Millions needed to fix council venues
PUBLISHED: 09:25 20 August 2014
MILLIONS of pounds are needed to repair some of Weston's best-loved venues, but the cash-strapped council will not carry out even the most 'urgent' works designed to prevent safety risks, until they become 'critical'.
More than £1million worth of maintenance is needed to Weston’s iconic Winter Gardens while the Playhouse Theatre plus Hutton Moor and Churchill leisure centres also require repair work.
But while the safety of the sites is not an issue at the moment, the hard-up council will not commit the money its own officers say is needed.
The Winter Gardens, according to the council’s own review, requires a new roof, at the cost of £400,000.
While patching up work has been carried out recently, the report says the roof has ‘major defects’ and requires ‘urgent work to prevent an immediate closure of the premises and/or an immediate high risk to health and safety’.
But while the roof has not deteriorated enough to jeopardise the Winter Gardens’ immediate future, no promise of imminent finance from the council has been forthcoming.
Councillor Tony Lake, executive member for finance, said: “There’s a difference between critical and urgent. If we got to a critical situation with health and safety then we would have to deal with it.
“I certainly don’t anticipate a situation where buildings will need to be closed.”
More than £1.2million worth of work, considered an ‘urgent’ priority at leisure and cultural venues across North Somerset, is yet to be budgeted for and therefore will not be carried out before March 2015 at the earliest.
Even then, a council spokesman said: “There is a potential for £500,000 to be made available for 2015-16… however this will be dependent upon competing priorities that the council will undoubtedly face.”
The council is already carrying out £1.5million worth of improvements to leisure centres in Portishead and Clevedon, including a new gym studio, in the hope it will increase revenue.
Cllr Lake said an increase in revenue will mean the council provides a smaller subsidy to keep the centres operational and the money saved could be put towards the maintenance programme.
Small, non-urgent, repairs need to be carried out at the Playhouse Theatre and Churchill Leisure Centre totalling £30,000 but more than £500,000 is needed to fix every issue at Hutton Moor Leisure Centre.
A new roof is needed – although it is not as urgent as the Winter Gardens – as is an improved alarm system.
Hutton Moor, the Playhouse and the Winter Gardens are managed by Parkwood Leisure, however it is the council’s responsibility to maintain the buildings because it owns them.
Mark Thompson, Playhouse general manager, said the council had been ‘very helpful’ in maintaining the theatre and Winter Gardens, in turn allowing Parkwood to plan a host of new entertainment events.
He said: “The buildings aren’t unsafe. Parkwood wouldn’t allow that. The safety of our patrons is paramount.
“We wouldn’t operate a building, and look to increase the entertainment offered, if it was not safe.”