Sheffield company in line to run the Spa

Scarborough Spa
Scarborough Spa

A Sheffield-based entertainment company is in the front running to operate the Scarborough Spa and Whitby Pavilion, it has been revealed.

Scarborough Council has been “market testing” placing the management of the two venues into private hands since last year and initially there was interest from six companies.

However coucillors have raised concerns that safeguards should be put in place to guarantee that the operator will provide a suitable programme of entertainment.

Hilary Jones, the council’s strategic director, told members of the Resources Scrutiny Committee that Sheffield International Venues was the preferred bidder.

“Detailed solutions from two companies were received in February this year. There was a robust evaluation of what they were offering,” she said.

She added that the Sheffield company had been recommended to proceed to the final tender stage of the contract and the company – which runs venues such as Sheffield City Hall – could be announced because there was just one bidder.

The proposal will be presented to Cabinet next month.

Cllr Brian Watson said that people he had spoken to were concerned that the Spa Orchestra should be retained at the venue.

Mrs Jones said they had experience working with classical music and were interested in developing the orchestra. She added: “It’s a key part of the Spa itself.”

Cllr Eric Broadbent said that experience over the past few years in getting firms to look after the council’s interests had been a “disaster”. He added: “I’m talking about the Open Air Theatre.”

He said that until more details were forthcoming he was very concerned over what would happen. “Once a private company takes over do we have a safety net to monitor the Spa? The last thing we want down there is a similar thing that happened at the Open Air Theatre.”

Mrs Jones said that the council had learned lessons from what had happened with the Open Air Theatre – as reported operators Apollo failed to produce a 2012 programme and are currently looking to get out of the contract.

She said: “International Venues do have a strong understanding of local council needs – their relationship with Sheffield City Council is still there.”

Cllr Norman Murphy said he was concerned about the maintenance of the historic buildings.

He said: “These are increasingly expensive buildings and they require a lot of love and attention – something they haven’t had from Scarborough Borough Council – somebody is going to have to foot the bill.”

Mrs Jones said that maintenance and development potential were key factors. She said: “Hopefully the process we are going through will provide us with some comfort.”