Rothesay Pavilion could close for refurbishment in summer 2015

Robert Livingston (centre) from HI-Arts in conversation with some of Rothesay Pavilion's regular users at a meeting on the building's future on Thursday.
Robert Livingston (centre) from HI-Arts in conversation with some of Rothesay Pavilion's regular users at a meeting on the building's future on Thursday.

Work on Rothesay Pavilion’s long-awaited restoration could finally get under way in the summer of 2015.

The closure, which is still subject to several funding applications being made and approved, not least a bid for £2.6 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, would last for around 18 months.

If that timescale is met, the refurbished building - incorporating many of its original 1930s features, together with much better use of the internal space - would open to the public towards the end of 2016.

Two events were held at the iconic building this week to update the public on the status of the restoration programme, which is part of Rothesay’s contribution to Argyll and Bute Council’s CHORD project to breathe new life into the area’s five main towns.

Around 40 people attended a drop-in event on Wednesday evening to find out more about the plans, with roughly the same number present at a further session on Thursday morning led by Robert Livingston from HI-Arts, the organisation formed to promote arts and culture in the Highlands and Islands.

At Thursday’s event Jane Robertson from the Prince’s Regeneration Trust, the council’s partner in the Pavilion restoration project, said she understood why members of the public might be getting frustrated with the apparently slow pace of the work.

“We held an options appraisal process three years ago from which it was apparent that there was a high level of aspiration for what the Pavilion could become,” Ms Robertson said.

“Of the three options presented, the ‘bells and whistles’ scheme was chosen and worked up into a design and business plan, and an outline business case was prepared for the council in 2011.

“On the basis of that business plan an application was made to the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2012 for a development grant and for permission to proceed to a capital grant application, and we achieved the first stage development grant towards the end of 2012.

“That’s why the process has appeared to take so long. The fact is that planning, developing and generating a capital project on a heritage building of this significance does take a long time to do.

“Once we have all the capital funding in place we then launch the procurement process to appoint a contractor, design team and project management team.

“That takes up to a year to complete, so we are looking at a date of mid-2015 to start on site, and 18 months to do the work properly.

“We’ve still got a long, long way to go, but there are reasons why each of these steps has to be taken. We can’t cut corners, but we are trying to keep things moving towards that end date.”

The restoration plan for the building provides for a newly-formed charity to take over the running of the Pavilion on a long lease from the council - we hope to have more information on the formation of that charity very soon.