The Council has not offered the building for sale, only lease, and the rent will be for negotiation if the Council enters into discussion with Portobello Central. The Council has decided that its priority for the relevant capital budget should be providing high quality, safe schools.
The Council Call for Proposals
What costs will there be?
The building needs a wide range of minor to moderate repairs which are being considered now. It was operational until closure, which was due to concerns about some aspects of the condition and that income was about half the current expenditure. Portobello Central is not aware of any major structural problems although that will require professional examination and certification. Many of the systems are old and in need of replacement, like heating, plumbing, electrics, but Portobello Central believes that many uses of the building could resume and continue for a couple of years while funds were raised.
Where will the money come from?
The funding for the voluntary sector is likely to change radically due to CV-19 and funds which appeared to be available in early 2020 may be allocated to higher priority issues. A project strongly supported by the community has a better chance in the competition for funding, no matter what source.
What funds are needed?
In the short term, the consultation and engagement process is being funded by donations. If a lease is offered, Portobello Central will have to fund heating, electricity and other services just to be able to operate the building which will bring management costs.
However, what Portobello Central can bring is very active promotion to users of all kinds – this has costs of its own and will require some expert workers, to be paid from income.
Currently, Portobello Central is working on the basis that about £50,000 a year will be needed to provide a lively programme.
How will Covid-19 affect matters?
No one knows. Many of the previously popular activities seem difficult to mount under social distancing and the programme, whether the preparation for use or the actual events will have to follow the rules which are under constant development.
When might the building open?
Currently our (very optimistic) working timetable is:
September 2020: discussion with the Council of a draft proposal
December 2020: lease agreed
January-March 2021: immediate repairs and refurbishments
April 2021: first experimental uses begin
October 2021: full programme begins
How big is the main hall?
About 18m by 24m long. The Ancillary Hall upstairs is about 24m by 4m.
When can I book my wedding?
That is being asked of all venues. Many activities, like weddings, dancing, show, bands are now uncertain even in buildings that have been in these businesses for years.
Who will run the building?
The current informal group is preparing a draft proposal. If the Council sees any merit in that document, a legal entity will be formed, able to enter into contracts and apply for funds, loans etc. That is likely to be a charitable body, to provide protection for trustees, such as a Scottish Incorporated Charitable Organisation (SCIO).
What about local traders?
Portobello Central believes that there are considerable benefits to local businesses in having the Town Hall much more open and active than it was in the past.
What happens if the Council reject the proposal?
We believe the Council will mothball the building for at least 5 years unless the space is needed to provide social distancing for, for example, school classes. Even that would require significant expenditure.
What ideas are there for the future?
Activities all day and into the evenings
Modernisation to best environmental standards.
A quality venue serving the whole City of Edinburgh