Rob Callender, the former technical manager of Fairfield Halls, with over 9 years operational experience at the venue, spoke on behalf of Andy Hylton & the Save Our Fairfield campaign at the Planning Committee on Thursday night. This is what he said. (Note: sub-headings are editorial)
Refurbishment Method Problems
‘We fully SUPPORT the much needed refurbishment of Fairfield Halls. We do NOT support the METHOD chosen for this, lack of operator involvement in formulation of these plans, poor public engagement, the treatment of the former Fairfield staff & venue users, nor the detail of the designs as they stand.
Notwithstanding the scope of this meeting, we seek clarification from the applicant on inconsistencies in agenda report 7.1: Specifically items 7.129 (oppose), 7.133 & 7.134 (support) – – are these being taken forward or have they been removed as has been suggested by Cllr Godfrey, including tonight on Twitter?
We also note inaccurate statements in the Design & Access document – such as Ashcroft Theatre (4.7). It does NOT, or at least did not in all my 9 years service, use such a curtain/partition as claimed.
It is essential that details in the plans are accurate.
As well as loss of real green space on College Green and lack of affordable homes, we object primarily to certain aspects of the Fairfield Halls designs – the main reason being the potential negative effect on future operations and the risks posed to the viability of the business as a result.
Block 7 Problems
- The proposed new College Building (Block 7), to be built in very close proximity to the rear of Fairfield Halls and over the service yard, will restrict daylight into the Ashcroft Theatre dressing rooms (the bit closest to College Green) and will impact on privacy in these rooms also by overlooking.
- The presence of Block 7 built over the top of the Fairfield service yard will increase running costs for the venue due to the requirement for ventilation and daytime lighting.
- Block 7, narrowed access ramp and proposed get-in structural changes (with or without the truck lifts) will actually make operations in the yard LESS flexible and MORE AWKWARD to manage.
- Swept path diagrams show how trucks could technically manoeuvre without problems, but this requires the cab to be removed from parked trucks and requires a completely clear yard, restricting artist/staff parking to only 4 spaces (compared to 17 now).
- It will make manoeuvres take LONGER which will cause problems for tight schedules – where time is money.
- As well as trucks, various smaller vans also often require to unload at same time, then park.
- The plans suggest that these vehicles will then need to park in the underground car park – but such vans would not FIT through the entrance due to current height restrictions!
- The Service Yard Management Plan also suggests a yard ‘Marshall’ will be required, adding a further human resource need on the operator.
- The (possibly removed?) truck lift option would have added running cost and breakdown risk if it were to be installed. A structural ramp would’ve been cheaper with no running cost. (the reason given for not pursuing the ramp idea is BOGUS, as only the Studio would be affected – which will mainly be blacked out anyway. Dressing rooms and offices would not be affected by a ramp. Construction of Block 7 prevents future ramp construction.)
Inadequate Car Parking
- Car Parking: we object to the extent in reduction of car parking to just 349 public spaces. On a single busy December night we’ve had a sold out schools shows in the Concert Hall, a busy Panto in the theatre, a kids show in the Studio and an Xmas party in the Arnhem. Plus smaller events in one or more function rooms. That is a potential capacity of over 3000. With more to be added with a new function room and the art gallery.
- Even assuming the families attending these events are all happy ‘two adult/two child’ family units arriving in a single car, that is still 750 cars potentially.
- For artist parking, note an average orchestra would use up ALL the 29 staff/artist spaces alone.
- The parking assessment suggests a change in audience demographic may reduce car park demand – which can only mean a move AWAY from family orientated audiences (are they presumed not to wish to attend live entertainment such as panto anymore?) These reasons will cause damage to the credibility & popularity of the venue amongst artists and customers alike, thus a risk to it’s viability. If the venue were to fail following an expensive refurbishment – that would be a very poor result for Croydon. Therefore we object to all aspects which may affect the future operational viability of the venue, and request that they are improved, with the assistance from those with hands on operational experience, and indeed the future operator.