Speaker’s Corner: I am daring to dream over a new Pavilion

Labour candidate for Hemel Hempstead in the 2015 general election, Tony Breslin
Labour candidate for Hemel Hempstead in the 2015 general election, Tony Breslin
  • In 2002 Conservatives promised to build a new Cultural Centre to be opened in 2005
  • Fast forward a decade and council, run by same leader, has just announced planning permission to build plush new offices for council departments on the very spot where the Pavilion used to stand
  • Labour candidate launches an architect’s competition to give us a glimpse of what this new venue could be

Labour Hemel Hempstead candidate reignites debate over broken Pavilion promises.

“The new cultural centre will contain about 750 seats, bar, restaurant, conference room and exhibition area. This size is deemed ideal for the majority of events whereas the Pavilion was too large. It will also comply with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act whereas the Pavilion did not.”

Fine words indeed; you may think I said them. I didn’t.  They come from the Conservative Party In Touch newsletter from around 2002. Cllr Andrew Williams who was leader of the council is quoted in the leaflet saying: “Conservatives promised to build a new Cultural Centre and we are pleased to announce the development will commence towards the end of 2004 to be opened in 2005, it will be an excellent asset for the residents of Dacorum.”

Fast forward a decade and the same Cllr Williams, who is still leader of the council, has just announced planning permission to build plush new offices for council departments on the very spot where the Pavilion used to stand.

Who voted for that? Certainly not the 1,000 plus signatures that have been collected by the people behind the independent Hemel Hempstead Hub page, Mike and Christine Ridley and Carolyn Nicholls, calling for a multi-purpose cultural venue instead of another chain cinema on Market Square.

Last week I launched an architect’s competition to give us a glimpse of what this new venue could be.

The Pavilion before it was demolished and never replaced

The Pavilion before it was demolished and never replaced

The brief is clear - we don’t yet have funding but we want ideas that local people and investors will want to support. We’ve taken advice from the Royal Institute of British Architects and the best idea will – unlike the Public Sector Quarter –be put to the vote.

Cllr Williams responded in last week’s Gazette by complaining about how much the old Pavilion cost. But that’s the reason why the original was bulldozed in the first place – so that we could build the smart new sustainable venue he promised in his leaflet.

He broke that promise and now we are pumping millions into a new Civic Centre, which will do nothing to encourage families to come into the town at weekends or in the evening.

To make matters worse the council has also announced they are considering plans for more shops and restaurants next to Jarman’s Park in direct competition to the town centre which will simply wither and die. 

I think it is the job of our MP to take a stand on issues like this and show leadership where local feelings run high, even if that means asking awkward questions of our council. Mr Penning has been conspicuous by his silence.

Tony Breslin

As a candidate in the general election the Pavilion comes up on the doorstep time and again. It’s more than just a building. It’s emblematic of the town’s heart and the choice we need to make about the kind of place we want to be.

I think it is the job of our MP to take a stand on issues like this and show leadership where local feelings run high, even if that means asking awkward questions of our council.

Mr Penning has been conspicuous by his silence.

I realise that creating a commercially sustainable venue will be a hard road. But I dare to dream and if I can turn the Pavilion into an issue at this coming election, then we will have taken the first step.

I want to see the Pavilion debated, not just at hustings meetings and in architects’ offices, but over the breakfast table and in the workplace so that all the candidates will have to say, one way or another, whether they too can dream.