Councillor Snell, Chair of the Thameside Complex Review Panel, introduced the report which detailed the findings of the Thameside Complex Review Panel and the recommendations they wished Cabinet to endorse, following its consideration at Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee in September 2015.
In introducing the report, Councillor Snell highlighted the following key points:
· That the library was the most well-used facility in the Thameside Complex, accounting for 58% of visits mentioned in the survey, alongside 15% respondents for the Café, 13% for the museum and 10% for other services which included the registry office, baby activity groups and visiting voluntary organisations.
· That the panel had visited the Thameside Complex and noted that museum displays were dated and needed refreshing, and opinion was divided about the building.
· Many respondents valued the services provided within the Thameside Complex and were concerned that it would be demolished and replaced with housing, which was a fear that the panel had found to be unfounded.
· That the majority of respondents agreed that the Thameside Complex was in the right location, as it was easily accessible.
· That the registry office was not competitive with other more picturesque locations elsewhere, and that it had been suggested Coalhouse Fort would be a good wedding venue, which was frequently requested by residents.
· That Charcoal Blue had highlighted a number of issues with the current theatre provision, which include cramped seating, inadequate stage winds, limitations for stage backdrops, minimal prop storage and changing rooms on a different floor.
Councillor J. Kent questioned whether residents liked the location of the current Thameside Complex on the corner of Orsett Road or whether they simply wanted the facilities in Grays.
In response Councillor Snell felt that overall people wanted the provision offered to remain in Grays, which was not necessarily at the exact current site.
Councillor Speight felt that it was important provision remained in Grays due to its good transport links and that it was important to have a cultural vision to complement the backstage skills which were being developed in Purfleet.
Members commended the work of Councillor Snell and the Thameside Complex Review Panel, and recognised that this was a large piece of work that was of much local interest to residents.
A brief discussion took place on whether The State Cinema could viably be developed into a theatre, to which Councillor Snell explained that this had been ruled out as a viable option due to limitations with the building itself.
Councillor Pothecary highlighted that there was a sense of mistrust about the Thameside Complex and that the process needed to be managed carefully going forward.
Members were in agreement that this was an important project that was vital the Council did not get wrong, and as a result a clear vision and cross-party support was essential in order to show unity.
Councillor J. Kent observed that the report had made clear the Thameside Complex building itself was not fit for purpose and that left the Council with limited options. Whilst further options were identified he felt that it was important the theatre continued to do what they could to increase revenue.
Councillor J. Kent further reported that the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee had expressed the need for clarity regarding funding and costs of possible alternatives going forward, and as a result instructed officers to undertake a more detailed evaluation on the Thameside Complex which could be referred back to Members at a later date.
Councillor Snell felt that this was a good opportunity to create something Thurrock could be proud of.
1. Cabinet accept the conclusions set out on page 22 of the report (attached as Appendix 1) as a set of guiding principles when exploring future cultural provision at the Thameside Complex.
2. A site that represents the Arts should remain in Grays.
3. The Council should endeavour to improve and modernise the library, museum and registry service whether this be in the Complex or in another location.
4. Any theatre needs to cater for the community but also a variety of professional acts and productions. It should represent the aspirations of a competitive regional theatre.
Reason for Decision - as stated in the report
This decision is subject to call-in