Back to the Futurist
Today’s Guest Author is the ever-popular former SBC elected member NORMAN MURPHY, offering his ‘take’ on what went wrong – and how it is yet to be put right.
It is beyond doubt that many people, perhaps most people, consider that the only reason the former administration of SBC forced through the demolition of the iconic Futurist theatre was so that their mates at Flamingo Land could get their grubby little mitts on the very valuable vacant site. Although the previous administration tried their best to hide their motive for tearing down the theatre, most residents recognised greed when they saw it. Indeed, all the claims that the former leader of the Council, and his cronies, made before, and later, to justify their barbaric, spiteful and hideously expensive bulldozing of the Futurist were easily proved to be false.
Their totally illogical claims that the Futurist was not a viable venue, when live theatre and music venues all over the country are packed out and thriving was obviously rubbish. Equally preposterous was their claim that the Futurist’s ongoing upkeep was crippling the Councils finances, when they knew that it was actually making a small profit, and costing ratepayers nothing.
Moreover, many people argued, how could spending £4.5 million of ratepayers money to demolish the Futurist, and then just about give the cleared site away to a developer, ever be considered a sensible use of scarce Council resources? Quite plainly the whole project, from demolition to arriving at the present vacant cleared site, has been, and remains, a total ‘car crash’, with the poor old ratepayers of the whole Borough, as usual, paying for something they did not want or ask for.
However, we are where we are and we cannot change what has happened to the Futurist, but I was rather hoping that although we have lost our magnificent and historic theatre we could, perhaps, look to the future with some degree of optimism; well maybe. We now have, since May, a new Council and leadership who, it should be remembered, won power, in the main, because of their promise to reappraise the deal with Flamingo Land, withdraw their preferred developer status, and endeavour to get us a new, and better, deal.
In this regard, the way forward from the elections in May looked favourable. We now have a cleared, and hopefully stabilised, site in a premier location on which we can, theoretically at least, build something that will be of benefit to the whole Borough and may even, possibly, restore some confidence in the Council and its leadership.
However, and this is the worry, although it has now been many months since the local elections none of the promises made by the new administration for the Futurist site, before the elections, seem, so far at least, to have been kept. Indeed, the suspicion is growing in many people’s minds that although we have successfully booted out of office one incompetent leadership, we may have replaced it with another.
It is common knowledge that the Labour leadership, initially at least, agreed with the Conservative leadership, and wanted the Futurist demolishing. It is on record that the current leader of the Council himself confirmed that Labour would support this Tory proposal. However, as we all know, once Labour realised how unpopular demolition would be, unlike the Tories, they very quickly changed their tune and decided to support the Independents, who were trying to save the Futurist. In this regard, they not only made a wise choice electorally; they also made a wise choice morally.
That being said, however, we have, so far at least, not seen any evidence that this wise decision is being followed up in regard to what happens next to the Futurist site. We know, for example, that the new leader of the Council has had talks with Flamingo Land, although we do not know how many times they have met, and we certainly have not been told what they discussed. This lack of openness is, in itself, as more and more people keep saying, very concerning.
We all know that, just like Benchmark with the Corner Café site, the real reason Flamingo Land want to get control of this premier site is so that they can build luxury flats on it. There may be some kind of leisure facility on the site and probably some retail outlets but you can bet your bottom dollar whatever is built will be what the developer wants – not what Scarborough and its residents want.
To find a more acceptable use for the site we were told that preferred developer status, whatever that is, would be removed from Flamingo Land and that, as soon as it was, the site would be re-offered to the market. Most people thought that this would be achieved in the first few weeks of the new administration taking over. However, many months have now passed and still Flamingo Land hold their preferred developer status.
Moreover, we were told that none of St Nicholas Gardens, the publicly owned land next to the Futurist site, would be included in any deal that was struck. Is this still the case? I am reliably informed that the current leadership of the Council has not ruled out giving a large portion of the Gardens to whoever wants it, including Flaming Land. Whether giving away part of the gardens, to possibly sweeten the deal, is correct or is, perhaps, only a malicious rumour is of course uncertain. However, we must weigh up the validity of this “rumour” against the actions, or perhaps more accurately described, inactions, of the new leadership of the Council.
There have been no statements definitely ruling out the possibility that they might give some, or all, of St Nicholas Gardens to Flamingo Land. We know for certain that they certainly wanted this land, and expected to get it, as it is featured in the artists impression they paraded before us just before the election. Moreover, it was claimed shortly after the elections that St Nicholas Gardens would be covered by some kind of covenant prohibiting its sale to anyone. This protection for the gardens, we were told, was a relatively quick and simple procedure, and would be implemented as soon as possible. Many months have passed and still no protection. So is the worry, held by many, that St Nicholas Gardens “will” be included in any deal just a rumour?
Well, of course, and this has to be admitted, it is difficult to judge whether or not any of the above is in the minds of those who now rule us. Or, indeed, whether it is just another one of those nasty little rumours that so often seem, unfortunately, to come true when viewing the actions of SBC. Ultimately, of course, it would be very helpful, if those who seek to rule us were completely open and transparent on issues such as the future of the Futurist site.
Then, perhaps, we would not have to rely on rumour to decide whether what the leadership of the Council is negotiating on our behalf is a good deal or yet another disaster. Sadly, as with the previous administration, openness and transparency seem to be very well hidden in our Town Hall indeed, they seem, at the moment at least, as hard to find as a black cat in a coal cellar.