Around £2m of council taxpayers’ money has been earmarked to construct a building for a new Doctor Who tourist attraction in Cardiff, we understand.
Cardiff council and BBC Worldwide want to open the Doctor Who Experience, currently on show at London’s Olympia Two, in Cardiff Bay next Easter.
Consultants hired by the council estimate it will attract about 250,000 visitors a year – including 40,000 new overnight tourists – and pump an estimated £65m into the city’s economy over the five years.
Opposition councillors last night said it was potentially a great opportunity for Cardiff, but warned using council money to fund it was a “huge risk” during the economic downturn.
The council’s Liberal Democrat/Plaid Cymru executive will tomorrow THURbe asked to approve funding for a huge temporary membrane-covered “tent” to rise up alongside the BBC drama village in the Porth Teigr development.
One proposal is for the attraction to be linked to a “behind the scenes” tour of the Doctor Who set, which will be filmed in Cardiff Bay from next year.
The exact details of the proposed financial agreement between the authority and BBC Worldwide, however, has been kept secret due to “commercial confidentiality”.
Councillor Mark Stephens, executive member for finance, said the cost was not being disclosed so that the council could secure the best price possible from developers.
However, we understand about £2m of council cash is being budgeted for the scheme. If planning permission is approved next month, work would start on site almost immediately.
The council is borrowing the money needed to fund construction, but will recoup the costs by receiving a share of the ticket sales.
BBC Worldwide, which owns the Doctor Who Experience and will pay to fit-out and operate the attraction, have offered to give the council £2 per visitor.
In London, it costs £20 per adult and £15.50 per child at the door.
The BBC has capped the maximum amount it will pay the council over the five years, but has given no guaranteed minimum payment.
Lisvane councillor David Walker, leader of the Conservative group, said there was “huge risks” attached to using council money to fund the building.
“Having said that, of course Doctor Who is a fantastic international brand with a huge following and I am sure there will be a lot of interest and that it will attract some tourism, what we don’t know is the level of tourism.
“It’s a great attraction potentially, but at what cost is the question.”
The proposed site is currently used by Cambrian Marine for boat storage, but the lease is due to be terminated to make-way for the attraction.
A report to councillors shows only a peppercorn rent will be paid for the site, but the council will be required to indemnify Porth Teigr developers Igloo against loss of rent from Cambrian Marine. These costs have also been kept confidential.
Coun Stephens defended keeping the costs secret for now and said BBC Worldwide was investing “significantly more” in the scheme than the council.
“We cannot put a cost on it because we have to get the best value for council funds,” Coun Stephens said.
Mark Hallett, development director of Igloo, said: “If it gets approved it will be great for the city.”
Attempts to contact BBC Worldwide for a comment were unsuccessful yesterday.
As previously reported, the council is also spending between £50,000 and £60,000 on investigating the feasibility of the project.
The Doctor Who Exhibition in Cardiff’s Red Dragon Centre closed in March.
What do you think about the sums of money? Do you support the development? Let us know your views in the comments below