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Convention centre plans a step closer.

Byline: Sion Barry

A CONVENTION centre in Cardiff is closer to becoming a reality, the Echo understands.

Cardiff council and the Welsh Government are in discussions over a location and the funding arrangements for a dedicated convention centre in the capital - which would provide a major economic boost in being able to host major UK and international conferences on a regular basis.

It is understood that they are considering a number of sites for a convention centre around Cardiff Central Station. These include yet-to-be developed land at the Callaghan Square scheme, as well as on land, currently partly occupied, around Herbert Street.

The cost of a convention centre, with a capacity for 2,000 delegates, has been put at around pounds 80m.

Discussions are continuing between the Welsh Government and Cardiff council on the precise funding model for a convention centre, which would also benefit from investment due to its location within the enterprise zone for financial and professional services.

Seen as a key infrastructure investment, an element of funding could come from borrowings via the UK Treasury's Public Works Loan Board. An element could also come from the Welsh Government's capital budget.

Whatever the final funding solution, itwould not require any private-sector backing.While being publicly owned, the convention could be operatedby a private company or through a publicprivate entity. But the operating ownership is seen as a secondary consideration - with the focus currently on agreeing a site and funding. An announcement on the convention centre is expected in the autumn.

Cardiff council has for a number of years been trying to realise a convention centre for the city - which is being supported by business organisations as well as retailers, leisure operators and hoteliers in the capital.

Last year the council considered acquiring the Millennium Plaza leisure scheme near to the Millennium Stadium after it had been put into administration. It would then have revamped the building and turned it into a convention centre.

But in the end the council did not submit a bid to administrators, who struck a deal with development company Mansford.

If the council and the Welsh Government opt for the Callaghan Square site, it would mean that law firm Hugh James would have to consider an alternative site for its proposed new HQ.

The firm, which employs 500, currently operates out of two offices in the capital, following the split last year of its commercial law and volume legal services teams into two separate trading entities.

Its volume business, Involegal, has a short-term lease on 18,000sq ft at the Fusion Point office scheme.

Its corporate team is located at Hodge House, where it has a break clause on its lease around the same time of the expiring of the Fusion Point agreement in 2014. The plan is to bring both operations under one roof.

Cardiff council and the Welsh Government have declined to comment.
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 17, 2012
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