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Assembly Rooms to be demolished

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DERBY’S iconic Assembly are to be demolished and replaced with a new city centre entertainment venue.

It could be built either on the same the site or another prominent location, with Duckworth Square, recently bought by the city council, among the possibilities.

If a similar venue is not built in its place, the current Assembly Rooms could be replaced by, developers have said, a complex with retail, restaurants and bars on the bottom and possibly flats on top.

The fire which badly damaged the Assembly Rooms on March 14 last year, started in an air conditioning unit in the plant room on top of the site’s car park.

That room, which was full of machinery that ran the building’s water, heating and ventilation, was destroyed.

The council’s Conservative opposition has been pushing for the venue to be re-opened as soon as possible saying it “just requires plant equipment installing and some other related refurbishment”.

But Mr Rawson, said that would cost £10 million for a building with “very limited life expectancy”.

He said: “We’ve an estimate that it has five to 10 years left in it.

“We don’t think spending £10 million to get a building for that period of time represents value for money, especially as that could perhaps be used for investment in a new facility.”

Mr Rawson said the £10 million included £3.5 million for a new plant room, but that there was also refurbishment work needed in the building, including repairs to the ceiling of the Darwin Suite – the smaller of the venue’s two auditoria.

Last week, a draft report on the state of the building, drawn up by fire safety experts for the council’s insurers, Zurich, revealed more issues that would need work if the venue was to re-open.

It said there were multiple areas where firewalls in the building were breached and “not correctly reinstated”.

It also said the building’s ventilation system had been “poorly maintained” though the council said this continues to be a “point of discussion” with the writers of the report.

Mr Rawson said the limitations the Assembly Rooms has always had as an entertainment venue were another reason not to fork out the cash for re-opening.

He said: “The seating capacity for example. It’s too small to be profitable for commercial type shows. We’ve had discussions with the private sector and they’ve been unwilling to take on the building as it is.”

It also doesn’t have a fly-tower, which would enable it to have rigging to move parts of a set, lighting and even people about.

The tender for a new venue will be later this year, after the council’s 15-year masterplan for the city centre is finalised in October.

A draft version of that has now gone out to public consultation, listing key aims for the city centre, including the need for “a thriving cultural core anchored by a new cultural venue”.

It also says that the Market Place must be “reinvented”.

As work to draw up the tender has not yet begun and there is no definite site for the new venue, there is little that can be said with certainty about it.

If the current Assembly Rooms site wasn’t used for another venue, developers have said a good fit would be creating a complex with retail, bars and restaurants on the ground-floor and possibly homes above.

The council’s acting chief executive, Paul Robinson, said: “That’s what the developers are saying but there’s also some other options for leisure involvement as part of that.“We are not saying we’ve made a decision. We’ll be asking the market.”

When asked how long it would be, before the new venue is up and running, Mr Robinson said that three years time from October was possible.

That would assume things like a non-contentious site, without major planning or highways issues.

The way the building could be run has also not yet been decided with the council keen not to rule out any options.

In the meantime, the council has said it believes it has the venues for Derby to retain a popular arts and cultural offer.

Mr Rawson said: “We have a continuing programme of events and the council will continue to support the cultural offer in the city centre.“It’s important to make sure arts events and cultural events continue.”

Since the Assembly Rooms closed, Mr Rawson said that events that would otherwise have been held there have been “extremely sucessful” in new venues, including the city’s Folk Festival which was sold out for the first time.

That was held in a marquee in the Market Place, the Old Bell Hotel, the Guildhall Theatre and other venues.

Mr Robinson said that the new £30.8 million Arena would provide a bigger events venue than Derby has had before.

And he added that there were other cities, like York, which had maintained a high-quality cultural offer without a “large-scale venue in the city centre”.



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It's an ugly building that is not fit for purpose. The Velodrome can host shows of a similar size so it's even obsolete. On the face of it, it seems to be right decision.


The Market Square is looking pretty decent these days as long as you ignore the Assembly Rooms. It needs to be replaced with a venue with a larger capacity (even if not on the same site) and whatever gets built on that site needs to show Derby as vibrant city of culture.The one worry is that handing over prime sites to the private sector has been a it disastrous since the economy has been struggling - Riverlights phase 2 (the old bus station), Duckworth Square and Allenton Tesco (Market and Mitre area) have all gone horribly wrong leaving parts of the city looking dishevelled. That can't be allowed to happen on a site that is so visible. The Council need to be very careful in what plans they approve and what developers they chose to sell to/ partner with.

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Very true

They have started building whatever it is that is being built on the site of the old Full Street Police Station (offices or was it a hotel??)

So when that is finished, along with the refurbed Magistrates court and the Bikeworks place at the back of the Assembly Rooms that area will be looking quite refreshed.

Trouble is that there is nothing to really replace the Assembly Rooms with. Nothing that the city is crying out for. It will look better as an open space (extended Market Place) than a boarded up construction site

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Can't wait for some Eco Warrior to set up camp on top of the building and declare it a piece of history and shouldn't be replaced... Maybe even someone with a caravan on top of it...

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These councils always seem to have unlimited funds for these projects, but can't find the money for lollipop ladies, care homes and the like.

I live in Leicestershire and am continually staggered at the amount of money thrown at council projects, like new council offices (I believe it just cost £3.5 million to demolish the old one) and the various Richard III projects. The St Nicholas Place project cost £5 million, and it's just a few paths running through some grassy area, and a few trees, no bigger than a football pitch. To achieve this, a car park close to the main shopping mall was lost. However, they're constantly cutting back on 'essential services, due to reduced budgets'.

It's all a political game, with the tax payer as the football.

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The council can't afford to do owt with it. 

I'm not sure but the land'l probably be sold off, the Velodrome is their new baby now. Sorry. Derby Arena is it's correct title and when that opens fully the Assembly Rooms will be forgotten.

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What concerts have been booked for the velodrome? Is it open? Shouldn't they have a programme of events sorted by now? 

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