Fort’s future must be decided – soon

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The politician holding responsibility for Island sport says a decision on the future of Fort Regent must be made before January 2019, to avoid further risk of a ‘panicked’ contingency plan for the ageing facility.

Senator Steve Pallett, who in 2017 said the building may be forced to close in ‘single-digit years’ if investment is not found, believes private funding is needed for the iconic building as plans for a new sports facilities strategy evolve.

Suggested future uses for the Fort, which include a university and residential dwellings, may not leave room for sporting activities, but Pallett insists it must still be incorporated in upcoming venue discussions.

‘The decisions we need to make revolve around its future use and how it’s going to be funded,’ he said.

‘At the moment my view is we should be looking at private investment because there’s going to be a lot of pressure on States finances for capital expenditure, from the hospital to schools and new mental health facilities that are required. They’re all tens of millions of pounds of potential spend, so we’ve got to convince Charlie Parker [States chief executive] and the council of ministers that we also need to invest in our sports facilities.

‘We’ve had 45-50 years of the Fort with its current uses and we’ve really got to look at how best to use it in the future. I’d like to think we’ll retain some sport element there, but it could be all sorts of things. It could be education, there could be a level of residential … as a States we need to make a decision around what route we’re going to take. There has been talk of a university and various other things, but we certainly don’t want office space up there.’

Discussing the idea of sourcing private funds for the project, he added: ‘We need to see if there’s anybody out there with some ideas and some money to back it up, and maybe we can partner with them.

‘We want investors to come forward with innovative ideas for future use, but I don’t think we can give them a clean slate. We’ve still got to give them an idea of what we want.

‘I’ve already asked questions about how to get the process up and running again, and it’s got to happen this year.’

However, Pallett admits renovations will have a severe affect on the sports clubs and activities which currently call the Fort their home.

‘If we’re going to refurbish Fort Regent we’re going have to empty it,’ he said. ‘We would need to relocate a lot of sports facilities and it should be through a planned contingency, rather than a panicked or emergency one.

‘Millions of pounds of investment is needed to keep it in a usable state, and we can’t keep kicking that can down the road. We need to make sure the building is fit for purpose and that it’s safe. That’s not suggesting it isn’t at the moment, but we’re doing work on that at the moment to make sure it’s safe for future use.

‘We’ve got people asking us to allow them to put on activities up there and I sympathise with what they want to do because it would boost numbers at the Fort. But we don’t want to enter into five-year lease and find two years in that we’re having to shut parts of it.’

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