If we get peanuts for our Crown Jewels, then what?

THE PUBLIC meeting in the Royal Hotel on Wednesday May 2 was given the impression that the future of the Town Hall and adjacent property area, would be best served by a Plan Five (out of several other compromising options) devised by the council spokesmen for development considerations.

Most Town Hall functions would move to Prospect House, Eastfield.

The St Nicholas Street Town Hall plus other town-owned property areas would pass into a 50% control partnership with Homes and Communities Agency, a governmental agency. Scarborough will receive £3 million from the Homes and Community Agency, but put back £1 million-plus into joint development future; and moves to Prospect House would cost the town £2 million-plus to makes the building fit for purpose. Net result of that deal, in this rough equation, seems to lose the old Town Hall for zero gain.

The agency would have 50% decisive power to sell numerous town areas and structures to future private development, including various holdings in St Nicholas Street, King Street, St Nicholas Gardens and the ground site at the Futurist. A new road through this area would change most of its character, including Bland’s Cliff. The agency at present owns the Futurist Theatre and a fish and chip concern adjoining, but for a modest input, will hold large powers to decide the outcome of all these said areas. The old Town Hall would have historic protection order, but the interior could become a hotel, or any private concern.

The town bought that building around 1870 for £33,000: in today’s terms, £6 million plus, by rise of living costs index. But in terms of future real estate prospects, surely much more, considering the agency gain partial control of that extended area for £3 million, this could be a thriving seafront-related district in the future. The Town Hall functions transition to Eastfield will see that sum wiped out anyway, according to the above calculations.

Since born in this town 74 years ago, I have seen much of it mutilated, with little compensation or benefits. The Pavilion and Balmoral Hotels, York Place Colonnade: the list of disgraceful loss is endless, as many people know.

Other North Yorkshire towns (Thirsk, Helmsley, Whitby) seem better protected from vandalistic dismantling. The Smiley line from “Tinker, Tailor, Spy, etc”, concerning unreliable home guardians of secure heritage against outsider menace, seems an appropriate metaphor. “What if they give us peanuts and we give them The Crown Jewels, what then?”

Some on the platform and in the audience at the May 2 meeting, expressed confidence that a vital part of our town goes to partial control by the agency, being a government agency. In view of the present and recent governments’ records of association with property, finance and media conglomerates, this is not at all assuring. Despite recent economic crises, mega-rich individuals in this country and globally have increased their fortunes. Tycoons from the Arab Gulf and Asia put many millions into UK football clubs. For £3 million (very soon swallowed up) Scarborough will release a valuable slice of its historic domain. One of these global figures might acquire it for around that sum, our municipal officials say is a great deal.

To conclude, A: This whole area of town should not be altered or drastically misused; B: Requiring customers and staff of Town Hall functions to reach sites far out of town is monstrous and avoidable practise, we own many inner-town sites even now; C: If Plan 5, or similar, is implemented, payment to Scarborough should be many times more than the sum proposed at this time.

Patrick Henry

Prospect Road