THE NEW HARLINGTON CENTRE DEVELOPMENT
In spite of growing objections and concerns and with local residents calling for a vote of no confidence in their council, Fleet Town Council have given the go ahead to the new Harlington "Multi-functional Theatre" in Gurkha Square after a report stating it would not affect the character and appearance of the area.
Common concerns from local people are:
It has been stated that objections to the planning application outweighed those in favour by 75 to 6. The costs have risen from £6 million to £11 million which will take 40 years to pay off. The estimated lifespan of the building is approximately 35 years.
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Proposals for a New "Multi-functional Theatre"
Fleet Town Council wants to build a new complex on part of Gurkha Square Car Park. The facility would include a flexible multi-functional theatre with a capacity of 350 seats, a separate multi-purpose dance/studio area, a foyer/cafe/bar with exhibition space, dressing rooms and office space for the council.
Many local residents have called the proposed new building as a glass and steel edifice and a unaffordable waste of taxpayers money. But some supported the project saying it would be a great asset for Fleet. The proposals will take up 21 car park spaces leaving 48.
The latest overall project cost is £11,024,200.
Hart District Council has until April 24 to make a decision on the plan.
It may appear that nothing has been happening since the announcement at the Annual Residents' meeting when
Option 3, the replacement of The Harlington on the northern part of
Gurkha Square, supported by the majority of respondents to the public consultation, was adopted as the preferred scheme
to be developed to the next stage of design.
Very recent, similar projects have been delivered at unit build prices well within the budget presented at the public exhibition. Further research shows that significant theatre projects have been delivered at total project costs within our budget. The issue the therefore appears to be the delivery model.
One issue that concerned the Town Council staff was the tendering process for the work (OJEU); it is highly bureaucratic and time consuming. Fortunately, a solution has been found. Rushmoor Borough Council has a procurement department well versed in the OJEU process and they will contract to undertake the process on behalf of the Town Council.
A conventional design, tender and construct method of delivery under the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Work Plan can be progressed. This will result in a competitive tendering process against a detailed design prepared by independent architects and engineers.
This work can be completed in discrete stages and it is proposed to proceed immediately to RIBA Stage 2 (Concept Design) which will develop the design sufficiently to submit an outline planning application. This work is projected to take three months. At the end of that period we will have a more detailed design and associated costing and have submitted the first planning application.
From this we will know if the scheme remains viable and that it meets all the requisite planning policies. All being well, we will progress to the next level of design and preparation of detailed contract documents. Failure to jump over both the hurdles will mean that it is back to the drawing board and back to the public for further consultation.
Conservative councillor Steve Forster is concerned that the cost of the three options described below has increased dramatically. According to FTC option 1 (to repair) was shown as costing around £1.5 million but is now £6.3 million a 400% increase. Option 2 (to rebuild) is now £9.9 million taking up to 45 years to repay.
|The Harlington Centre opened in 1972 as a civic complex offering a main hall, meeting rooms and offices. The main hall was originally marked out as badminton courts. A major fire in 1991 destroyed the roof to the main hall. Renovation work included the linking of the library building and the Harlington Centre to create a new reception area and coffee shop. The building was further modified in 1997 to cover the old bin storage area and create a small split level gymnasium.
There was no real focus to the purpose of the building and by 2010 the running costs of the Centre had escalated and the usage fallen dramatically.
In 2010 Hart District Council (HDC) transferred the building to Fleet Town Council (FTC), based on a short-term lease because of the potential for a redevelopment of the whole Civic Office area. Following 18 months of concerted efforts by HDC, HCC and FTC in designing a new civic complex, the initiative collapsed with the withdrawal of the developer. FTC took the initiative to employ a professional manager to re-brand, market and run the "Harlington" and bring the facility back to being the entertainment and community heart of Fleet.
The original building and the fit out were not of the highest quality and services are starting to fail. The roof leaks water and the building fabric leaks heat Users of the Harlington supported the programme of events and community functions, but voiced that the seating, lighting and sound to the theatre were poor, the toilets not up to standard and too small. If no serious investment is made in repairing or refurbishing the building, services will progressively fail and the building will consequently close.
The loss of the Harlington will have significant impacts on the community The loss of the only significant entertainment facility in Hart The loss of the only major meeting venue for the larger community groups. A loss of parking revenue to HDC An impact on the night economy through loss of trade from Harlington visitors Impact on the library that relies on the Harlington for its heating Another empty building affecting the character of Fleet.
HDC does not have the financial resources to take back the building and bring it up to modern building standards.
FTC has taken the initiative to explore the options to repair, refurbish or replace The Harlington.
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Extracted from "Town Talk"
At last things are really moving ahead on the Harlington development. Back in June we received a very positive Feasibility Study from theatre design specialists, Charcoal Blue, who confirmed that a functional and attractive purpose built theatre could be developed within the existing envelope of The Harington. As ever it is always good news with a "but." The "but" in this instance being the difficulty in fining all the supporting rooms and facilities around the theatre core. There will need to be some compromises.
A new build theatre/centre on Gorham Square could accommodate all these supporting facilities, but again raises its own issues regarding alternative uses of Gorham Square and the proximity of the new building to the Library. Again working with Charcoal Blue, a document was prepared inviting tenders from experienced architects to develop designs, produce drawings and cost estimates for three options suitable to go out to public consultation. The three options are defined as:
• Essential maintenance to the existing Harington, what needs to be replaced, repaired or refurbished to provide a sustainable building that functions in accordance with modern day building standards and has a medium to long term life span.
• A major refurbished Harington that contains a new purpose built theatre with a 250 tiered and retractable seating auditorium and a minimum 100 seat balcony. A new stage with state of the art lighting and sound systems. The acoustics to be designed to accommodate a variety of performance types. The theatre to be supported by a full suite of back stage and front of house facilities together with a dance studio and second performance space.
• A new Harington complex built on Gorham Square to accommodate all of the above facilities but configured to deliver the maximum visitor experience unrestrained by any internal constraints.
The Tender advertised on the National Contracts Finder Data Base attracted a total of 17 submissions, all of a surprisingly high quality. The Harington Working Group worked tirelessly over three days including a weekend to assess every tender against a standard assessment sheet. The rankings of the nine assessors were consolidated into a single ranking and the top four firms invited to an interview.
The interviews held over two days at the end of September were very interesting and highly informative. Two firms stood out as being of exceptionally high quality and fully appreciated the demands of the project. The final decision was a difficult one to make, but Burrell Foley Fischer (BFF) have been selected to take the Harington Project forward. BFF Impressed the Working Group not only with their knowledge and experience, but their clear understanding of the need to develop a sustainable business plan and how The Harington complex integrated into the local setting and added more value to the community than just being a theatre complex.
The programme that is in place will see the preliminary designs and castings together with the development of the presentation material complete by the end of January 2017. The public consultation will be held through February and early March. The final choice of scheme will be announced at the Annual Residents' Meeting on 2811March next year. Once that decision is made the implementation of Final Designs and the preparation of contract documents for construction work will commence.