A FRESH LOOK AT THE FUTURIST
Since 2001 Scarborough Council (SBC) have been discussing the sale and development of the Futurist site on Foreshore Road. Nestled in the very heart of Scarborough's South Bay the Futurist Theatre represents a thumping part of the traditional aspect of the Tourist experience.
In 2002 Barrie Stead took over the operational side of the Futurist Theatre on a short-term basis, the SEN reported at the time "We want to bring the Futurist back to life and need the support of Scarborough people. Owners Scarborough Council are trying to sell the theatre, Mermaid bar and adjoining shops for redevelopment."
Since then campaigners have asked for the Futurist to be refurbished and restored to its original glory and even tried to place it into a Community Trust. The Council have ignored and sidelined all those requests.
It took a while, but by March 2012 SBC had thrown into the Futurist Development pot the Town Hall, adjoining admin buildings, parts of King Street, and some of the public gardens alongside creating a comprehensive 105 page Development Brief "Town Hall & Futurist"
After much local publicity and a strong campaign led by Scarborough Town Action Group (STAG), Tom Fox, Leader of the Council said that "we have listened to the people ...." and that the Town Hall would remain as Scarborough's Civic Centre. Nevertheless the marketing of the Wider Development including the Futurist would continue.
On Friday 13th December 2013 an 'urgent' decision was made to close the Theatre.
However, within that 'decision' was an opportunity, a three month window for campaigners or developers to put together proposals, a business plan together with viable funding options and present them to the Council before any long-term decision was finalised and the bulldozers get sent in.
"6.10 It is proposed that for a period of 3 months the Council will maintain the Futurist Theatre, to a minimum standard, to provide time for an alternate operator to come forward. During this period, in order to protect the building from vandalism, the external of the premise will be‘boarded up’, with the frontage being in a tasteful and sensitive manner, reflecting the prime location it occupies.
6.11 Any prospective new operator will during that 3 month period need to demonstrate the viability of their proposal with a valid business plan and evidence of necessary funding.
6.12 If, during this 3 month period, no viable alternate operator is identified then the building will need to be closed and the wet systems shut-down.
Local 'shock' reaction to the Leaders Decision was not convincing. This had been on the table for some time. Indeed, September 2013 :
Cabinet is recommended to:
(i) note that the operation of the Futurist Theatre has been under the spotlight for a number of years;
(ii) accept that the process, including a Task Group review and several consultants reports, has been robust and transparent;
(iii) accept that this process has now concluded and the continued operation of a Theatre in the current site is unsustainable;
(iv) authorise Officers, in conjunction with partners, to undertake soft market testing on the redevelopment of the Town Hall and Wider Development Site;
(v) delegate authority to the Director of Business Support to re-negotiate with the Homes and Communities Agency in respect of the Joint Venture Agreement for the Town Hall and Wider Development site (to retain the HCA as a key development and investment partner);
(vi) instruct Officers to present a further report to Cabinet outlining the revised terms of the Joint Venture with the Homes and Community Agency;
(vii) continue to work with Public Sector Partnerships (PSP) regarding the outline options for the Town Hall and Wider Development site, accepting that a future decision will be required by Cabinet as to PSPs long term involvement in this project;
(viii) instruct Officers to enter into negotiations with the present Operator of the Futurist Theatre aknowledging that redevelopment of the Town Hall and Wider Development site is the preferred option (accepting that terms may not be agreed);
(ix) if recommendation (viii) above cannot be agreed then instruct Officers to seek alternate, interim solutions to operate the Theatre or failing that to close the Theatre;
(x) delegate authority to the Director of Business Support to resolve any title issues that may arise related to the Town Hall and Wider Development site.
Certainly Robert Goodwill has had other ideas about keeping the Futurist, confirmed by Yorkshire Coast Radio (96.2 FM) Report :
Robert Goodwill MP - Reacts To Closure Of Futurist 8:03am 29th December 2013
A Yorkshire Coast MP has been reacting to the closure of the Futurist Theatre in Scarborough.
"it's time to move on" and agrees with the Borough Council's decision to close it in January. Goodwill says he would like to see a multiplex cinema in its place. And goes on to say "I really don't think the council could have justified spending between £4m and £7m on it. I think we now need to move forward to look at what we can put on that site as an alternative.... I used to get letters from people saying you can't knock down the Futurist, it's part of our history. When I'd telephone them to ask them when they were last there it was sometime in the 1960s. It's a bit like the Corner Cafe, it was close to a lot of people's hearts but unfortunately local people didn't frequent it in the very large numbers they would've needed to enable it to have a long term future."
