We are all looking forward to the creation of a successful new venue in Derby. However, lots of questions need to be answered about this proposal. Not least: what will happen on the exisiting Assembly Rooms site, long considered the best place for a venue? In the past, people have proposed building private flats on that site. I say no. The Market Place should be the heart of the city, a place for public for the public and their events.
Back in 2014, all the professional advice stated that trying to get the Assembly Rooms re-opened with a repair and refurbishment was not viable. It would cost millions to do that and it would then continue to need a further £500,000 a year, which is the subsidy it had been taking from the Council for many years.
Reports predating 2014 had said that, ideally a new venue was needed and the best place for a viable development was the market place. I invited professional, commercial theatre companies to consider running the venue but they all said it was not viable. This was stated in Council meetings at the time. The Conservatives would not listen and they chose to use the closure to attack Labour instead.
All the advice from professionals who had worked on successful new venues, that had not run over budget, was that political consensus is needed to prevent costly decision changes.
We are now back to square one.
We need all councillors to back a plan that has the support of business leaders but also of the majority of the people of Derby.
Update, July 2020
These figures, released under a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request, show that Labour’s plans for a newbuild Assembly Rooms were cheaper, more cost effective and more beneficial than the refurbishment option the Tories chose. The Tories chose to ignore officer advice and promised the undeliverable to the public. They have had to abandon their plans because estimated refurbishment costs rose to a high level, as the Tories had been told they would. They have not delivered. Now, more than ever, Derby needs a credible plan for a new Assembly Rooms.