The proposed Town Hall move is one of the biggest local decisions in recent years. Cllr Tom Fox has consistently stated that, “We have an attractive offer from the Homes and Communities Agency. They provide the council with £3 million to accelerate the relocation of the Town Hall accommodation, thus freeing up the current Town Hall, King Street and Futurist sites for development (Scarborough News, May 31).
This sounds good, but in contrast, the company contracted to run the Open Air Theatre is now planning to sue Scarborough Borough Council for nearly £2 million (Scarborough News, July 5).
The council’s track record on engaging with the private sector to develop Scarborough attractions is poor. The much needed all-weather facilities of a water park and a multiplex cinema have been talked about for years, but have so far come to nothing (not to mention Legoland). Having invested heavily in the Scarborough Spa, the council now wants to privatise the Spa and the Whitby Pavilion. The council’s Strategic Director Hilary Jones (Scarborough News, June 7) was quoted as saying that “the council had learned lessons from what happened with the Open Air Theatre”.
The fear is that if the Town Hall move goes ahead it could end up at worst in a boarded up white elephant of an historic town centre building, with the loss of 340 all year round council employees to town centre shops, and at best end up as a retail/hotel/leisure unit which would just take away trade from other already hard-pressed town centre businesses. The gamble is that whatever replacement development takes place, more visitors will be attracted into Scarborough town centre for the overall benefit of the town centre and region.
Council Finance Manager Nicholas Edwards was quoted (Scarborough News, July 5) as saying, “it is not management that will be making the decision of which option to go for, but all 50 councillors that make up Full Council”. But councillors make decisions based on the recommendations of the council management.
If the move does go ahead, will the councillors who voted for the move, and the council managers who recommended the move accept responsibility, whether the outcome is ultimately positive or negative, and commit to attending a series of regular public meetings over the next few years where questions can be put and answered openly?