Mothballing Morecambe entertainment venue ‘not an option', councillors pledge
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The statement came during discussions over the ownership of The Platform at the latest full council meeting.
Lancaster City Council recently closed the visitor information centre at The Platform after budget changes, and said it wants a new business model for events starting in spring 2024, to reduce council subsidies.
Last week, we reported how resident Sue Saunders spoke at the meeting about how 8,000 signatures have been collected to save The Platform.
She said nearly all the shows there have sold out recently and audiences include people from a wide area who attend regularly and also use local hotels, B&Bs, cafes, restaurant and shops.
Coun Roger Cleet raised various questions about the Platform’s ownership, budget and lease arrangements at the city council meeting.
And he claimed plans were previously in place to leave the centre empty.
He said: “Last year, budget savings of £2.3m had to be made to balance the books. At the budget meeting on February 22 2023, councillors believed at the time that it was only the tourist information centre which would be mothballed, which would make a saving of £150,000.
"But actually it was the whole venue that was proposed to be mothballed.
“It now comes to light that the part of the [Platform] building where the tourist information centre was located isn’t owned by Lancaster City Council.
"Could you tell me what proportion of the £150,000 [savings] is attributed towards the rent of the area where the tourist information centre was located? The annual rent was £26,800.”
Coun Tim Hamilton-Cox, who has a cabinet finance role, said he was not sure where Coun Cleet’s quoted figure of £150,000 came from, and different sums were contained in some confidential reports.
He added: “It was was not the intention to ‘mothball’ The Platform. The intention was to find an alternative provider by the end of September this year. However, funding was then secured until April 2024 to allow more time to find an alternative operator.”
Coun Hamilton-Cox said the annual rent of £26,800 plus inflation was stripped out of the budget because the council assumed it would either surrender the lease or transfer it to a third party under a new operating model.
He confirmed that Polystar Ltd was the owner of the part of the venue which had hosted the visitor centre, with a 25-year lease negotiated in 1997, which has now expired.
Coun Hamilton-Cox also confirmed there are no third parties who have a legal stake in The Platform.
Coun Catherine Potter, cabinet member for visitor economy and culture, confirmed mothballing the venue was not an option as far as the council was concerned.
“Mothballing is not an option the council wants to see,” she said. “All efforts are being made to get other options.
"Officers are looking at all options including speaking to third parties to run the business. We have three expressions of interest. We are also speaking to the people working there.”