Councillor Ron Whittaker asked a question on the future of the Imax (Waterfront) Building:-

COUNCIL MEETING - 6 DECEMBER 2011

General Question to the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Resources

"Could the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Resources please give any update in the position of the Waterfront Building, as it is now one year since planning permission was granted for a “substantial reduction to the height of the building" and "removal of the existing void of the hated area of the Imax Cinema"? It is also now some two years since the head lease was purchased.

Yes one fully understands the present financial climate facing the Council and available budgets but can the Deputy Leader tell the Council as to where this authority is with our own Bournemouth Development Company, and if any interest is being shown as yet by private developers and if any options are likely to be considered before the summer season starts with a promised reduction in the height?"

Councillor Ron Whittaker

Reply from the Deputy Leader of the Council, Councillor John Beesley:

'Planning consent was granted in February 2011 for an interim scheme to substantially reduce the height of the building and Council Officers sought Cabinet approval to enter into a construction agreement with Morgan Sindall, subject to the scheme being deliverable within the remaining budget.

In finalising the design detail and costs of the construction contract the Council invited expressions of interest from leisure operators in March. Unfortunately none of the bids received by June sufficiently met the aspirations for the site nor achieved an acceptable balance between leisure attractions and commercial uses, based on the results of the public consultation which took place in March 2010.

Although the site was planned to come later in the Partnership's development programme, the Bournemouth Development Company, a public-private partnership between the Council and Morgan Sindall Investments Ltd, is now considering the feasibility of developing the site sooner than it had originally intended.

We must all be aware of the significant constraints the current economic situation is putting on development throughout the country and much of the western world at present and Bournemouth is not immune from this. Funding for leisure based schemes in the private sector is virtually non-existent at present and the public will not thank us if we go ahead with the wrong scheme, even as a short term solution. We all know how much people dislike the current building and purchasing it was the first step for the Council in doing something about it. Residents and visitors want better views across the bay and expect good quality development which enhances the town centre and seafront. However, there is no quick and easy solution to the long-term development options, although I personally favour substantial demolition at the earliest opportunity. It was a major achievement to acquire the building at an affordable price for the town and an opportunity that would have passed us by in more normal market conditions.

It is very frustrating that we cannot just go ahead quickly with a comprehensive scheme but we must not compromise on the future of the Waterfront site. A great deal of work has already gone into investigating the options and how these fit with the findings of the public consultation last year, which generated more than 3,000 responses. This will help inform a future decision about what goes on this site.

In the meantime the Bournemouth Development Company will be working with architects, urban designers and leisure experts to consider whether they can bring forward a temporary or more permanent scheme and are expected to come back to the Council with proposals in the next few weeks.'