Done deal: Fairfield Halls £30m redevelopment starts in July

The Fairfield Halls will close this summer to undergo a £30 million redevelopment, after the venue’s managment board finally agreed to the investment scheme proposed by the Halls’ owners, Croydon Council.

The Fairfield Halls, with College Green top left of picture, is about to be changed forever

The Fairfield Halls, with College Green top left of picture, is about to be changed forever

The council’s plans – based on a secret consultants’ report which has not been seen by the public, despite a promise from council leader Tony Newman to release it – will see the half-century-old concert hall, Ashcroft Theatre and Arnhem Gallery closed for two years.

There was opposition to the closure proposals from Kate Vennell, the chair of the Fairfield Halls board, from its £90,000 per year chief executive, Simon Thomsett, and from Croydon’s Tory opposition, who identified a cause with which to try to score some political capital.

They wanted the council to spend millions more of public money on a phased redevelopment which kept the venue open for performances. They also expressed fears that the two-year closure might, in some way, become permanent. More than 7,000 people signed a petition, which effectively wanted Council Tax-payers to cough up at least an extra £4.8 million towards a phased redevelopment.

But following an announcement this afternoon, Fairfield Halls will go “dark” in six months’ time. Plans are already being made to stage a Last Night of the Proms concert in the main hall on the eve of the closure.

The announcement of the closure had to be delayed while officials spent time downloading the hundreds of documents outlining planning applications on to the council’s computer system. A public  notice appeared in this Wednesday’s Croydon Guardian, though even that was at least 10 days later than senior council figures had hoped the paperwork would be ready.

The formal planning notice for the Fairfield Halls and College Green redevelopment, as it appeared in this week's Croydon Guardian

The formal planning notice for the Fairfield Halls and College Green redevelopment, as it appeared in this week’s Croydon Guardian

In a statement issued by the council’s press office this afternoon,  they said, “Fairfield (Croydon) Ltd and the council have agreed to work together on a managed programme that would see the venue close on 15 July 2016 in preparation for a £30m transformation.

“The two-year closure will allow for a comprehensive redevelopment of the ageing building into a spectacular arts and cultural centre, and part of a new vibrant cultural and educational quarter at College Green.

“Councillor Tony Newman, leader of the council, said: ‘We’re delighted to have reached a position that is in the best interest of both parties. We’ve been working alongside the board to help secure funding to support the process for a managed closure. We’re both in full agreement that everyone working at Fairfield is treated fairly and properly.

Kate Vennnell: Fairfield board chair who has bowed to inevitable

Kate Vennell: Fairfield board chair who has bowed to inevitable

“’Closing the venue is the best possible option; it will enable us to take this once-in-a-generation opportunity to totally transform Fairfield Halls into one of the most prestigious arts and entertainment venues in the country.

“’Fairfield served the 20th century proudly and we will ensure that it will do the same in the 21st century, and for generations to come’.”

Significantly, with a July 15 closure date, it seems unlikely that the Fairfield Halls will be open for business again before the next time Newman and his 39 Labour councillors have to seek re-election, in May 2018.

Today, though, the council was able to quote Vennell, admitting her preferences for a phased redevelopment, but now bowing to the inevitable. The closure will mean around 100 staff redundancies, for which the council is providing a £500,000 fund. Among those leaving the staff would appear to be Thomsett.

“The charity has always welcomed the significant investment in the Fairfield from the council,” Vennell said. “The council has been clear that it wants a rapid project and although we preferred phasing to allow continuing programme and community access, we appreciate its support for a managed closure.

“The council has reassured us it will start work immediately, deliver a high-quality project and engage the Fairfield charity in the future operations.

College Green and Fairfield Halls... with lots of added two-bedroom flats

College Green and Fairfield Halls, as seen by the council’s designers,  with lots of added two-bedroom flats, the sale of which will contribute to the redevelopment costs

“I want to take this opportunity to recognise the achievements of Simon Thomsett, CEO of Fairfield, and our talented team, which was reflected in record attendances through Christmas 2015. We can feel proud that we’re going out on a high.

“Over the next two years we will expand our work supporting young people to take part in cultural activities and providing compelling productions for them such as the Terriers drama. We will be announcing more on this future Fairfield programme over the next few months.”

Presumably, that means that Vennell’s Fairfield team will start work on providing refunds to all those Daniel O’Donnell fans who bought tickets for performances which were scheduled for long after the council’s proposed closure date.


 

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in 2018 council elections, Art, Ashcroft Theatre, Charity, Croydon Council, Fairfield Halls, Planning, Theatre, Timothy Godfrey, Tony Newman and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Done deal: Fairfield Halls £30m redevelopment starts in July

  1. Well done to the Council for getting this going. The place is desperate for a major upgrade.
    With all of the other regeneration projects around this is another step which will serve to improve the area of Croydon.
    Great news.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice to see the picture of Conservative John Aston in one of the attached stories. The original Fairfield Halls was only carried through after a coalition of Labour, Ratepayer and Conservative councillors overcame opposition from other Conservative councillors to the original proposal. Plus ça change.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. farmersboy says:

    Vennell, which bits of this council-sanctioned land grab, sorry, “creating a fantastic opportunity for Croydon”, are making you positive about this?

    The reason audience numbers were up was because you got better acts. You had one job…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I do have to say my only disappointment was that they have not planned to incorporate more seats into the largest theatre. More seats equals bigger acts.
    In light of the fact that the arena next to East Croydon station never got off the rails (no pun intended) I think it would not have been hard to have made provisions for a higher capacity Fairfield Halls. This is a once in a lifetime chance to do this, yet sadly no one had the vision to work out why the big acts only come to Croydon when they are NOT big acts anymore!!

    Like

    • farmersboy says:

      I have to agree, thirty million pounds, £30,000,000. Enough to build CPFC a new ground with 10,000 more seats, enough to build God knows how many affordable homes, enough to build two floors and a cycle rack at Bernie Wetherspoon House. Oh.

      Like

  5. sed30 says:

    Reblogged this on sed30's Blog and commented:
    The inevitable!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. veeanne2015 says:

    £30m for Fairfield Halls whose programmes will give people a lot of enjoyment.
    £145m for the Council ‘Hub’ – an expensive CCURV disaster for all with more and more problems, but no transparency as to why it was so overpriced.

    Isn’t it hypocritical of Croydon Conservatives to make a fuss about the 100 people at Fairfield Halls being put out of work by redevelopment in one go – but make no complaint about the thousands being put out of work by the Whitgift Centre being shut down completely instead of in stages, as originally stated?

    However, if the Fairfield multi-storey car park is demolished, where will all the people park for popular shows at both the Concert Hall and Ashcroft Theatre, particularly at Christmas time with the pantomime and other major productions?

    I read in the Croydon Guardian (February 10) that the proposal for the Lion Green Road car park redevelopment was “scrapped after officers from the Croydon Council Urban Regeneration Vehicle (CCURV) decided it was ‘no longer a viable option’.”!

    Did that mean that there wasn’t enough profit for Laings – or that Waitrose was less gullible than the former council about the costs?

    Like

  7. Mariko Brown says:

    Since the article above, did anyone here attend the public meeting last Wednesday April 6th / or listen to the whole meeting online to listen to the people who work in the hall, the flaws ( including some mistakes ) in the plan and the people it will affect. Refurbishment is truly welcomed and there are exciting propositions but there are many serious questions about how this is done ….

    Like

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