life items such as windows, doors and boilers, which would require significant investment.

In 2020, the cost of replacing the 30-year-old windows, which are in a creaking condition with replacement parts unavailable, was estimated at £6m.

The letter follows a unanimous decision to explore options at a January 29 meeting of the commission, which is made up of the Llywydd and members of the three main parties.

The commission, which has allocated £1.6m over three years to the Bay 2032 project, said sustainability, value for money and procurement best practice will guide decision-making.

Ms Jones added: “It is important to note the ending of this current Tŷ Hywel lease does not impact on either the Senedd building or the Pierhead – we will only be looking at Tŷ Hywel.

“I would like to assure you that no decision has been taken on this issue, other than to establish that our office accommodation must be adjacent to the Senedd itself.

“Our considerations are at a very early stage, and we will engage further with members as the process develops.”

The letter, dated February 8, also provided an update on proposals to expand the Senedd debating chamber, or Siambr, to accommodate more members if reforms get the go-ahead.

MSs are currently considering the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) bill which would increase the size of the Welsh Parliament from 60 to 96 members.

Under the ‘Siambr 2026’ project, a contract has been awarded to Roger Stirk Harbour + Partners – the architects which designed the Senedd – after a competitive tender process.

Ms Jones wrote: ”I am eager for members outside the commission to engage with the Siambr work as it progresses and a member reference group will be established in the coming weeks to this end.”

Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Tory group in the Senedd, said: “The Welsh Conservatives will approach any discussions with Welsh taxpayers’ interests as a priority.”

Mike Hedges, a Labour backbencher, who represents Swansea East, argued the Senedd Commission should buy Tŷ Hywel.

“Renting makes no economic or business sense,” he said.

Office space

Meanwhile, the Lib Dems said: “Our view is that like any organisation, the Senedd needs suitable accommodation that meets the needs of its staff.

“At the same time, however, it is important that any decision made balances the long-term needs of the Senedd alongside value for taxpayers’ money.

“This is a normal course for any business and it is important that the Senedd is able to be the dynamic organisation that it needs to be for the sake of Welsh democracy.”

A Senedd Commission spokesperson said: “The current lease on Tŷ Hywel, which accommodates members and their staff in Cardiff Bay, expires in 2032.

“Work is under way by Senedd Commission officials to ensure that suitable office space is available beyond this point.

“A thorough procurement process will now take place which is focused on sustainability and securing the best value-for-money in the long term, in line with best practice.”


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
11 days ago

There might be an accommodation barge going spare by then that could tie-up against the wall…

Do you intend to beggar the rest of Cymru to maintain your lifestyles along the M4 corridor!

David Thomas
David Thomas
11 days ago

So cuts to the NHS, education, social services, and many other services. But the MS is increasing up to 96, strange how they can find money for more MS, their wages allowances and pensions. Plus the staff to support them wages and pensions again, plus new buildings etc etc etc. But want to see a doctor or dentist, get in a queue, old person not enough pension to turn on the heating, unlucky, should have been a MS. Welcome to the devolved goverment Money pit for Labour, Plaid and yes cymru. Drakeford and Co living the dream, and screw the… Read more »

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
11 days ago
Reply to  David Thomas

I don’t know how much you have been reading about YesCymru but with their current internal problems Senedd offices are the last thing that their members will be thinking about.
Besides which YesCymru is not a political party and has no say whatsoever in the day to day running of Cymru.

Why vote
Why vote
10 days ago

There must be a sutable mine shaft somewhere in wales that could be converted to accommodate the new senedd. They could then experience the history of the mining communities of wales. And be allowed to put out their candles and come up for air so the smell of BS will once again fill the green fields of Wales as all the cattle will be reared on a far away continent thanks to the new farming bill.

Jeff
Jeff
10 days ago

Lot of problems with off shore owning Welsh lands and buildings. Time to make it our own, build new, avoid land lord stuff (the buying up of property and land has been happening under the radar for a long time).
https://taxpolicy.org.uk/2024/01/25/overseas/

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