News- Milton Rooms Update

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CIDA presented their report on proposals for refurbishing the Milton, Assembly Rooms and Caretaker’s Cottage in the Milton Rooms on Thursday 21 May, thank you to those who came or sent their apologies. Here is a summary of the evening which is being sent to everyone who gave their email address during the consultation (apologies if you receive it twice!).

Please feel free to pass this on to anyone you think may be interested in the project.

We hope we will be able to organise a “next steps” get together in early July and I will let you know the date as soon as I can.

Thank you again for your help in getting the project this far and please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any queries or can offer any specialist help to take the project forward.

Howard Wallis
Jane Johnson
Project Delivery Team
01653 600666 ext 274 or 213


Ian Tod, architect, outlined the refurbishment options and reminded us that the “do nothing” option is not a no-cost option!

Option 1 - An enhanced fit out version of the bar extension scheme which currently has planning permission, including external ground works and construction
Estimated Cost £3.8M

Option 2 - The enhanced bar scheme with a significant, but simplified venue re-design, moving the stage to the north end and providing a foyer between the Main Hall and the Assembly Room
Estimated Cost £5M

Option 3 - The Consultation scheme offered to the Steering Group and public consultation in February 2009
Estimated Cost £6.5M

Option 4 - The integrated scheme responding to consultation and further research, with an additional second floor level to accommodate an anchor tenant and improved resource for young people
Estimated Cost £8.5M

Sara Robinson, who had led the consultation, explained the process and how they had arrived at the uses and outcomes they had. She told us of her experience in Ludlow and how using the space outside the venue had increased awareness and footfall.

Rik Green, Technical Director of Opera North, reminded us that this project was about the people and community who live in Ryedale and it was up to us to decide whether we liked it or not and whether we wanted to take it forward. He explained the history of the building and why it would work better with the stage at the northern end.

Rik also pointed out that although they had tried to find a venue to use as a comparison, the Milton Rooms had proved to be very unique. To offer an arts centre, a community centre, a theatre, a café bar, studio space, meeting rooms and creative workspace all under one roof was a huge project and in effect was refurbishing four buildings. This had to be remembered when looking at both the cost and the potential income.

Keith Evans, Managing Director of CIDA, explained the further economic benefits to Malton, Norton and Ryedale of carrying out the work. This included the construction jobs which would be created and secured during the build, that the venue would bring visitors to the town who will spend on food, drink and accommodation and the businesses which would be based in the workshops and bring people to the area.

A number of questions were asked of the team:

Isn’t the existing structure confining the architect and would knocking it down be a better option?

As the existing structure is basically sound it wouldn’t be cost effective to do that, and with the Assembly Rooms and Caretakers Cottage and Masonic Lodge are all part of the structure it is better to work with what we have. Also the buildings are Grade II Listed and we would never get approval to knock them down and start again.

How accurate are the costings – how were they arrived at?

We used a Quantity Surveyor who based the figures on industry standards. At the moment prices are falling so these prices will seem high, but they will rise again as the economy improves. For the purposes of funding applications we are confident they are accurate.

Are the income figures realistic – they seem a bit low?

We deliberately kept them on the conservative side – these figures should be achievable and be taken seriously by potential funders.

Where’s the money coming from?

Ryedale District Council has set aside £500,000, other funders could include Heritage Lottery, the Arts Council, Yorkshire Forward and European Funding. Initial talks have been held with all these but full applications need to be submitted.

Is it realistic to raise so much money?

It won’t be easy but other buildings have, and in effect you have four buildings offering a wide range of facilities. There will have to be local fundraising too – for the funding gap and to show commitment, perhaps £1m - £2m is achievable. No projects of this scale start with all the funding in place – it will be a leap of faith to some degree.

Does the potential stage size warrant spending £8.5m where there will be a limit of 380 seats?

The current designs are early drafts – when it comes to detailed designs the size of the stage and the impact on wing space will need to be considered and compromises reached. The £8.5m is for the four buildings including workspace, meeting rooms, café etc not just the theatre space.

You say the Fitzwilliam Estate and Ryedale District Council are on board but what about English Heritage – have they been consulted?

At this stage English Heritage haven’t been consulted fully because the designs would need to be worked up to a much more detailed stage. They will be fully involved from the next stage.

Will it be affordable for local groups to rent?

This was carefully considered and we came up with a three tier rate scheme –
• reduced (for local non-profit activities)
• standard (local businesses, public bodies and outside of Ryedale non-profit organisations)
• commercial

When can it be achieved?

Realistically 3 – 5 years. Some of the funding to be applied for is time critical so will need to be spent by 2013. The Barnsley Civic Centre has taken 5 years from start to finish.

And finally

What happens next?

There needs to be a steering group comprising of Ryedale District Council, Fitzwilliam Estate and members of the community. A professional Project Manager needs to be employed who will apply for the funding, is passionate about the arts and community and who will drive this project. There could be development funding available for this post and Ryedale District Council officers will apply for this. It will take a few months to get a Project Manager in place (it could easily be November before they start) and meanwhile the sub groups can start the process of finalising designs, fund raising, and raising the profile through newsletters and Friends group.

Author: Jane Johnson