Q: So is The Beacon ‘Dead’?
A: An idea cannot be killed… who would want to? We are exploring a number of possible ways forward.
Q: How long will it take?
A: We don’t know. But any project like this can be protracted because of the challenges it faces; your support will help.
Q: “Will Hoylake Community Cinema continue?”
A: Yes. Hoylake Community Cinema is not directly connected to The Beacon Project and will continue nevertheless, with its range of specialist films, perhaps hosted once a month in the Beacon.
Q: Will The Beacon be commercially operated?
A: Yes, the development would be entirely commercially operated. But is is anticipated that a volunteer community steering group would contribute expertise to maintaining the quality and programming of the Beacon on an ongoing basis, ensuring that highest standards are maintained in all aspects of the offer and that the whole community can benefit from it.
Q: What is the Beacon Steering Group?
A: The significant achievement of this volunteer Steering Group has been to bring the owner of the existing old lifeboat building together with cinema, bistro, and high quality restaurant operators, who would be long term ‘tenant operators’; something that would not have happened otherwise. We are simply facilitators of the project, and testing the public appetite for it. We are local people who are passionate about Hoylake and see a glaring need for such a valuable development on the promenade.
Q: Who is advising you?
A: Potential experienced developers, architects, structural engineers and planners have been giving a lot of pro bono professional advice. All are being very supportive and are continuing to give us advice.
Q: What is this covenant all about?
A: Talks with the council had identified that the covenant held by Peel (The Hoylake and West Kirby Improvements Act 1897) was an issue only insofar as WMBC could not dispose of the land without the consent of PEEL; this was clearly understood and is a common issue with land ownership. It had of course been up for sale previously, and the building itself was very nearly sold in the first instance to be used as a Carpet Warehouse, a deal stopped at the eleventh hour. Nothing in the covenant actually precludes sale of the land.
Q: “Where would the money come from”.
A: The developer or consortium who eventually takes it on will secure the funds for this project in the same way they would for any other commercial project.
Q: So there’s no funding in place?
A: No, that will be a matter for the developers; the simple question for them is whether it is viable or not. If the price is right, it will be viable. The various parties are very close to being able to make a valued judgement on this; if it is established that it could be viable, there would be a more detailed feasibility study. If not, we would need to find other options. We don’t plan to give up.
Q: So how would a developer work out if it is viable?
A: Again that is for them to establish, but the calculation is quite a basic one; if it costs £xm to build; will the developer get a return on that within xx years, charging £x per square foot, and will the tenant operators be willing to pay that amount of rent? If not, it won’t happen. Simple.
Q: How much community support is there?
A: We have had a tremendously positive response but are aware that not everyone supports the idea. This is, of course, fully expected; no project would have universal support. Our consultation so far shows that it would be very popular and have a long lasting and positive economic impact on Hoylake.
Q: So why are the council apparently “killing” the project
A: We don’t know yet. But we intend to find out more, because the explanation given doesn’t stack up, given that normally such a covenant would not be an insurmountable problem. No planning application has yet been submitted, so issues of parking, structural engineering and public support have not even been examined properly. We will be speaking to the council to find out more.
Q: Hasn’t the council identified Hoylake as in need of tourism development?
Yes, Hoylake is designated for tourism development in the emerging Core Strategy, and the site in question was earmarked in the Council’s own 2004 Masterplan (the ‘Beacon for the Coast’). The site is also defined in the draft neighbourhood plan as a policy site (BR1) for seafront leisure and recreation development, currently open for consultation.
Q: But isn’t this publicly owned land?
A: Yes, it is, and it had been for sale previously as the council wished to dispose of it. But that sale did not go ahead. We do not know if any other proposals for development have been made. But we think our proposal would be infinitely preferable to a residential or industrial use for most local people.
Q: It’s just a pipe dream isn’t it?
A: No. We have Light Cinema on board, as well as prospective restauranteurs; valuable pro bono help from architects, planners, and developers; the support of many local community groups and more. Its all very possible. There is very significant and tangible commercial interest. But we do realise that it will only go ahead if it is viable, and if there is the political and community will to support it.
Long Live the Beacon!