SUPPORTERS of ambitious plans to redevelop a defunct arts centre will soon learn whether it has attracted a major funding package.
The Arts Council is due to announce on January 22 whether it will award £2m to help kick-start the scheme to revive Darlington Arts Centre - which closed last July due to council budget cuts.
A proposal by businessmen Graham Thrower and Andy Bottomley could see the Vane Terrace venue re-open as a hotel and cultural hub if initial funding is secured.
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Darlington MP Jenny Chapman raised the issue with Culture Secretary Maria Miller in the House of Commons earlier today (Thursday, January 10).
She said: “I said that it is an exciting, innovative project that won’t rely on public money for its revenue; it is going to be sustainable in a way that such venues rarely are.
“It does need capital investment to get it off the ground and I wanted the ministers to consider it and have a good look at it.”
Ms Chapman admitted that it was “cheeky” to publicly raise the issue with ministers of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport but said she would do whatever she could to help the funding bid.
“I am going to follow it up with a letter because in the situation that I raised it in, you don’t get sensible answers very often.
“I will write and ask if she (Maria Miller) would like to know more and that she would be very welcome to meet with me and discuss the project further.”
The redevelopment plan, titled ‘Project Vane’, would see new commercial parts of the site such as a boutique hotel, restaurant and business units, subsidise a revamped public arts facility.
Darlington Borough Council postponed selling the building in the hope that the scheme will go ahead and Ms Chapman said it would be “tremendous” if it does.
“It would be a real asset to the town; it would be fantastic if we could get this funding.
“This really is a lifeline, it is a very exciting opportunity and it could bring something better than the cultural offering we had before.
“They would be fantastic facilities that would put Darlington on the national map for arts – which is where it should be."