Summary of arguments for stopping Calverley Square

  • Listen to the people! In May elections:
    • More than 70% of voters voted for candidates opposed to this project
    • Unsupportable claims that election disaster due to Brexit not Calverley Square – David Jukes and Tracy Moore, both leading promoters of the project were overwhelmingly outvoted in historically safe Conservative wards (share of vote dropped by 50% and 80% respectively)
  • Council has been repeatedly misinformed and misled as evidenced by Council Officers’ contributions to public enquiry:
    • No evidence for claims that proposed theatre is best way to deliver policy outcomes
      • Grant Thornton and CIPFA both confirm lack of evidence
    • Expert opinions predetermined by biased and restricted briefs
      • Refurbish rather than redevelop the existing civic complex
    • Overclaiming of expert endorsements
      • CIPFA, Grant Thornton, Mid Kent Audit, CPO and judicial review, all grossly misrepresented as endorsements of the project
    • Experts have got some key things wrong
      • Lichfields identify serious mistakes with GVAG economic benefits figures, but not asked to provide comprehensive recalculation
      • One-hour drive time for theatre audiences ignores rush hour traffic
    • No cost benefit analysis
      • Two funding requests to SELEP rejected for failing cost benefit criteria, and inadequate economic impact assessments, despite use of independent experts
      • Council officers confirm no cost benefit analysis done – project is a bottomless pit
      • CIPFA express concern about ‘intuitive’ investment appraisal
    • Economic benefit mostly arises outside the borough, but we bear 100% of cost and risk
    • No consultation on core principles of project
      • Extensive consultation started in 2015 and was only concerned with details of project already defined by Cabinet. No prior consultation on underlying principles
      • No assessment of alternative ways of delivering policy outcomes or joined-up thinking linking development to other policy goals on housing, climate change, town plan etc.
    • No objective informed evidence to support Cabinet decisions on:
      • theatre size and design – 2010 Bonnar Keenlyside report not asked to and does not offer recommendations on alternatives; later reports only consider proposed theatre
      • need for continuity of AHT –ill-informed political decision
      • limitation to build only on Council-owned land –ill-informed political decision
        • £17 million required for car park could have been used to buy more suitable land
    • Confusion about economic impact:
      • Some still wrongly believe that project ‘is the only way to generate the money to keep services in the borough going’ (Cllr. Hamilton in ToTW 12/6/2019). Council figures show project expected to cost Council £2.3 million in cash every year for 50 years, to be covered in part by cuts in some services and new and increased charges for others
      • No evidence from Council to support claims of significantly increased business rates
  • Sunk cost fallacy – £10.6 million so far spent is not a rational basis to continue an ill-conceived project.
  • RIBA Stage 4 refines project technical design and updates cost estimates, and therefore cannot say anything relevant to counter the many arguments for cancelling the project.