Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting WONEWS to 80360, or email
MP ‘guns blazing’ over Otley Civic Centre
Otley’s MP has weighed in on the debate over the future of the Civic Centre.
Greg Mulholland (Lib Dem, Leeds North West) says it is essential Otley Town Council abandons its proposed move to a new base if the historic building is to re-open.
Instead, the MP is writing to councillors urging them to tie the town council to a refurbished civic centre and hold all their meetings there.
Councillors have hit back by accusing Mr Mulholland of “wading in all guns blazing” before checking the facts – and insist negotiations, which could see refurbishment begin this year are already nearing completion.
Mr Mulholland, however, said: “We need action this year. Refurbishment will only proceed if the town council is unequivocally committed to using the building and to it being their seat.
“It is clear Leeds City Council (the owners) will not proceed with costly refurbishment without this clear commitment.
“People in Otley need honesty over the future of the civic centre and the implications of the plans to rent an expensive new town council office and shop. The commitment from the town council towards the refurbishment is £500,000, which they would have to borrow at a cost of about £40,000 a year.
“The council is now, however, opting to spend £50,000 refurbishing Orchard Gate offices. This, on top of upkeep and running costs, would mean they simply could not afford both.”
Town council leader Councillor John Eveleigh (Lab, Ashfield) dismissed Mr Mulholland's comments as “misinformed” and unhelpful.
He said: “We have made the reopening of a fully refurbished civic centre a key priority but Mr Mulholland seems to fail to understand that refurbishment alone will only deliver one part of the project.
“Key to the success will be our ability to identify revenue streams for the estimated £120,000 per annum the building will cost to run.
“I don’t think the city council was in any doubt about our commitment to the civic centre, and I hope our MP’s intervention hasn’t raised any doubts.”
Defending the council's decision to relocate from its current – non-wheelchair accessible – base in Bay Horse Court to Orchard Gate, he added: “Our strategic direction is to move to a situation where we can start to deliver local services for local people. The information centre is key to that and it is totally wrong to suggest that by having a town centre information hub, working in partnership with others, we are abandoning the civic centre.”
Councillor Carl Morris (Lab, Manor) said: “Before Mr Mulholland wades in with all guns blazing, perhaps he should take a little more time to read the letter I wrote in this paper.
“As explained, we’re currently nearing the end of negotiations that will hopefully see work commencing later this year.”