Delays in demolishing Blackpool’s former Syndicate nightclub are running up tens of thousands of pounds in additional costs for the council, it emerged today.
Legal concerns surrounding a telecoms mast and a wall close to adjacent businesses have held up work to bulldoze the former ABC cinema building on Church Street – bought by the council more than a year ago – and transform it into a car park. Until the work is completed, the council cannot begin to generate revenue from the site which it bought last April for £635,000.
Council bosses today responded, saying they had saved £200,000 in demolition costs on the scheme.
But an opposition councillor said the delay was another example of the authority “losing money like a leaky tap” – adding the overspend may rise and the town could be left with an “empty eyesore.”
The club was bought with a view to creating a 59-space car park, although the long term ambition is to attract a new hotel to link in with conferencing facilities at the Winter Gardens.
The full cost including demolition was originally expected to cost around £1.3m, but that total has dropped to £1.1m after savings of £200,000 were made on the demolition contract.
Council chiefs borrowed the money over 50 years at a repayment rate of £93,000 a year.
They had anticipated the car park would be up and running by now and generating revenue to help pay off the loan.
But delays to the relocation of the mast mean demolition has stalled - but the first annual repayment of the loan is due.
A financial report to the executive committee reveals there is an overspend of £95,000 on the council’s investment portfolio.
It adds: “The majority of the overspend relates to a delay in the demolition of the former Syndicate nightclub due to legal issues.
“Costs have continued to be incurred and forecast parking income has not been realised.”
Yet councillors were warned in December 2012, when the decision was made to buy the Syndicate, the mast would need relocating.
A report at that time said there was a lease in place to Hutchinson 3G UK Ltd for use to site the equipment until December 31 2021.
It said there may be “difficulties in requiring the tenant to move the equipment as the tenant could claim statutory protection under telecommunications legislation which could result in court proceedings after the 24 months’ notice to terminate has expired.”
Coun Tony Williams, (pictured above) leader of the opposition Conservative group on Blackpool Council, said: “As usual this council hasn’t thought this whole project through.
“There is a telecoms mast on top of the Syndicate which will have to be replaced in another location before the existing one is decommissioned.
The previous owner of the building was receiving rent for this mast and that rental contract and payment agreement will have to be transferred and re-negotiated.
“The west side of the building also incorporates a ‘party wall’ with the adjacent row of small shops and all the legal and building regulations need to be exact and agreed before the exterior demolition starts.
“I would imagine the £95,000 overspend in legal costs will actually increase before all the details are finally approved.”
He added: “I find it incredulous this council continue their false mantra of saving money through job changes and self back patting when they continue to waste and lose money like a leaky tap.”
Coun Williams acknowledged the council had made some savings on the demolition contract which has seen the dismantling of internal fittings, some of which have been sold off in a move which has saved money.
But he added: “However we may be left with an empty shell and eyesore as the legal wranglings continue and until a new communications mast is erected somewhere else in the town centre.
“Then all the council has to do is fill this car park and try to get their money back.”
He said the council should have considered converting the Syndicate building rather then demolition.
Coun Graham Cain, said: “We have already made a saving of around £200,000 on the contract to demolish the old Syndicate building.
“That’s a significant saving to the taxpayer and reduces the overall cost of the scheme considerably.
“We are already working on stripping the inside of the building and, following the relocating of a telecommunications mast, will start to bring the building down.”
“Following that, the site will temporarily become a car park while we continue to look for a more permanent future use.”
The building dates back to the 1890s when it opened as the Empire before the new owner renamed it the Hippodrome. It was rebuilt in 1963 and opened as the ABC before various name changes prior to shutting in 2000. It was re-opened in 2002 as The Syndicate nightclub before closing for seemingly the final time in 2010.