Otley Civic Centre ‘is dead and the council will never return to it’

Councillor John Eveleigh

Councillor John Eveleigh

First published in News Ilkley Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

“The Civic Centre is dead in the water.” That was the dramatic claim this week about Otley Town Council’s planned move to a bigger base in the town centre.

Labour says the move to Orchard Gate, along with a shake-up that will see the council's offices turned into a fully accessible information centre, will allow the body to play a much more active role.

But Liberal Democrat councillors have slammed the idea as a “vanity project” that will cost taxpayers. Council leader Councillor John Eveleigh (Lab, Ashfield) told the policy and resources committee the changes would usher in an “exciting new era” where Otley could end up taking on services, including running the town’s markets.

Councillor Jim Spencer (Lib Dem, West Chevin), accused Labour of trying to create a “smokescreen”.

He said: “This move is a declaration that the Civic Centre is dead in the water and that the council will never return to it.

“Along with the toilets (the council recently approved a £78,000 revamp of Orchard Gate toilets) this amount of money every year means there’s no possibility of any going to the Civic Centre – it’s dead.”

Coun Spencer acknowledged the merits of having powers devolved from Leeds and of having an information centre – and so abstained in the vote.

Town and ward Councillor Sandy Lay (Lib Dem, Danefield) attacked the “clearly politicised, very inflammatory” lang-uage of the document outlining the changes and predicted high costs. He said: “It’s clear this information centre, in principle, is a good idea but it will cost this council at least £50,000 per annum. This is the biggest vanity project in 40 years.”

Councillor Kevin Cooney (Lab, West Chevin) and others pointed out that the council’s current premises at Bay Horse Court, which are not wheelchair-accessible, were simply “not fit for purpose”.

Councillor Nigel Francis (Ind, Danefield) said: “If we keep the current offices we’ll have to limit it to one or two people coming in at a time. And let’s not bother with people with disabilities, because they can’t get in!

“We should be setting an example and being a town council that leads from the front. If the precept for next year comes back and a ten per cent increase is proposed I’ll oppose that, but we’ve got to look ahead.”

Coun Eveleigh dismissed any idea that the reorganisation signalled an end to efforts to get the Civic Centre refurbished.

Comments (2)

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9:12am Thu 29 Nov 12

Frances Lincoln says...

The Civic Centre is an important buidling within the Otley Conservation Area. The Town Council and all the Councillors need to be working towards its retention and future use.

This should be identified as an important building in the neighbourhood plan. It could be possible to use Section 106 money from future housing development to fund the necessary re-development.

Thats if the Town Council and Local Members have the foresight to do this....that is debatable!!!
The Civic Centre is an important buidling within the Otley Conservation Area. The Town Council and all the Councillors need to be working towards its retention and future use. This should be identified as an important building in the neighbourhood plan. It could be possible to use Section 106 money from future housing development to fund the necessary re-development. Thats if the Town Council and Local Members have the foresight to do this....that is debatable!!! Frances Lincoln
  • Score: 0

8:50am Sun 2 Dec 12

mrshlp says...

The loss of the civic centre is really crippling community groups. Try and find an affordable room to hire on an evening for young people and you might as well not bother because everywhere is fully booked.

We need to get the civic centre back into use so that there is affordable room hire available for community groups again. I'm trying to start a new guiding group for 14-26 year olds and whilst I have the support of my church, they are struggling to come up with a suitable room for us to use because everything is taken up by community groups. This is for a group which will be sponsored by the church.

Now whislt I agree the council should have accessible offices I have to question whether this is a good use of public funds at a time when money is incredibly tight. What's happening with the old city council offices now? could they not of come up with an agreement with leeds to hire that at a more affordable rate? Surely that would make more sense than taking up a retail unit in the heart of the town centre.
The loss of the civic centre is really crippling community groups. Try and find an affordable room to hire on an evening for young people and you might as well not bother because everywhere is fully booked. We need to get the civic centre back into use so that there is affordable room hire available for community groups again. I'm trying to start a new guiding group for 14-26 year olds and whilst I have the support of my church, they are struggling to come up with a suitable room for us to use because everything is taken up by community groups. This is for a group which will be sponsored by the church. Now whislt I agree the council should have accessible offices I have to question whether this is a good use of public funds at a time when money is incredibly tight. What's happening with the old city council offices now? could they not of come up with an agreement with leeds to hire that at a more affordable rate? Surely that would make more sense than taking up a retail unit in the heart of the town centre. mrshlp
  • Score: 0

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