Rothesay Pavilion FAQs

Will the Pavilion be affordable for local user groups? Before it closed in September 2015, Rothesay Pavilion was the main base or meeting place for around 40 different community groups. Their needs ranged from space for meetings to events and exhibitions. The restoration of Rothesay Pavilion involves opening up more spaces for use so that we can continue to host community groups, both old and new, at affordable rates. As well as the main hall (capacity 1000), we are creating a second venue (capacity 100), and two new multi-purpose spaces - one on the rooftop with stunning views of the bay, and another on the first floor opposite the cafe. HALL HIRE CHARGES for these spaces are set at 'community/charity' and 'commercial' rates and are based on the council's pre-closure rates. 

Who is paying for Rothesay Pavilion Restoration Project? Rothesay Pavilion restoration is being paid for by a host of major funders including Argyll and Bute Council (£5.23m), Heritage Lottery Fund (£4.19m), European Regional Development Fund (£1.06m), Historic Environment Scotland (£750k), Highlands and Islands Enterprise (£750k), Coastal Communities Fund (Big Lottery) (£600k), Scottish Government Regeneration Capital Grant Fund (£625k), as well as various trusts and foundations with an arts and heritage focus making up the balance. The total fund is just under £14million.

Why are they funding the Pavilion? They are funding it because it is a really important community and cultural centre but also because our Pavilion is unique in Scotland in terms of its architectural heritage. This was recognised by Historic Environment Scotland in 2005 when they upgraded its ‘Listed’ status from ‘B’ to ‘A’ in recognition of ‘this building being one of the most significant pleasure buildings of the style in the country, surviving in remarkably intact condition’. A Category A Listing recognises ‘buildings of national or international importance, either architectural or historic, or fine little-altered examples of some particular period style or building type’ and this is one of the main reasons why so many national funding bodies have come together to preserve it.  Rothesay Pavilion is in very poor condition and requires major investment to continue. This investment has come principally from funders with an interest in conservation, heritage and economic regeneration and is not transferable to other priorities like hospitals and care centres, so without the Pavilion this money would simply not come to Rothesay. Outwith the Pavilion restoration, there is also considerable investment planned over next five years in the new Townscape Heritage project to help deal with other buildings in the town.

Wouldn’t it be cheaper to build a new one? Possibly, but again the funding has been secured mainly because of the historic significance of the Pavilion. It is very unlikely that we would have got funding to build a brand new arts and community centre on the island. The Pavilion holds fond memories for many people on the island and further afield and will attract visitors because of its unique nature.

Couldn’t we convert it into an old people’s home/hospital/hotel? No – the building isn’t suited for any of those things. It was built as a dance hall and venue and that is what it is best suited to be. Trying to convert it into something else would not be cost effective and it is highly likely that the current funders could pull out.

Why don’t we just let it fall down or knock it down? Because that wouldn’t solve anything and would still cost a considerable amount of money. Rothesay Pavilion is a Grade A listed building so simply letting is fall down is not an option and nor is demolishing it. ‘Mothballing’ the building as a problem for a later date would also solve nothing; the current funding commitment could be lost, the cost of keeping the site safe and secure would be substantial, and we would still have an empty building at the end of the prom and no community venue.

Is it true that the council has sold it off to a private company? No, Argyll and Bute Council own the building and will continue to own the building, even after the work is finished – which is why they are one of the main investors. On completion, it will be leased on a full-repairing commercial lease, for 25 years to Rothesay Pavilion SCIO which is a registered charity.

Is it true that this project has been dreamed up by ‘off-islanders’ with little local involvement? The initiative to save Rothesay Pavilion came from island residents and has taken many years to come to fruition. A major public consultation happened with the local community in 2013-14 to establish what should happen with the building. The results of that formed the basis of the funding applications and plans. To date it has been led by Argyll and Bute Council as the owners of the building, in partnership with Rothesay Pavilion charity which was formed in 2014 to run the Pavilion when it reopens. The board of the charity is made up mainly of local people who have a permanent main residence on Bute. This includes local business owners, arts professionals and charity officers. The Board also has a small number of members who live mainly on the mainland but have a strong connection to Bute, and bring specific expertise to the project.

When will the building work be complete and the building reopened? Building work is due for completion in the summer of 2019 with reopening in the autumn. The first wedding is already in the diary!!

But wasn’t it due to open in 2017? Why is it taking two years longer?! When the original proposal was put together by the council, nearly five years ago, the Pavilion was still in full swing with weddings, meetings and events happening every week. It wasn’t possible to reveal the extent of the damage to the building without pulling down ceilings and walls to see what was going on. That would have compromised public safety in using the building. With asbestos present, it was essential to wait until the building was closed to carry out a full investigation. The Pavilion closed its doors to the public in September 2015 and was vacated a month later. It was only then that it was possible to see the sheer size of the undertaking and what it would cost. At this point a sensible decision was taken to split the work into two phases. The first ‘enabling’ phase took place in 2016 and was mainly internal works, including investigative works, asbestos removal, removal of services, protecton of historic features and specialist concrete repairs throughout the whole building. The funding gap (see below) also needed to be filled and that took several months – going back to existing funders for additional support and finding new funders to join the table. On completion of Phase 1, the tendering process commenced for Phase 2, which is the main contract. This is a hugely complicated piece of work as it involves the sympathetic restoration and refurbishment of a Grade A listed building, and the procurement exercise is governed by public procurement regulations, all of which meant that it took several months from the publication of the Contract Notice to the point that we are at now, where the main contract will be awarded within the next couple of weeks. The tenders went out in February 2017 to five contractors who had previously expressed an interest, but only four were returned in March 2017, and all were considerably over the tender estimates. A period of ‘value engineering’ followed, where we were tasked with trying to reduce costs without diluting those elements of the building that gave it its’ ‘importance’. The costs were reduced by over £1million through this process. The revised tender documents were reissued shortly after and of the four contractors, just two returned bids.  On the basis of these two bids, in September 2017, the funders agreed the final piece in the funding jigsaw and granted the project ‘permission to start’ in early November. This means that the contract can now be awarded to the successful bidder in time for works to start on site before Christmas.

In 2015 the cost was £8million, now it is £14million. Why has it suddenly gone up by £6million?

It hasn’t. The figure of £8million was an estimate prepared while the building was still operational and before the full investigation could be carried out. It was used to inform the initial funding bids. Only after the building had closed in 2015 was the full extent of the project known and an accurate revised costing was prepared of £14million. That final figure has been public knowledge for a long time and has been available on our website. The £14million includes all of the work that has already happened on site in the first Phase as well as everything to come, right through to reopening, including a full programme of heritage interpretation activities and full fitting out costs (desks, chairs, computers etc). It is worth noting that the De La Warr Pavilion restoration, over 10 years ago, cost £7million, and there were a lot of cutbacks and compromises, which they are now having to deal with a decade later. It is much harder to go back for more money after the project is finished so we want to get it right first time.