Scarborough Council 'forced' to pay 'substantial premium' for Pavilion House as purchase plans approved
The council’s cabinet on Tuesday approved the purchase of what is widely regarded to be Scarborough’s ugliest building, and also the former Comet site on Westwood, as part of the railway station "gateway" development plans which were revealed in The Scarborough News last week.
Cllr Steve Siddons, Scarborough Council' s leader, said: "This is a hugely significant and exciting piece of work.
"The station gateway project will kick start Scarborough’s blueprint and unlock wider investment in the town centre to stimulate economic growth and much needed environmental change."
Councillors heard that without the acquisition it was unlikely that the project would move ahead in its current state, and risked putting funding for the scheme from central government at risk.
Cllr Carl Maw said: "This site is too important to do nothing. I think it’s pretty clear that if it’s left to market forces we’re going to end up with some cheap flats in Pavilion House and the same in the Comet and nothing will really happen.
"This is one of those rare occasions where I would say, as a council, we need to interfere in those market forces and go ahead and approve the acquisition of these two, just so we can have control over what will happen and push ahead with the improvements we’ve been planning for the town."
The cabinet heard that it would be paying market value for the Comet building, following a professional appraisal, and that they were being "forced" into purchasing the properties two years early to ward off interested developers who wanted to convert the sites into residential units.
Cllr Liz Colling, cabinet member for inclusive growth, said: "I wholeheartedly support this project, which is crucial for the success of our wider regeneration plans for Scarborough and the rest of the borough."
Cllr Paul Riley, vice-chair of the Places and Futures Overview and Scrutiny Committee, warned that there were significant financial risks involved in the purchase.
"It’s not nailed on that we will get all the levelling up grant funding that we need to complete the redevelopment to meet our objectives. We are aware that in a worst-case scenario we could get nothing and resort to further borrowing," he said.
If faced with that, the council could also enter a venture with a joint corporate partner and risk not having complete ownership of the space.
Cllr Riley said: "If Pavilion House is refurbished privately for low-quality residential units it would very much remain a brutalist blot on the landscape."
He said that there has been "substantial demand" for the proposed new office space and that the council has received a statement of intent from the NHS, police and Beyond Housing to effectively create a “public sector hub” at Pavilion House.
The local authority will now move ahead to complete the purchase of Pavilion House and the former Comet building.
The proposal for the former Comet building is for it to be demolished and replaced with high-quality office accommodation. It is earmarked for a new digital workspace called FabLab.