Rehousing Welsh Government in new building could be part of ‘Bay 2032’ project

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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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