Fringe Box



More Reaction to News – ACM Wins Lease to Run the Electric Theatre

Published on: 8 Jan, 2017
Updated on: 11 Jan, 2017

Local entrepreneur Michel Harper has criticised Guildford Borough Council over their decision to award a lease to run the Electric Theatre to the Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) instead of considering his bid to for a part exchange with his Onslow Street property, The Casino.

Speaking to The Guildford Dragon NEWS, Mr Harper said: “I submitted a proposal based on a part exchange with my property [The Casino]. With planning permission granted for an eight storey redevelopment it is worth about ten times the Electric Theatre, so a balance payment would have been necessary and would have been subject to negotiation.

The Casino in Onslow Street, as photographed in 2015

“Although the proposal was submitted within the deadline it was rejected on a technicality because we had not completed the questionnaire, even though it was irrelevant to our bid.

“I thought it would be a win/win. My property was the original Electric Theatre, designed as an entertainment venue with a much larger audience capacity. I am not sure that the current Electric Theatre is a viable proposition as a theatre but quite obviously GBC did not really want to consider my bid.”

Today’s Casino nightclub complex could be regarded as Guildford’s first purpose-built cinema. It opened as the Central Hall Picture Palace in 1910.

It later became the Plaza cinema and was owned by the Rank organisation. It closed as a cinema in 1957 and reopened as a dance hall.

By the 1970s it had become a bingo hall. After a period of closure businessman Michel Harper opened it as a nightclub in 1991, then calling it “Harpers”, as had been his previous club/bar in the Upper High Street. The name was later changed to “The Drink”, before today’s name, “Casino”.

Cllr Susan Parker

Cllr Susan Parker (GGG, Send), leader of the Guildford Greenbelt Group was also critical of the decision as she does not feel it sufficiently guarantees community use of the Electric Theatre.

She said: “This is a very disappointing decision. I have opposed this decision from the time that this proposal was first put forward. I do not think it offers a firm guarantee on use of the Electric Theatre by the community.

“I think that it is disappointing that the final decision to proceed was taken by the Executive alone, and was not a public decision.  There was no opportunity for the public to comment or for the full council to vote on this matter.

“An Asset of Community Value cannot be sold or let on a lease of more than 25 years without restrictions, but the lease that has been awarded is for 20 years.”

“I hope that the promise of 50 per cent use by the community, which I understand has been made, will be honoured, and will actually relate to use of the theatre, rather than any alternative facilities somewhere else.”

See also: Academy of Contemporary Music Wins Lease to Run the Electric Theatre

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Responses to More Reaction to News – ACM Wins Lease to Run the Electric Theatre

  1. Dave Middleton Reply

    January 8, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    Bearing in mind the appallingly tasteless, scruffy and badly maintained state of the exterior of Mr Harper’s nightclub buildings (I can’t comment on the interior as I’ve never set foot inside), I’m not surprised that the council doesn’t want him to get his hands on another one of Guildford’s historic buildings.

  2. K White Reply

    January 9, 2017 at 10:53 am

    Any decision that stops Harper controlling key assets of the town is the right decision.

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