Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Winter Gardens

Thanks to everyone who took the time to come back to me about the Winter Gardens last week. While there is some debate about the desirability and need of having a replacement arts centre, the feeling that we should not be proceeding without a firmer business case was almost unanimous. I’ll make sure this case is therefore put forward at the coming meetings on the subject.

Whilst on the subject, some of my colleagues have put together the following fact sheet, which I hope you might find illuminating:

QWhy are the Lib Dems insisting on building a new concert hall to replace the old
Winter Gardens?
A You may remember that prior to the last elections here in Bournemouth the Lib Dems promised to ‘save the Winter Gardens for the people of Bournemouth’ as a result of a petition signed by over 27,000 local people.

Q What happened after the Lib Dems won the election ?
A After stringing residents along since 2003, the Lib Dems finally demolished the Winter Gardens last year (much to the dismay of those same 27,000 people) saying it wasn’t worth repairing. (something the Conservatives had been saying all along).

Q So why build a new hall?
A The Lib Dems now argue that a new arts centre is needed to keep people out of pubs and clubs in the town centre. The reality is that they wish to save face after breaking their promise to save the old building. They are also planning to put luxury flats and student housing on the site, even though they haven’t consulted local residents properly.

Q Well, is a new arts centre needed ?
A The Conservatives believe not. The town is awash with venues all trying to attract audiences. In the BIC we have the Tregonwell, Purbeck and Solent Halls. The Pavilion has the main theatre and also numerous other venues capable of hosting smaller community projects. There are community centres all over the Borough such as the De Salle Theatre at St Peter’s School. Just outside Bournemouth we have the Lighthouse Arts Centre in Poole, the Regent Centre in Christchurch, the Barrington Theatre at Ferndown and the Mayflower Theatre at Southampton. They’re all fighting to attract audiences and remain viable.

Q How much will a new concert hall cost?
A Well, the land alone is probably worth 10 million pounds, or perhaps much more by now. Latest estimates show building costs to be well over 20 million pounds. Already the Lib Dems have spent about 2 million pounds ( the exact figure is being kept secret!) on consultants, architects, feasibility studies, accountants and other such ‘experts’. Remember, not a brick has been laid yet!

Q What would the Conservatives do ?

A We believe the Pavilion should be developed as a new Community Arts Centre. It is a Grade 2 Listed Building, it has ample room and needs millions spending on it to bring it up to decent standards and current health and safety regulations. Whatever happens elsewhere this money HAS to be spent on the Pavilion. We would raise the money by selling the Winter Gardens site for redevelopment ( probably £12 million pounds or more ) and reinvesting all of that money into the Pavilion.

Q What will the Lib Dems do with the Pavilion if they win the elections in May and go ahead with the Winter Gardens project?
A Well, they will still have to find over 10 million pounds to refurbish the Pavilion as this work HAS to go ahead whatever else happens. They will also have to find the 20 odd million pounds (of your money) for the new arts centre on the Winter Gardens site.

These are massive amounts of money and the current figures just do not stack up. The ’business case’ for the Winter Gardens leaves so many unanswered questions that it is obvious that the risks are enormous. At present the Lib Dems are selling off anything that doesn’t move. All the town centre car parks are currently up for sale ( imagine the charges when NCP get hold of them). The old Registry Office has already been sold for £800,000 and is now a Strip Club ( so much for the Lib Dems bringing culture back to the town centre!). Council assets all over the borough are being sold as the Lib Dems desperately try to raise money for this hopelessly unrealistic pet project. It’s a foolish adventure with long-term costs for the council tax payers of Bournemouth. The Conservatives want no part in it.

Conservative Policy…..

Your Conservative team pledge that if you support us on 3rd May, and we are elected to represent you, we will do everything possible to stop this hugely expensive Winter Gardens adventure. We will work to bring sensible and affordable projects to the whole of Bournemouth which will not involve selling off all of the town’s family silver.

The money saved will be used (amongst other things ) to bring much needed cctv cameras to the most vulnerable parts of Bournemouth to help curb anti-social behaviour, graffiti and all the other threats blighting our society.


Richard said...

Very illuminating indeed. I hope that you have chance to include some, if not all, of this text on a leaflet in Littledown & Iford. Somehow I don't think that even the staunchest Liberal supporter would be happy for £20 million to be spent on a project that is unneeded, overpriced and underthought. After investing £12 million into the Pavillon, the rest of the money could be used for real community investment instead of using it to cover up a pathetic U-turn of party policy.

Anonymous said...

I am hugely disappointed in your party for its policies over the Winter Gardens.

The residents of the town - yes the residents - have shown their enormous support for the site and the old building. Yet, even in the face of this, your party still wish to make money and business the sole factors in its consideration.

How arrogant, how blinkered can you be? This town is crying out for a return to it's elegant, cultural past - transformed into a 21st century vision.

I have heard it said in homes across the town - the counsellors we've had in this town are the most ignorant, self-serving bunch of no-hopers we've ever had. The town is going down hill, and all the counsil wants to do is get fat on the profits of land. In more ways than one.

In many ways, I am your typial conservative voter. But you will not have my vote until you sort this town out.

S Walton

arty farty said...

I am dismayed by the lack of cultural intelligence demonstrated by the conservatives on this matter. Bournemouth is by no means 'awash with venues' - it has two, the BIC and the Pavilion. Small community halls do not count as sufficient arts venues for the impact intended by the Winter Gardens. Please look into the possibilities of cultural activity and its long term effect on an economy. A new arts centre will attract a completely new type of tourist (the 'culture vultures') who are classically high spenders, if Bournemouth council is brave enough to continue with the winter garden development they will see the economic return generated through associated activity - just be patient and stop thinking about scoring points against the opposition. I can not see the cultural visitor being convinced to visit the Pavilion whilst a west end musical is playing in the same building, the two worlds don't mix for a reason, it may seem silly but that’s how it works.