Rothesay Pavilion should continue to be owned and managed by Argyll and Bute Council, according to a new report by a respected Bute businessman.
Accountant Charles Soane says that the community’s use of the building should be the top priority if and when it is refurbished.
His comments come as a team led by the Prince’s Regeneration Trust works up a bid for £2.7 million to the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the Pavilion to its original 1930s glory.
Mr Soane’s report, ‘Rothesay Pavilion: A Financial Perspective on Sustanability and an Alternative Way Forward’, says that the formation of a new charitable operating organisation to manage the building, as recommended by the Trust, is not, in his view, the best way to ensure its viability.
The report also suggests that the council should look at vacating and selling its premises at Eaglesham House in Rothesay and relocating its customer service arrangements from there to the refurbished Pavilion.
Mr Soane says in his report: “If the building is to operate as a community hub and maintain a steady footfall it must accommodate as many uses, and users, as possible.
“This would put a full commercial rate on weddings and conference events, but possibly envisage reduced rates for events run by local charities and voluntary organisations.”
The report outlines Mr Soane’s view that moving council services from Eaglesham House would provide an “increased customer focus on the building” as well as improving accessibility to council services and entertainments to older and disabled people, while relocating the wedding registry service would help the sale of wedding reception facilities.
It also suggests that the team behind the Pavilion’s regeneration should look at Rutherglen Town Hall as an example of an upgraded and commercially-operated historic building which is still publicly owned and run – in that case by South Lanarkshire Council.
“If the Pavilion is run on a commercial basis,” Mr Soane told The Buteman, “how will that impinge on community usage?
“That is an important question which has to be considered and I hope I can provide a positive solution.”
The Pavilion’s restoration is part of Rothesay’s contribution to the council’s CHORD project, set up to breathe new life into Argyll and Bute’s five largest towns – Campbeltown, Helensburgh, Oban, Rothesay and Dunoon.
The Heritage Lottery Fund gave the project a £103,000 development grant in November last year to work up a ‘stage two’ bid for £2.6 million.
If that bid is successful, work on refurbishing the building - opened on July 1, 1938 - could begin towards the end of 2014.
The project has already been awarded a £500,000 building repair grant from Historic Scotland and a £1.853 million contribution from the council itself.
Mr Soane said he had been asked to join the committee which is planning the Pavilion’s future but had declined the invitation.
A council spokesperson said: “We have looked at Mr Soane’s report and have met with him to discuss it.
“He raises valid points for consideration and we will look into these however we are also very confident the Rothesay Pavilion project is viable and will deliver a building the community will be proud of.
“Community engagement for the project will be on-going across the year and there will be plenty of opportunities for people to get involved.”