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Theatre groups accuse Derby City Council of withholding new venue feasibility findings

The Assembly Rooms in Derby before the venue was destroyed by a fire in 2014
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UPDATE: Since being approached by The Stage, the council has responded to the Freedom of Information request. It has removed commercially sensitive information and provided all but one document relating to the feasibility study.

 

Theatre groups have accused Derby City Council of deliberately withholding information on plans for a new music and performance venue.

The council carried out a feasibility study earlier this year into options for a new venue on the site of the Assembly Rooms, which closed in 2014 after a fire.

It proposed a 3,000-capacity multi-purpose venue, focused on music and comedy, which sparked a protest  from members of Derby’s theatre groups outside council headquarters.

Derby Arts and Theatre Association, an organisation representing amateur arts and theatre groups in the area which organised the protest, argues that the proposed venue is the “wrong scheme” for the city, and believes the council should instead build a 1,500-seat theatre and a concert hall.

Following the protest, Derby City Council agreed to put the results of the feasibility study to public consultation before a decision is made.

However, although the public consultation is currently taking place, with a December 15 deadline for responses, the full reports from the feasibility study have not been released. Previously, only a summary of the consultants’ findings have been made available.

DATA submitted a Freedom of Information request to Derby City Council on October 6 asking for the full reports of consultants who undertook the feasibility study.

The council initially said it would respond no later than November 3, but has since extended the deadline twice, most recently to December 8 – more than two months after the original request.

Association chair Steve Dunning claimed DATA wanted to submit a response to the consultation, but needed to see the full reports of the consultants in order to frame its response.

Dunning said: “The position adopted by the council in relation to our FOI request looks like a deliberate attempt to frustrate our legitimate right to represent over 40 amateur theatre and concert organisations in Derby and contribute to the final decision on the Assembly Rooms replacement.”

He added: “The council spent £380,000 of taxpayers’ money on the feasibility work for the Music and Performance Venue, and the public have a right to see these reports.”

A Derby City Council spokesperson said: “The Council is not depriving the group of this information. Some of the information requested is commercially sensitive, and as such must be taken into consideration when collating an FOI response. The group will have a response as soon as it is ready.”

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