It will allocate £5m into its capital programme proposals, which are due for review in February. The East Ayrshire Leisure Trust will also seek to generate grant funding towards the estimated £6m to £8m cost of repairs.
The announcement follows local press reports and consequential public concern that the complex is in desperate need of repair, to the tune of almost £8m. “Whilst there is some truth in the reports, it is also important to set these reports within their proper context,” said the council.
Its cabinet meeting this week has considered an updated report on the condition of all of its operational properties. The complex was 1 of 307 properties that formed part of a review, which began in June. The review considered the overall performance of the buildings, which included aspects including condition, accessibility, utilisation, energy efficiency and running costs.
The review concluded that 146 properties were deemed to be performing well; a further 146 properties were performing as expected and 15 properties were underperforming, in terms of the fabric of the building. Of these 15 properties, two require ‘major capital investment’ in order to improve – the Palace Theatre and the Grand Hall.
A range of works needs to be undertaken to preserve the building and address drainage issues that are harming the stonework. It is estimated that these costs could be in the region on £6m-£8m.
Councillor Douglas Reid expressed his concern at the findings, saying: “There has been substantial investment in the complex in recent years to preserve the stonework and maintain the roof, as well as internal refurbishments, so it’s very disappointing to learn that despite our very best efforts, this classic venue is still in need of so much attention.
“Today we were asked to note the financial implications associated with the Palace Theatre complex, and that an additional funding allocation in the region of £5 million will be incorporated into Capital Programme proposals when this is reviewed in February, with East Ayrshire Leisure Trust seeking to generate grant funding.
“In terms of the present day, patrons should know that the building is safe and operational and will continue to be so until further notice. We will be working with colleagues in the Trust to develop a plan and timescale for these works and it would be our hope that these can be conducted on a phased and managed basis, to allow us to continue to offer the same cultural programme our patrons have come to know, love and expect over the years.
“This requires our immediate attention and we will work tirelessly with colleagues in East Ayrshire Leisure Trust to find a solution. This venue is one of the best provincial theatres in Scotland, outwith the major cities and together we will do all we can to preserve it.”