13 February 2013 WEST PARK CENTRE
I was pleased to hear that you are to discuss the future of the West Park Centre at the Executive Board this Friday and have read the officer's report with interest. I write to urge you to move quickly to re open at least part of the premises so that as many as possible of the user groups can resume their activities there, rather than allow it to remain closed whilst options for the site are further explored.
Leaving the building closed can only lead to further rapid deterioration in its condition. I ask you therefore to undertake the repairs that are required to ensure that the building (or part of it at the very least) complies with health and safety requirements whilst the examination and discussion of options for its longer term future are under way. To do otherwise puts further at risk the viability of the building as well as that of those user groups who are currently homeless or temporarily housed in inadequate premises.
The Centre has provided not just vital local community space but, as a cultural hub, has been a valuable asset to the whole city. The benefits of co-location of the many organisations which have operated there are in danger of being lost. Many serve the whole city and the West Park Centre has been an extremely successful location for them, offering appropriate facilities as well as easy access and parking. Closing the Centre would inevitably result in fragmentation of these cultural activities to sites across the city, a point which is acknowledged in the report. As well as the loss of synergy and shared expertise, closure also runs the very real risk of some of the groups being unable to continue .
Closing the Centre permanently would result in a very significant cultural loss to the city and therefore I ask you not to dismiss the option of full re-opening. The report presented to you takes a number of factors into account in its analysis of options but does not adequately evaluate the value to the community and the city as a whole of a Centre which has offered a home to such a wide variety of musical and performing arts groups in particular.
Finally, I believe that there is an important issue of trust involved here. Residents and users have been deeply dismayed by the way in which the Centre was closed, by what they have learned about the lack of maintenance carried out on the property over the years and by misinformation that has circulated. There is a widespread perception that the Council has not been open and transparent about the Centre. It is therefore, I believe, crucially important at this stage to take action that will restore their faith in the good intentions of the Council with regard to the Centre.
Re-opening part of the Centre whilst examining the options for the future, and including users and residents in the discussion of those would be a good way to start to redress this and would, more than any verbal reassurances, offer tangible evidence that the Council supports the local community and values the work of the city wide groups that grew and thrived at the West Park Centre.
Greg Mulholland MP,
Member of Parliament for Leeds North West