Portsmouth Film Society plan to convert Lumps Fort in Southsea into community cinema is scuppered as business case falls through
A FILM society’s dream of turning a military fort into a community cinema looks to be shattered after its business plan failed to stack up.
The bad news for Portsmouth Film Society comes after it spent £4,000 on a proposed takeover of Lumps Fort in Southsea.
Movie lovers hoped to fill the landmark, owned by Portsmouth City Council, with a cinema, a children’s play area, two offices and a cafe.
But the authority said the plan for a refurb with a £100,000 loan from the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) was impossible – because the society does not own the building.
Its founder Aysegul Epengin said she was ‘greatly upset', after the blow came in a letter from the council’s culture director, Stephen Baily.
‘I don’t see what the problem is – for 30 years this building has been neglected and has been used for storage,' she said.
‘Now a community group wants to do something meaningful and make it a cultural centre that doesn't already exist in the PO4 postcode, they can do nothing.'
In its business case for Lumps Fort the society projected making profits after a year, paying £25,000 annually in rent.
On top of the proposed AHF loan it said funding included a £30,000 HSBC loan, £5,000 a year from the British Film Institute's Film Audience Network, £100,000 from two local businessmen and half a year's rent and a £20,000 start-up injection from the Garage Lounge cafe.
But councillor Steve Pitt, the council's deputy boss and cabinet member for culture and city development, said the authority had to reject the bid.
It came after backers of the project slammed the council's decision on social media.
‘I have stayed out of the procurement process because, as cabinet member, that is right and proper,' he said on Facebook.
‘However, at the end of the process, I was shown the business plan and an explanation as to why it was being rejected.
‘PFS proposed to secure a £100,000 loan on the building. It is impossible to borrow money secured against a building which you don't own. This is why the proposal was rejected.’
The society previously missed out on tenders for South Parade Pier, the building used by Parade Tea Rooms in Western Parade and a former Albert Road launderette.
It is understood the third-floor of Portsmouth Central Library is now at the centre of fresh £10,000-a-year talks being supported by Cllr Pitt.