Council deal offers fresh hope to tenants

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TENANTS of the Storey Creative Industries Centre (SCIC) say they are “cautiously optimistic” after Lancaster City Council agreed to take over the running of the building.

At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, councillors agreed to support the Storey, in Meeting House Lane, as a creative industries centre but under the council’s direct management and control.

Last month, the Lancaster Guardian reported that some tenants were quitting the building because of a hike in service charges, after the city council baled out the centre with a £90,000 loan.

Tenants, whose bills were effectively doubled, refused to pay up and two – mobile app developer Moshen, and Fat Media, the largest single tenant – are moving out.

Coun Eileen Blamire, leader of the council, said: “It is important that the council continues to support the vision for the SCIC and uses its experience in running and managing facilities to help build a strong and viable operation.”

She added that the SCIC board still had a role to play in “providing valuable development support and advice”.

“Through the new arrangements, the aim is to secure a brighter future for the Storey and its tenants, so it can continue to provide a centre of expertise and knowledge hub for the creative industries sector.”

Andy Diggle, comic book writer and Storey tenant, said: “All the building itself ever needed was to be run in a professional, responsible and accountable manner, and personally I’m pleased to see the city council step in to take over the day-to-day management.

“We’ll be putting together a report for the council to help avoid the pitfalls of the past, and hopefully we can all work together to move the Storey forward into a successful and self-sustaining future.”

He added that tenants were being cautiously optimistic, but hadn’t yet been approached by the council for discussions, regarding back-dated service charges or any other issues. In September 2008, the city council provided financial support of more than £133,000 to SCIC Limited over a three-year period.

The company had expected to make a profit by its fourth year of operation. However, in December last year it was found that this would not be the case.

The city council agreed a £90,000 loan to SCIC Limited, to be paid back over three years with interest, but since then the loan conditions have not been met.

Lancaster City Council said it would now start to implement the cabinet’s decision, which would involve looking at service charges, staffing, future funding and how to deal with the unpaid loan amount.