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Councillor quits over Eden Court Theatre complaints

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Delays and rising costs to the redevelopment of Inverness flagship the Eden Court Theatre have lead to the resignation of a prominent independent councillor, who has complained that the project had become a “waste of money”.

Roddy Balfour quit as chairman of Highland Council’s education, culture and sport committee, when both Liberal Democrat opposition and council convenor Sandy Park called for him to stand down after he had made complaints about the flagship scheme.

The £22.7 million Eden Court expansion, which will see it become Scotland’s largest performing arts venue, was originally scheduled to open by last Christmas in time for the beginning of the Highland year of culture 2007. Its launch was then postponed until September of this year.

However, renovation works in January revealed foundation and structural problems at the Grade A-listed site. This caused the initial £19.5 million to rise by £3.2 million and halt the opening until even later this year.

Balfour told The Stage that he had always supported the expansion of Eden Court, but had been concerned that work would not be completed in time, despite large cash injections.

He commented: “It was supposed to be a flagship proponent of a year of Highland culture, because a lot of events are going to be held in Inverness. It has been closed now for over two years, that was my criticism. That money had been put into it, a lot of money, and it hasn’t opened this year.”

During the two-year closure, the theatre company has been taking a small programme of works entitled In Exile around venues in the Highlands. An Eden Court spokesperson insisted that the theatre will still be a part of the Highland 2007 celebrations. She also said that the theatre’s knock-on financial impact on the area would rise from £3.4 million to £5.9 million once it is completed.

She added: “We are building a venue for the next 30 years. These are the legacies of 2007, and in 30 years time everybody’s children and grandchildren will be using the facilities, and we are really proud of that.”

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