The ongoing 'political' debate about the Futurist has also been well Minuted :
SBC Minutes 04/11/13
(vi) Homes and Communities Agency/Scarborough Borough Council - Joint Venture Agreement (Reference 13/359) The recommendations in the extract minute from the Cabinet (15 October 2013) were proposed by Councillor Fox and duly seconded. Councillor Jefferson advised that she was pleased that the Director of Business Support in conjunction with the Portfolio Holder for Strategic Planning and Regeneration had successfully re-negotiated terms with Homes and Community Agency to extend the Joint Venture Agreement beyond 30 September 2013 and welcomed the setting up of a Project Board. She advised that over 4000 signed ‘My Theatre Matters’ cards had been handed to Councillor Fox prior to the meeting. The cards had been funded and administered by the Stage Newspaper, Equity and the Theatrical Management Association. She also advised of the official e-petition on the Borough Council’s web-site and an official ‘Hard copy’ petition within the Borough. The aim of the petitions was to achieve over 5000 signatures in order to bring the Futurist ‘Community’ proposals back to full Council and Project Board for consideration. The meeting was advised that members of this Group constituted those who earned their living, either through tourism/hospitality, trade or direct employment in theatre and entertainment generally. The Group had banded together and were asking the Council and Homes and Community Agency, through the Joint Venture Agreement Project Board to listen and work with the Group to retain the Futurist Theatre within the Futurist Site and support its restoration, expansion and inclusion within the proposed Town Hall and wider development plan. The Group feel that the development of apartments and other associated tourism businesses in and around this seafront site together with an application to the Coastal Communities fund could in turn provide the initial stimulus to restore and modify the Futurist Theatre to accommodate ‘A’ rated travelling shows. This would in turn boost the overall economy and employment within Scarborough and the wider Borough and kick start other proposed developments within the catchment area and extended development site. Councillor Jefferson also sought confirmation, based on the recommendations of the Theatres Trust and subsequent agreement by the Cabinet in July, that the Futurist Theatre would remain open. Councillor Bastiman said he was surprised to hear the comments made and said in-depth work undertaken by the Futurist Task Group had proved that the theatre was not viable. The Council needed to ‘bite the bullet’. A development which would link the seafront to the town centre would be a great improvement and boost to the economy of the Borough. Cllr. Jeffels said that the Task Group had spent 10 months of deliberation on the Futurist and it was recognised that it occupied a prime site and has considerable potential – a development that could link King Street and the rear of the Town Hall with the seafront. He expressed the view that the results of the marketing exercise would be known in the not too distant future and these could include provision for a theatre to be built or the existing one to be retained. The main objective is that whatever is suggested must be sustainable for the Borough. Councillor Jeffels commented that with regard to the provision of a theatre in the development, nothing had been ruled in and nothing had been ruled out.
RESOLVED that Council:
(i) Note that the Director of Business Support in conjunction with the Portfolio Holder for Strategic Planning and Regeneration had successfully re-negotiated terms with the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) to extend the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) beyond the 30 September 2013 deadline.
Well, that summises the 'History' of the Futurist. According to Community Asset Transfer rules it cannot be placed as such because it is part of 'A Wider Development'.
I have a few Q's - When did HCA became 'owners' of the Mermaid and attached buildings and on what terms? (HCA - formerly Yorkshire Forward)
How long have HCA agreed to leave their 'investment' on the table?
What is Cllr Bastiman's history with King Street and St Nicholas Street? (He seems to be the one driving this development).
What is David Chance's role in this? (portfolio holder for Tourism and Culture)
Will the bulldozers move in before any Local Campaign can gain credibility?
I also take issue with Robert Goodwill's view on the Corner Cafe - I was there on the day the Council decided to bulldoze the Corner Cafe, and also the very sad day when the bulldozers moved in to demolish it. The Corner Cafe was a high value community venue and is sorely missed. This is a traditional Seaside Resort and needs to maintain its traditional Theatrical Attractions. Whilst the Crankies may be past their sell by date I hear that Sooty and Basil Brush are immortal - long live Basil Brush!! - no ref to Tom Fox intended.