Following a number of enquiries about the future of the Bandstand, we thought that the following update would be helpful.
Firstly, there have been queries about the money allocated to repairs on the Bandstand. To clarify, on March 16, 2020, the council’s Cabinet approved £3m as part of our capital programme for priority works to the Bandstand.
But, a week later on March 23, the Prime Minister put the country into lockdown. This had a catastrophic impact on the economy. Our income from tourism stopped overnight, at the same time that our spending soared as we prioritised support for the most vulnerable in Eastbourne. A reset of our capital programme was required.
The capital programme is not money we have in the bank but money that we borrow for major works and can be repaid from our revenue, but the loss of income as a result of the lockdown impacted greatly on this, hence the need for a reset.
The first stage of this is £750,000 for repairs to the stage and to address health and safety issues. Subject to approval by Full Council on February 23, this work will take place this year and the Bandstand will reopen in time for the 2023 season.
There is another fundamental consideration that is being overlooked. We are working with the Environment Agency on a £100 million flood defence project. It is the largest project of its kind in the country and it will bring major changes to our seafront and promenade. It will protect homes and property for the next 100 years from rising sea levels.
With this in mind, it makes no sense to spend millions of pounds of public money on the Bandstand at this time, when we don’t yet know how it will be impacted by the new layout of the promenade. It could be a complete waste of money if we did.
The timing of the repairs is largely a consequence of the pandemic. For the past two years no one has known how long we would be in the grip of Covid-19 and the restrictions on everyday life, highlighted by advance of the Omicron variant. The essential services that many people rely on came first, not repairs to the Bandstand.
Finally, the Bandstand is nearly 90 years old. It is built on a beach and every year it is battered by winter storms. Like all monuments of great age, it suffers with more problems with every year that passes.
However, while residents understand why spending on frontline services such as housing and helping the homeless must come first, we will always do what is needed to ensure audiences continue to visit this much-loved landmark for generations to come.