THE Arts Council has become the latest organisation asked to fund a conference centre in Gateshead.
Council bosses in Gateshead have asked the quango to put money towards the cost, anywhere up to £80m, with further cash still needed from other organisations. Gateshead has previously been turned down for Government regional growth fund cash for the project.
Funding was also raised with development agency One North East in 2009, shortly before the coalition Government scrapped the organisation.
The council then hoped city development company 1NG would solve the long-running cash problem, but when this proved too difficult a task the regeneration group, set up by Gateshead and Newcastle councils, was closed down.
Before that decision was taken the two local authorities poured more than £4m of taxpayers’ money into the company. The firm, 1NG, oversaw the refit of Newcastle’s Toffee Factory office space but achieved little in the way of new building work.
Gateshead’s latest bid comes as officers delay around £4.9m of investment in the quayside revival. While that investment is held back until later this year, officers say they have spent £50,000 on designs and artist’s impressions of the Conference Centre.
Last night council chief executive, Roger Kelly, said: “The development of an exhibition and conference facility on Gateshead Quays remains one of our priorities as we believe it will deliver major benefits for the economy of Gateshead and the North East.
“We believe the best way of realising that ambition is to work closely with The Sage Gateshead and the Newcastle Gateshead initiative, which already play important roles in supporting the conference and exhibition market in the region.
“A new facility would not only provide a vital boost to our visitor economy, but also support the long-term sustainability of The Sage Gateshead with the potential to host a variety of events, complementary to the existing Gateshead Quays offer.
“We have agreed to set aside £50,000 for development works during the current financial year and are also in the process of bidding for external funding, including to Arts Council England, towards the project. At this stage of the bidding process there is still a lot of detail to be worked out, including full project costs, however we are hopeful that we will be able deliver a successful project.”
A spokesman for the Arts Council said: “We can confirm Gateshead Council has applied for capital funding from Arts Council England. However, as this application is still in the process of being assessed, we cannot make any further comment at this time.”