Campaigners calling for a replacement to the demolished Pavilion are setting up a charitable trust to raise funds to help ensure the multi-purpose arts venue becomes a reality.
It comes after council plans for a cinema project in Hemel Hempstead’s Market Square were thrown into doubt following news that a £7million IMAX development at Jarman Park is underway.
Chairman of the campaign group called the Hemel Hempstead Hub, Mike Ridley, who was a user of the Pavilion before it was knocked down in 2002, said: “At a time when there is some doubt as to whether a town like Hemel can support two cinema chains, the option of having a multi-purpose community and arts venue makes more sense than ever, after all the space is there and it looks as if it will remain empty once the rest of the Hemel Evolution scheme is complete.”
Dacorum Borough Council leader Andrew Williams has previously supported the idea of a multi-use venue in principle as long as it is self-sufficient.
The working group say he has offered support in the form of land and investment if they come up with a not-for-profit social enterprise solution.
They are now waiting to hear formally from the council on their proposal to replace the cinema plan with a music and arts venue.
Mr Ridley said: “Let’s be clear, we are not talking about a like-for-like replacement for the Hemel Pavilion. We want a multi-purpose community venue that would offer a venue for various arts and commercial opportunities which would be self-sustaining and offer people a reason to come into the town at night and the weekends”.
When the Pavilion was due to mounting costs, council chiefs at the time promised a replacement but despite several grand plans drawn up since nothing has ever materialised.
The group is hoping to set up a charitable trust with an elected board of trustees, which will raise funds, produce a business plan and seek funding including Lottery grants and council investment.
An advisory panel of business experts and art administrators, who will help shape a future bid, will also be created.
Among the panel are Barry Catchpole, former chief executive of Chiltern District Council and Surrey Heath Borough Council with experience working the Swan in High Wycombe, The Elgiva in Chesham, and the Camberley Theatre in Camberley, Surrey. Margaret Fricker, chairman of education, publicity and events committee at the Box Moor Trust and Brian Doran, from the Dacorum Arts Partnership.