Community fight on to save Brodick Hall

Dark skies loom over Brodick Hall on Wednesday as councillors discussed its future.

Want to read more?

We value our content and our journalists, so to get full access to all your local news updated 7-days-a-week – PLUS an e-edition of the Arran Banner – subscribe today for as little as 48 pence per week.

Already a subscriber?


Problems logging in and require
technical support? Click here
Subscribe Now

The entire future of Brodick Hall has been plunged into doubt after North Ayrshire Council agreed this week to press ahead with plans with a Community Asset Transfer of the facility.

That would see the council wash its hands of responsibility for the hall leaving an existing or new community group to take up the lease and run and manage the hall – but no one has expressed an interest.

As well as the wide range of community events held at the hall, it is also home to Brodick Nursery which has been seeking approval for plans to alter the hall to better suit their needs.

The move, taken at a full meeting of the council online on Wednesday, would also put the future of the range of the Arran library services, currently housed in Brodick Hall, in serious doubt.

The consultation into community facilities has been one of the largest ever to be undertaken in North Ayrshire, involving thousands of residents whose views, the council says, have directly shaped the proposals.

Over the past three years, the council has carried out three different phases of engagement and consultation, with the most recent phase being carried out between March and May this year.

Taking the proposed community centres and libraries out of the council’s portfolio would save the council £1 million, according to estimates.

However Arran Conservative Councillor Timothy Billings did receive an assurance that the council would retain the services if no one wanted to take them over.

Executive director Audrey Sutton said: ‘Services will be retained on the island, however we will work with interested parties should they come forward.’

There has been criticism that the consultation was not advertised widely enough, despite the best efforts of the Arran Banner to make the public aware of it, and the council has agreed to review the feedback.

During the consultation the council received 70 comments against the Community Asset Transfer of Brodick Hall, with just 10 comments in favour, with real concerns expressed that the building will not reopen after the pandemic.

‘The proposal is not to close the

hall but to look at different

management arrangements’

In mitigation the council say the proposal is not to close the hall but to look at different management arrangements in discussion with the Brodick Hall Committee and early years class.

A report to the council states: ‘Early year provision on the island is required and additional space needed under the expansion of early years guidelines. The changes required to transform part of the building are significant enough to require a consultation so that all services can be maintained with more flexible use of the space.

‘The Community Wealth Building Strategy and Community Asset Transfer process supports community ownership. The council is working with the committee and early years class to explore how the community can have control of their local land and assets.

‘Specialists in Community Wealth Building, funding officer and community economic development officer and locality officers are in place to offer support. Although a Category B listed building this would not preclude asset transfer, which carried further
consultation requirements.

‘There is space within the building with more flexible sharing arrangements. Discussions between the committee and early years class will be supported by council officers.

The recommendation accepted by the council is to: ‘Work together to progress the discussions regarding a lease or a Community Asset Transfer, taking into account the comments about existing lessees’ needs.’

The council says the services provided by Arran Library will be ‘a key stakeholder in any discussions around the transformation or ownership of the hall’ as a Community Hub approach is adopted to reflect the learning from Covid.

However, during the consultation there were 65 comments in opposition to this, with just 16 in favour.

There were concerns at the loss of amenities and facilities, in particular digital access, opening hours, reductions in the book budget and of the impact of integration of library services.

However, in the report the council states: ‘Library services and digital services will be maintained from the exiting building and mobile will continue to serve the rest of the island. The new model for libraries will include similar opening hours for Call, Click and Collect, Browse and Borrow, digital access and targeted work with specific groups, such as Bookbug and class visits. This will be provided by a mix of library and Connected Communities staff.

‘The sharing of space will be mitigated by flexible layouts, provision of laptops and moveable shelving. This enables multiple services, rather than multiple buildings, to be retained.’

The recommendation accepted by the council is to: ‘Work together to progress the proposals with others in the building and be flexible as to how the space is used.’

Under the proposals the Arran Outdoor Education Centre in Lamlash would become a council locality hub – it has operated as such during the pandemic.

Labour council leader Joe Cullinane said it was the most important decision the council would make in this term and described the facilities as the ‘social fabric that brings communities together.’

The council unanimously approved the report.

The North Ayrshire Council sign outside the hall.