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GOING AHEAD: Hoylake Town Hall project update

GOING AHEAD: Hoylake Town Hall project update

The Beacon as it looks currently

A huge project set to overhaul Hoylake’s former town hall is still going ahead, despite the “huge disruption” caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some in the Wirral seaside town feared that The Beacon Arts Village project had been ditched based on the slow progress of the scheme since the virus broke out.

However, the project, which follows a successful application for £3.6m of grant funding from the government’s Coastal Communities Fund, is set to be delivered.

Once complete, The Beacon will feature a two-screen cinema, a restaurant, bar and café bistro, as well as 18 creative studio and retail spaces for artists and makers.

Hylgar Properties, the developer and owners of the site, said the majority of restoration, refurbishment and modernisation work has now been completed and the project is still progressing.

Given this progress, it is now at the point of being fitted out, but the country-wide issue of recruitment and increased materials and equipment costs are further delaying its completion.

David Burke, of Hylgar Properties, said: “In the face of huge and inevitable disruption to supply chains, contractor delays, suppliers’ business struggles, furloughing and movement restrictions, we have pushed on with the renovation of the building and we are really thankful to the dedication of the key teams involved, which has allowed us to come as far as we have in exceptionally difficult circumstances.

“Like everyone else we are frustrated that the physical works have slowed down this year and apologise for any concern that this is causing in the area but work at the Beacon has been continuing behind the scenes.

“For example, discussions with cinema partners have been taking place and our food and beverage partners remain very much on board and are as passionate as ever.”

Mr Burke said the pandemic has not gone away.

He added: “It is, of course, in no one’s interests to have an unfinished project and a vacant building, but this is a complex undertaking and there are hard economic facts that are impossible to ignore which are affecting further progress and are likely to for some time.

“The hospitality and leisure sectors have been among the worst hit in the last 20 months and even though restrictions have been lifted, the full impact of the pandemic has yet to be seen, nor has Covid-19 gone away with further restrictions in the coming months a possibility.

“Managing the presence of Covid-19 is now proving a balancing act across all sectors.”

The cinema industry itself has been particularly badly hit during the last two years, with industry experts saying that while there are strong signs of a recovery, there is still uncertainty and more Covid-19 restrictions would create further challenges.

Mr Burke added: “Despite a spike in [cinema] admissions to a monthly pre-pandemic level during October 2021 with blockbusters like No Time To Die, Dune and Venom, since March 2020 the cinema industry has only performed at a much lower level than in 2019.

“While the signs are good, the industry is not out of the woods and prospects for a newly created independent cinema are precarious.

“We also have the same challenges around staff recruitment as almost every economic sector.

“For the Beacon project partners this is not just about hiring staff either, it’s also about hiring quality staff across four businesses and there are just not the numbers needed at the moment.”

Therefore, at this time Mr Burke could not give any confirmation on when new attractions may open.

He continued: “Additionally, time is needed for training in order to hit the ground running when we open the doors.

“We have no date for opening yet and given all the uncertainty, undoubtedly the businesses would struggle if they opened any time soon. It’s vital that they trade profitably and at the moment a further delay is the most sensible and least risky approach.

“From the start, the Beacon has been developed to help inject new life into the town, to deliver sustainable economic growth and job creation and its potential as a transformational project for Hoylake and the Wirral remains.

“I myself can’t wait to visit when it’s complete to watch a film and have a bite to eat.”

 

Words: George Morgan, Local Democracy Reporter


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