THE NEW HARLINGTON CENTRE DEVELOPMENT
|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.