070402 Civic Hall

Letter to Surrey Advertiser

Sir

Further to letters from both Cllr Rooth and Michel Harper (Surrey Ad 30th March) I am very angry at the combination of (1) the damaging effect of party politics on the Civic Hall and its budgets, and (2) the inappropriate way in which the Executive of the Council sought to agree a sale of the ‘hotel’ site without adequate exposure to market.

Firstly, as there has not yet been a detailed budget drawn up – this will have to await plans to be submitted following the current consultation process – it is difficult to say whether Michel Harper’s expert opinion that it will cost £25-30m (yes, I was also at the Live Music Forum to which Tony Rooth accurately refers) or the Council’s own figures of £20m are correct.

I have carried out an analysis of the relative costs of refurbishment and rebuild, which shows on an annualised basis that it is better to rebuild than to refurbish.  I am happy to make this available to anyone if they email me at civic@julianlyon.com.  The Lib Dems do themselves no favours in their postulation of costs and budgets – refurbishment is generally far more risky than rebuild and would require greater reserves to be available throughout the project to cover contingencies, whereas the capital flows for new build would be predictable and can be more easily managed over time.

Secondly, I have warned previously of the need to ensure that every decision relating to the Civic Hall development is above board and stands the test of close scrutiny.  I am very annoyed at the way the hotel site has been handled and my fears have been borne out with Michel Harper (who, let’s not forget is not a Guildford Borough resident) setting out his campaign which, on past experience, will be drawn out, bloody and expensive.

I urge the Executive, in the few weeks they have left before the election, to ensure that nothing they do or have done will open the door to a challenge of this kind.  This episode needs to be closed out in a way in which Guildford can be proud for years to come.  The squalid party battles and the war with Michel Harper do no credit to the politicians or the town.

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