Save Our Fairfield is an apolitical campaign group. Andy Hylton writes,
The £30million planning application for Fairfield Halls and College Green has been approved with a vote of 6/4. The good news being they will now get on with it, but the bad news is there are still concerns with the plans.
The application received 381 objections from residents, but the committee allowed only five minutes to those who wished to make a statement of objection. Former technical manager of the Fairfield Halls, Rob Callender spoke on behalf of ‘Save Our Fairfield’ campaign, highlighting our concerns with the current plans. The time limit was strictly enforced, and sadly Kate Vennell, of the Fairfield Arts Board, was not allowed to complete her statement.
Considering the scale of the investment and the experience of the speakers, this shows the arrogance we have faced from Croydon Council throughout the entire process and undermines the credibility of the project.
We have always supported the investment, but we do not support the method the council have chosen for going about this, the treatment of the former Fairfield staff or the implementation of the plans as they stand. If the venue were to fail following an expensive refurbishment that would be a very poor result for Croydon and we object to all aspects which may affect the future operational viability of the venue.
There are inaccurate statements in the Design & Access document and an inconsistency between public statements and the actual approved plans. For example, the truck-lift is still in the plans, although Councillor Godfrey has previously stated this was removed after advice from the Theatres Trust Advisory Review, allegedly saving £4million for the project. It is also unclear whether Ashcroft stage extension and fly tower improvements are being taken forward or have been removed from the designs as previous press releases and councillor statements have stated. There needs to be more clarity in respect of what is being planned.
Our main objections were:
- Encroachment of the new Croydon College on the rear of Fairfield Halls, affecting daylight into the Ashcroft Theatre dressing rooms and impacting on privacy in these rooms.
- Access to yard and ‘Get-In’ plans will make operations LESS flexible and more awkward to manage. This will make the venue less attractive to large productions and affect viability.
- Lack of parking, will reduce the viability of the venue. The parking assessment suggests a move away from family orientated audiences and from attracting audiences who are unable to use public transport.
Kate Vennell, former Chair of Fairfield Trust, agrees. “These risk the commercial viability of the Fairfield Halls. They need maximum ticket sales from high audiences and great shows. Everything absolutely optimised for the large, complex Fairfield to run without any public subsidy. “
It is vital that Croydon Council introduce an operator into the design process at the earliest opportunity. When plans are being developed in the absence of an operator, mistakes mean rework, increasing the cost to the operator.
Art venues play a significant role in the community can have a major impact on people’s lives. It is now time that the Council engaged with the community and listened to their concerns. There needs to be a strong cultural offer throughout the works. This promise is still to be delivered.
We care about the Fairfield and want the project to succeed. Let us help you to connect with those who have the inside knowledge of the Fairfield so that the project delivers a thriving cultural centre.
Find the campaign at www.saveourfairfield.org
On Twitter: @SaveOurFairfld
On Facebook: Save Out Fairfield Halls