Cambridge arts centre plans dropped

Beatrice McCartney 24 October 2017

Leading Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors in both the City and Country councils have expressed their disappointment at the rejection by the Conservatives at the Cambridgeshire County Council of the plan for a national arts, education and research centre to be built in the north of the city.

In June 2017, the Arts Council awarded a £1,000,000 grant to Cambridgeshire County Council for the development of the CREATE (Centre for Research and Engagement in Arts, Technology and Education) project, to be located near some of the most deprived areas of Cambridge. The project would have also enabled educational content to be live streamed to homes and schools across Cambridgeshire.

The plan involved the redevelopment of St Luke’s Barn, however Tory councillors on the County Commercial and Investment Committee have now decided to sell St Luke’s Barn, meaning the likely loss of the £1,000,000 grant for the CREATE project.

Speaking to Cambridge News, Lucy Nethsingha, the Lib Dem leader at the County Council, expressed her disappointment: “I am horrified that the Conservatives have made this decision in the same week that they have voted to close a huge number of the county's children’s centres.”

“Time and again the Conservatives seem to put the needs of children and young people at the bottom of the list."

“The value of this site to the County Council in terms of a capital receipt is minimal, and there is no guarantee they will be able to sell it at all, given the constraints of the site. The value to educational opportunity in Cambridgeshire could have been huge.”

“They are selling off our children’s educational opportunities for a short-term gain. I am disgusted."

Joshua Schumann, Tory member of the Cambridgeshire County Council, has since defended the decision, arguing that the site was not ideal for the project and that only £1 million had been secured for the project when the overall cost was estimated to be around £3.6 million.

Although alternative sites are being sought out, there are fears that without the grant, the plan may not go ahead.