Issue - meetings

Octagon Project Update

Meeting: 04/10/2023 - Executive (Item 49)

49 Octagon Project Update pdf icon PDF 123 KB

To consider the report.


Additional documents:


Following consideration of the officer report, appendices and discussion, the Executive:


a.        Confirmed its commitment to the Octagon project as a flagship venue to deliver arts and culture services in Yeovil for Somerset.


b.        Acknowledged that the current business case could no longer be met, and a revised business case would be necessary.


c.        Acknowledged the revenue financial pressure created by the works to date and instructed Officers to explore mitigations to these costs. 


d.        Instructed officers to continue to work with the Department for Culture Media and Sports (DCMS) and Arts Council England (ACE) to find a viable Octagon business case to deliver cultural services in Yeovil for Somerset. 


e.        Instructed work to be overseen by the Octagon Theatre Redevelopment Project Board in collaboration with all partners and that we worked with partners to mitigate the economic impacts of the optimum closure in Yeovil.


f.        Confirmed that we would work with partners to mitigate the current economic impact of the closure of the Octagon.


ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS CONSIDERED: As set out in the officer report


REASON FOR DECISION: As set out in the officer report



The Leader of the Council and Lead Member for Governance and Communications, Cllr Bill Revans, invited the Lead Member for Communities, Housing and Culture, Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts, to introduce the report.


The Lead Member for Communities, Housing and Culture, Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts, introduced the report, highlighting; that the report is a position update following the challenges and issues that have emerged since the original business case decision of the former South Somerset District Council (SSDC); the cultural, community and economical value of Octagon Theatre; that the report is not critical of the previous business case or the decision of SSDC; the conditions have changed beyond those that could reasonably have been foreseen at the time of approval; the £10m grant from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, which was the largest given at that time and a third of its total grant; and the commitment to arts and culture and the exploration of all options available to continue the Octagon being a flagship venue.


The Director of Community Services, Chris Hall, with the aid of PowerPoint presentation, presented the report, highlighting: that the report does not review the full business case; the focus on the significant funding pressures identified; summarised the approved SSDC business case; that the report identifies a range of issues that have emerged since the original business case was approved; that the report sets out the financial pressures in both revenue and capital resources during the pre-construction, and construction phases; the report sets out further financial pressures due to the increased borrowing costs and that it is no longer possible to give assurance to Members that the future taxpayer-funded revenue costs can be met. The Executive Director further summarised the changes affecting the business case, potential mitigations, risks, and next steps; and confirmed that debt servicing costs increased from c£245k pa to c£1,055k pa (the published presentation advised c£285k pa).


The Leader of the Council and Lead Member for Governance and Communications, Cllr Bill Revans, invited comments from other Members present, questions and points raised included: future options appraisal and revised approval to reopen, including funding, capital and revenue scheme unknowns, future options funding, commissioned survey input, venue safety, programme and production time,  partnership working and timelines; the significant long term benefit to the local community, and the local and regional economy; the divesting of former SSDC resources and assets, including capital receipts and the requirement to budget for the whole of Somerset as one Council; the duty to all the people in Somerset when making decisions for the whole of Somerset; the transparent and open communication with Council members; the central Government financial situation affecting Councils and projects both locally and nationally; the Octagon as a building for the whole of Somerset; the local economic impacts of closure of the theatre; the operation, use and ownership Westlands Leisure Venue and opportunity for future use; the meeting frequency, oversight and reporting of the Octagon Board; modelling and forecasting based on inflation and interest rates and external  ...  view the full minutes text for item 49