The Council's Executive will consider a proposal to transform Ferneham Hall into a new community and entertainment venue on Monday 9 July.
If approved, the multi million pound investment would feature two auditoria, one of which would include a screen and projector, community rooms, and a dance studio, so the venue could also operate as a busy community centre. The new design would be fully accessible and include new features such as the provision of a lift.
The new main auditorium would have approximately 400 seats, which is more in keeping with modern entertainment facilities. Currently Ferneham Hall has 708 seats, around half of which are empty for most performances.
Although the final cost of the project has not yet been determined, it is anticipated that funding would be met primarily through Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) contributions. The Levy is a planning charge on new development and can be spent by the Council to make improvements to the Borough through new infrastructure or facilities. The biggest project to date to benefit from CIL was Holly Hill Leisure Centre in the Western Wards.
Management of the new venue would be provided by partnering with a Leisure Trust (not for profit) Operator. As well as having the appropriate skills and experience, an Operator has more flexibility and freedom to seek external funding to complement the project, and would not be liable for Business Rates. As a partner, it would be expected to provide support during construction of the new venue and then management of the new Ferneham Hall facility once it is completed. It would also help the Council in its aim of reducing costs, which is an important factor of the proposal.
Although operating costs have been reduced considerably from the £750,000 per annum it has commanded in previous years, Ferneham Hall still operates at an annual deficit of around £400,000. The new partner would be expected to manage the remodelled venue as a commercial operation led by a business plan that eventually negates the need for any subsidies from the Council.
The Council would choose its preferred partner by undertaking a procurement exercise later this year. To that end, officers have drafted a vision for Ferenham Hall to provide a clear framework for the procurement process, and clarity to Leisure Trust operators, Architects and Consultants as to the Council's ambitions for Ferneham Hall. A new feasibility study and business plan will be undertaken to ensure any decisions taken are underpinned by current, relevant data.
If the plans are approved, it is likely that Ferneham Hall will close towards the end of 2019 for a period of up to two years whilst the works are carried out. It remains business as usual for the time being but, once we know who our Leisure Trust Operator is going to be, and when the work is going to start, we will look at any appropriate transitional arrangements needed.
Executive Member for Leisure, Cllr Miss Sue Bell, said: 'Our vision is to provide a busy community and entertainment venue which includes daytime and evening activity, seven days a week. Our new look facilities would enable us to offer a great choice of entertainment to residents and provide new, local community facilities for those living in and around the town centre.'
Executive Leader, Cllr Woodward, added: 'If this proposal is approved, I think it will be an exciting prospect for the Borough. I cannot think of a better use for CIL money than investing in something that can be enjoyed by all our residents and a remodelled Ferneham Hall fits that bill perfectly.'
Further information about the proposal can be found on the Council's website at http://moderngov.fareham.gov.uk/documents/s20873/Ferneham%20Hall.pdf.
For further information contact:
The Communications Team, Tel: 01329 824310
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