The Futurist Theatre
As most people will be aware, the plans of the current ruling Conservative administration on SBC for the development of the Futurist Theatre building are to pull down the theatre and sell off the site. They also propose to include in the sale about a third of the adjoining public gardens. The prospective purchasers of these two plots are Flamingo Land; who want to build some kind of a theme park ride.
As might be imagined, the demolition of such an iconic building in such a prominent position on Scarborough’s sea front and the importance to the towns economy of having a large indoor venue has caused a great degree of distress amongst many of the town’s residents and visitors. UKIP consider that these sales are another case of the local Conservative Group knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Is the Flamingo Land bid best use of the site?
Well it would seem that many people don’t think so. Mark Price, for example, the Theatres At Risk adviser for the Theatres Trust, said that ‘the trust had the Futurist on its theatre buildings at risk register since 2006′, adding that ‘the venue currently provided the only indoor venue in Scarborough capable of hosting large scale touring theatre and musical productions which needed a flytower’.
Patricia David, from the campaign group Save the Futurist, said it was now “open warfare” between the council and local people who want to see the venue remain as a theatre. If this is warfare, UKIP want to be on the side of the residents we want to save the theatre for future generations.
What of the cost?
The exact cost of demolishing the Futurist, and securing the vacant site against land slip is of course unknown. Various estimates have been put forward, but it is unlikely to be less than £2 million pounds and could of course be very much more. The land that the Futurist sits on, as most everyone in Scarborough knows, is very wet and perhaps very unstable. Once the building is removed, because of the unstable nature of the land, might the whole of the King Street car park, and perhaps the Town Hall as well, end up on the sea front? What would the cost of stabilisation and the replacement of the Town Hall be then £20 million perhaps? And who would pay this colossal bill? Us of course, the poor old rate payers!
People are shouting very loudly that a commercial enterprise expects the people of Scarborough to pay for clearing and restabilising the site so they can make money out of their new attraction. As usual it seems that the Tories want us to pay for their extravagant schemes; making their mates rich and us poor.
UKIP members feel that the Futurist project, as with so many other projects put forward by the present Conservative Council, has by no means been the subject of a full and fair public consultation. It is the people who actually own the land and the building.
In 2014, over 6,000 people signed a petition urging council chiefs to save the historic venue, the Council’s response was to ignore the objectors and to claim that the Futurist was “unsustainable” and together with the surrounding area was suitable for “redevelopment”. In the mean time the venue should be closed and boarded up. Furthermore, they added, if another operator cannot be found in the next three months then the theatre should be shut down.
Is this, we ask, listening to the people or consultation with the public?
What of the bidders?
Flamingo Land is clearly a very important entertainment provider in North Yorkshire and cooperation with them is not only sensible, but might also be very beneficial to all sides. Their donation to the Conservative Party of £50,000, in view of their bid to Scarborough Borough Council (Conservative led) for this potentially very lucrative site, and their clear commercial advantage of acquiring a cleared site at no cost to themselves, has unsettled many people.
Is the eagerness of the current Conservative administration to agree to such a one sided deal, many have asked, connected to the £50,000 donation to Conservative Party funds? A very angry Theatres Trust are helping us to provide an Appeal on the Listing, which was submitted before the 21st February deadline.
UKIP members feel that too many questions have as yet not been answered with regard to the future of the Futurist Theatre and its viability. Moreover, the bid from Flamingo Land, which it will be remembered requires the sale to Flamingo Land of a large chunk of St Nicholas Gardens, an area of open space on the sea front which once built on can never be recovered, needs very careful scrutiny before it is agreed to.
Our view is that the whole demolition proposal and the subsequent sale to Flamingo Land should be postponed until it is proven beyond doubt that the existing theatre is not viable. If this is proven, then no demolition will take place until a full survey of the area is undertaken and the full cost of the demolition and stabilisation of the site is established.