We are thrilled — over three years of negotiations are now crowned with success. The Westgate Hall’s new life as a cultural community centre for our city is within sight.
Contracts between Canterbury City Council, the Trust and Corinthian Curzon/Curzon Cinemas relating to the Hall have been exchanged: the Agreement for Lease to the Trust and the sublease for Corinthian Curzon. With this, the first and most critical stage in a two-part process has been achieved.
Part Two, signature of the lease to the Westgate Hall in its final form, will take place this summer as soon as Curzon’s planning is formally agreed.
The Trust already has planning permission and is currently considering tenders for the refurbishment works we will be undertaking.
Negotiating the contracts has taken time, however credit goes to everyone involved — the Council, Trust and Corinthian Curzon — for taking care to develop solid agreements. All three groups want the Westgate Hall project to flourish.
From the Trust’s side, as regards our legal representation, Hugo Barton of Gardner Croft deserves our wholehearted thanks. He has guided us with unfailing good humour and generosity of time through what was, on occasions, arduous work. Our thanks to him and his colleagues.
What is particularly exciting about the Westgate Hall adventure is that it confirms what can be achieved when a community recognizes what is important to it, rallies to protect it, and engages in creating solutions. In this case, the Trust, a small band of enthusiasts with a dynamic membership, grew and was supported by Canterbury’s communities in saving the Hall.
There is another dimension to this success: we should all be particularly proud as this is apparently the first successful example of Community Asset Transfer (CAT) in Kent. May our experiences encourage and help other communities. And should there be another example, please let us know so it can give further inspiration.
The Hall is now closed. We are currently working on our timeline. As matters stand, we are aiming for reopening in spring/summer 2014.
When it does, we look forward to it once again being a home for community events of all kinds — dancing, blood transfusion, boot fairs, musical events — and that charities and businesses will enjoy hiring it. It will continue to be used by the Council for vote counting and for civic emergencies. And, of course, there will be the pleasure provided by Curzon Cinemas’ three-screen arthouse cinema.
Thank you all for your unwavering support — we wouldn’t be where we are today without it.