The Futurist Site – What Next?
Guest Author NORMAN MURPHY delivers his two penn’orth on the never-ending story and questions the prudence of the appointment of certain members of the Working Group comprising Cllrs SIDDONS, JEFFERSON, COCKERILL and BASTIMAN.
The announcement by the new Leader of the Council that finally, after nine months of dither and delay, he was going to form a Working Group to examine the future development of the Futurist site was accepted by most people, I am sure, as a case of ‘better late than never’. I am also confident that most residents felt that with so many new Councillors elected in May, and the change in governance in the Town Hall, the members appointed to serve on the Working Group would be unbiased and certainly not pro-demolition or supporters of the discredited Flamingo Land proposals for the site.
However, the recent leaking of the proposed move by the new Leader of the Council to appoint two Councillors to the working group who were at the forefront of the drive to demolish the Futurist and who were arguably the most supportive of the Flamingo Land scheme has confirmed that this is not to be the case.
Indeed, by even suggesting that members with these views should be a part of the Working Group, we might conclude that far from reaching an impartial and informed view of what we might like to see rising phoenix-like form the ashes of what was an iconic building with a significant and historical past, we will almost certainly get whatever Flamingo Land want.
The sequence of events, should such people be involved in the decision making process, is not difficult to discern. Flamingo Land will present to the members of the Working Group a vision of pure excellence, a development that will be all singing-and-dancing with bells and whistles attached. They will claim that they are making this generous offer to the people of Scarborough, not because they want to make loads of money, but because they like us and want to do us a favour.
The Director of Finance at the Council, working in our best interests – of course – will claim that as the site is almost worthless (and who can prove otherwise, as the site has never been marketed and probably never will be marketed), we should embrace Flamingo Land’s generous offer. The recommendation will be: Sell the site to Flamingo Land for peanuts and we will all be winners.
However, we all know what we can expect on the site should Flamingo Land get their sticky mitts on it. A second-rate attraction which can only operate for three months of the year will be the all singing-and- dancing part of the deal. The bells and whistles part of the deal will be luxury flats that they will build all over the site. Flamingo Land will treat us just like Benchmark has done; they will promise us the earth and deliver virtually nothing.
So what should be done with the Futurist site? Well, although I am sadly not in a position to make any contribution to the deliberations of the Working Group, if I was, the first thing I would advise them to do, and what should have been done right back in May 2019, would be to take ‘Preferred Developer’ status off Flamingo Land. There is, and never has been, any legally binding contract tying us to Flamingo Land, so let us be free from this ridiculous, self-imposed, straight jacket. We should then draw up a development brief clearly setting out what our preferred options are for the site.
For myself, I have always said that a theatre should be at the heart of any new development built on the site. The site naturally lends itself to the shape of an auditorium and a bigger multi-purpose theatre with facilities for hosting big concerts, West End shows, conferences and a cinema would be an ideal use for the site; that’s why our ancestors built the original theatre and used it successfully (until that is SBC got hold of it) for nearly 100 years.
However, I would not suggest for one second that a theatre development on the site should be a stand-alone development. Added to the theatre could be bars, restaurants, leisure facilities and public toilets. These could be leased out (not the toilets) and make a substantial contribution to the ongoing running costs of the theatre.
Above the theatre, right up to and beyond King Street, there is ample room to build luxury apartments. How many apartments it might be possible to build would, of course, require detailed study, but however many could be built, with their stunning views and fantastic location, they would be very saleable and very valuable and whatever we got for them would go a long way towards financing the development as a whole.
These are my thoughts, anyway, and I am sure those of you who care about our town and in particular the Futurist site might add many more sensible uses to my list. To my mind, although the circumstances which have led us to this point are tragic and the Futurist should never have been demolished in the first place, we are where we are. Therefore, I feel we have now been presented with a golden opportunity to build something on the site that is as iconic and durable as the old Futurist theatre was.
So let’s not let some numpties in the Ivory Tower squander this once in a life time opportunity.