Rising costs may prevent Derby venue reopening

Published: 25 January 2020
Reporter: Steve Orme

Major Derby venue the Assembly Rooms which was closed in 2014 because of a fire may not reopen because of rising costs.

Councillors on the Conservative-run authority agreed a maximum budget of £24 million to refurbish the building. But it has been revealed that the cost is likely to be more than £30 million.

It means the venue may be demolished and replaced with a new performance space, possibly in a different part of the city. This was an idea put forward in 2017 by Labour who were then in control of the council.

The 1,200-seat venue suffered extensive damage because of a fire in the plant room, which powered the electricity and lighting supply, on top of its car park.

In September 2019, the council revealed that the Assembly Rooms would not be ready to reopen until November 2021—12 months later than planned.

Now the council is to look at its options and decide whether the refurbishment offers Derby taxpayers the best possible value for money.

Council leader Chris Poulter said he expected that people would be disappointed by the news. He said, “it appears we can no longer deliver what would have been a very long-awaited and much-needed boost to the vitality of the city centre.

“We’re not prepared to commit to contracts that could significantly exceed the budget that was agreed and we hope that Derby citizens will be able to understand and accept our rationale in arriving at that decision.”

Another council venue, the 242-seat Guildhall Theatre, in the Market Place opposite the Assembly Rooms, closed in January 2019 after a ceiling decoration fell into the auditorium during an inspection. There is no date for it to reopen.

Some amateur theatre groups say they have been struggling to find an alternative venue and they are on the brink of folding.