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Neptune Theatre row resolved

Refurb of mothballed venue gets go-ahead after Joe Anderson gets stuck in

Published on August 3rd 2010.


Neptune Theatre row resolved
WHEN Liverpool Corporation renamed the Crane Music Hall “Neptune”, in 1967, it was intended to reflect the city's maritime heritage.

Acquired to be “run by the people, for the people”, little could the civic burghers of the time have known that its name would become associated more with the choppy seas of money, politics and mixed fortune than any am-dram production of HMS Pinafore it might stage there.

Now just weeks after it was placed on a national register of theatres “at risk” - a result of years of neglect in an impasse over leasehold terms – the city council has received consent from the landlords to refurbish it - after personal intervention by Joe Anderson.

Doors at the Neptune closed five years ago on health and safety grounds. The council, who owns the freehold, had originally earmarked £700,000 to carry out remedial works. These included a complete overhaul of the electrics, paint and plasterwork, replacing the current roller door with a mahogany entrance and making the venue accessible to disabled people.

It was due to open in time for the city's year as European Capital of Culture 2008, but of course that never happened: a legal disagreement over the terms of the renewal of the council's lease stalled the job.

Hanover Estates, the leaseholders of Hanover House, which contains the Neptune, had been charging the council £6,000 a year to rent it back, and it wanted to up the rent to £35,000. It argued the old rent wouldn’t even pay for a one-bedroomed flat in the city centre.

The council offered £10,000. Others joined the fray, including the team running the Royal Court.

Hanover also wanted the lease to be extended from its current 38 years to 125. And then it all became stuck in arbitration.

But in what appears to be a victory for common sense, the new leader of Liverpool City Council has has stepped in to settle the row with Hanover.

Councillor Anderson said: ''It's been nothing short of a travesty for Liverpool that the Neptune Theatre has been in mothballs these past five years.

''The Neptune was a vital stepping stone in Liverpool's comedy and theatre land, providing countless people of all ages down the years with their first experience of performing at a major city centre venue.”

Following this political crowd pleaser, it is hoped that builders could begin within the month to upgrade the 97-year-old theatre with the curtain potentially rising on shows by summer next year.

The council says it will be inviting expressions of interest from parties with appropriate experience to run and manage the theatre and hope to appoint an operator in the new year.

As part of the agreement, independent surveyors will re-assess the length of the lease of Hanover House which landlord David Ramsey, of Hanover Estates, has from the city council for the next 38 years.

Mr Ramsey who has managed Hanover House since 1985, said: ''This agreement is fantastic news and I'm pleased that Councillor Anderson has taken the initiative to resolve some of the issues holding this redevelopment back.

''I have a deep personal affection for this theatre and have great childhood memories. No one will be happier than me on the day it re-opens.''

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Curt AincallAugust 3rd 2010.

The Royal Court has been vandalised to hell over the last 35 years. Don't let the Neptune go the same way!

AnonymousAugust 3rd 2010.

Ah, 'doing a Bluecoat' as it's known.

Bernard DelfontAugust 3rd 2010.

Of course if the refurbishment is too radical (i.e., ripping out the lovely old craftsman-made panelling, making the lovely bar and auditorium look like a bleak 1970s community centre or students' union) this excellent plan could be scuppered!

Howard N. WyndhamAugust 3rd 2010.

The old white marble and 1930s Art Deco chrome of the toilets were still in place in the Royal Court in 1977. Then they were all looted.

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