EXCLUSIVE: Multi-million pound community complex project in Thornbury to replace the Armstrong Hall falls through

First published in News Exclusive by

AN AMBITIOUS multi-million pound project to build a state-of-the-art community hub in Thornbury has fallen through, just a few months after finally getting off the ground.

Arts and Community in Thornbury (ACT) has revealed that it has decided to shelve its plans for a £6million theatre complex due to lack of funds.

The volunteer group had launched a campaign in 2011 to tear down the Armstrong Hall and instead replace it with a modern community complex, complete with a 500-seat auditorium, museum and rehearsal studios. After months of discussions and negotiations, they struck a partnership with the hall’s trustees last February to carry the scheme forward.

Having set the wheels in motion, ACT members began to look at potential designs for the new venue along with the Armstrong Hall management committee.

But a recent study showing the project would not be viable and in fact run at a deficit of around £250,000 each year crushed ACT members’ hopes.

Group chairman Chris Roberts said: "The conclusion we have reached is that the project at this time is not viable. We have analysed a typical programme of events for a ‘month in the life’ of the venue, the likely audiences, ticket and hire costs, staffing arrangements and costs and the overall cost of the venue upkeep and the like.

"The outcome shows that the venue would not be able to generate sufficient income to cover its costs."

The project's advocates also relied on additional grants being made available to local enterprises after the Olympics. But it become increasingly clear after the London games that funding would not be forthcoming.

"It is now clear from the market research undertaken by our professional advisers that the likelihood of securing subsidy funding to cover the shortfall would be virtually nil, Mr Roberts added.

"We are proud to say ‘we tried’ but accept we must bow to the impact of the economic downturn."

Armstrong Hall Trustee and Town Cllr Clive Parkinson said the news was disappointing for Thornbury.

"It’s disappointing in so far as if ACT had been able to raise all the necessary funds then it would have been a positive thing for the town.

"The trust will now need to look at the medium to long-term future of the complex which had been put on the backburner while ACT saw whether or not they could achieve their dream."

In the meantime, ACT is encouraging locals to back The Armstrong Hall Backstage Appeal to create new and spacious changing rooms at the existing venue.

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