Letter: The true facts behind the Futurist’s fate

The Futurist Theatre, Foreshore Road, Scarborough.

The Futurist Theatre, Foreshore Road, Scarborough.

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After nearly three years since the Futurist was closed and the ‘in principle’ recommendations were taken by the cabinet in September 14, I have now had confirmation, following an email by myself to the director concerned and legal services, that reports are now being prepared and that the Futurist redevelopment report will finally go to full council for ratification on Monday January 9, 2017. I hope the meeting will be a public meeting with a recorded vote, so everyone is on record.

I attended two separate meetings last week where updates on the Futurist were given by the chief executive Jim Dillon and council leader Derek Bastiman both of whom stating that the decision to demolish the Futurist had already been taken, one making reference to this as being during 2013 and that new drawings from the preferred developer would be forthcoming within the next few weeks of what would be a circa £20m development contained within the ‘Futurist Land Footprint’ and that they no longer need part of St Nicholas Gardens, which has been confirmed to me.

Within my email I stated that I had gone through all cabinet/council agendas and minutes and the only reference regarding demolition was within the September 16, 2014, cabinet meeting when ‘in principle’ recommendations with regard to the preferred bidder, whom we now know is Flamingo Land, wanted to purchase a cleared and stable site. A planning application did go to planning and development in December 2014 with a request as to whether permission would be needed to demolish the Futurist – the recommendation said yes it would need to go to a future planning and development meeting for ratification etc.

Looking back since 2013, the decision to close the Futurist theatre was issued on December 13, 2013, and in the event the theatre closed in January 2014.

The ‘People’s Petition’ which I co-ordinated, under Scarborough Borough Council regulated petition rules, had to be signed by over 5,000 persons who either lived, worked or studied within the borough of Scarborough before it would qualify to bring the Futurist to a full council debate. The petition totalling 6,800 was handed over to the legal director in January 2014.

It was fully ratified as reaching the 5,000 threshold and went for debate at the May 2014 full council which in turn made it an ‘A’ item, ie any decisions having to be ratified by full council. The recommendation from that full council involved a meeting of the Joint Venture Board whereupon a decision was taken to split the Town Hall Futurist redevelopment and the Futurist became a ‘stand alone’ project and was advertised through an ‘appraisal’ inviting bids etc and covering a 250 year lease. The bids received were discussed as stated during the cabinet meeting of September 16, 2014, and according to the minutes the recommendations in principle included part of St Nicholas Gardens and King Street Car Park. A full council agreement followed enabling the purchase from Homes and Community Agency of the Mermaid section etc, giving Scarborough Borough Council full ownership.

The next report to go to cabinet on September 15, 2015, covered briefings on stabilisation reporting in particular that further surveys had confirmed that the building provides support to the slope behind. Full council on Friday February 26, 2016, gave approval/ratification under the 2016/17 budget to some £4m being allocated for the Futurist redevelopment with no mention within that document being made to either demolition, stability or clearance of the site.

The stability of the land is a key factor, the people within the 100 plus properties around the Futurist are frightened about what will happen within this area as each property holds the other up within the tiered landscape and there are voids below Blands Cliff, indeed only this week further investigations have taken place within the King Street Car Park and residents nearby have reported vibrations within their properties.

The Save the Futurist campaign and YMCA public meeting brought forward excellent presentations and proposals based on many years of research together with plans to provide a ‘dock door’ to bring in larger set ‘A’ rated shows which in turn, as proved within other towns, could bring millions of pounds into our local economy. With regard to funding, as stated some £4m has been agreed within the 2016/17 budget for the Futurist redevelopment which, together with a funding scheme put forward by a local businessman based on the number of theatre seats with an ingoing payment and yearly membership subscriptions would bring sustainability to the running and operations of the theatre. There have also been many pledges of ‘in kind’ support from the construction industry. The constituted/friends group leading to trust status co-ordinated by a professional person or body now needs to take all this work forward to full council. There will be a further public meeting at the YMCA on Thursday January 5, 2017, at 7pm.

Finally, Scarborough Borough Council have applied for a ‘Certificate of Exemption from Listing’ and Historic England are preparing a report taking on board other facts with regard to this historic building and I have been advised by the Theatre’s Trust that if this certificate is not issued to Scarborough Borough Council, the Futurist would become which as confirmed by Scarborough Borough Council could alter the forthcoming reports to full council on January 9, 2017.

Cllr Janet Jefferson

Castle Ward

Eastborough

Scarborough