For over 50 years Scarborough has been my home town, and I have developed a very considerable affection for it. I have tried to serve it in a number of different ways. For 19 years I served as an Independent councillor on the Borough Council. During that time I came to know the Town Hall very well indeed.
When I read the interview in the Evening News with my friend Tom Pindar (April 9) I was impressed with his description of what we need in a Town Hall – “somewhere with dignity and quality, that is impressive for councillors to meet and welcome inward investors, conference customers, Royals and other visitors”.
Perfect, I thought, Tom, a Freeman of the Borough, has described the Town Hall perfectly (although somewhat inadequately). It was only when I reached the last two paragraphs that I realized he was referring to the ex building society HQ on the industrial estate – a catastrophic move on the part of Scarborough Building Society, but he evidently thought it would be great as a town hall.
The financial figures that are quoted in support have been prepared to lead the councillors to the “preferred option”, namely to sell off the Town Hall, St Nicholas gardens, some King Street properties and the Futurist in exchange for £3million.
They would then buy the ex-Building Society HQ on the Industrial Estate – vacant for two years, its nearest neighbours being a pub, a garage, a supermarket and a number of warehouses sitting in wasteland.
Not a brilliant site to present Scarborough as a premier seaside holiday resort.
I am not at all convinced by Mr Dillon’s explanation that the current Town Hall is “hopeless for its current purpose” adding that he “had been forced to wear a fleece in the winter due to cold conditions”. Dear me. No mention of the fact that the present Town Hall is a splendid Listed Building which we have a duty to conserve.
Many years ago “The Computer” occupied an entire air-conditioned room in the basement. The Town Hall managed to accommodate it, and its successors. And I have no doubt that it will continue to change. It requires a determination to succeed.
The report prepared to persuade the Council Members to accept this £3million carrot has one excellent section. – a list of 12 bullet points entitled “Highlighted Risks”.
I reckon that more than half of them are likely to come to pass – e.g. “Council owns two Town Halls and has to pay their running costs”.
No, I fear that with the purchase of this “white elephant” of a building, the Skipton Building Society will be rubbing its hands with glee and we, the citizens of the Borough, will rue the day.
No, Tom, I do not believe that in our present Town Hall the staff are compelled to work in “a place full of cubby holes, draughty stairs and corridors”.
No, Tom, I do not believe that I, and a great many other people who are opposed to this crazy move, are “unworthy of respect.”
Local Government Officers, whose business it is to administer Council affairs and prepare reports concerning Council decisions, are often unfairly criticized.
In my time they did an excellent job. However, they generally have a career path to follow which, in senior positions, means that they move around the country to bigger and better posts.
They do not necessarily share the affection for the town’s heritage as do those who have spent all or most of their lives in Scarborough. The Town Hall is a treasure, a jewel in Scarborough’s crown, and we are proud of it. Why am I reminded of Genesis? And Esau selleth his birthright for a mess of potage.