Coventry’s iconic Elephant building will not be demolished with discussions for its future use still on-going, the city’s regeneration chief has assured.
Councillors voted for the closure of Coventry Sports and Leisure Centre, which the Elephant forms part of, early in 2019, with the site shutting in February this year.
But more than 18 months on from that vote, there has been little detail on its future.
However, cabinet member for jobs and regeneration Cllr Jim O’Boyle has now revealed the authority entered into an ‘exclusivity agreement’ with a developer to draw up some “very exciting plans” for the landmark building in February.
A current agreement – which means the council agrees not to negotiate with another prospective party for a period of time – ends in November, but is due to be extended for a further six months until May 2021.
Although not giving detail on what the Elephant building could become, Cllr O’Boyle poured cold water on suggestions it will be pulled down after a petition calling to ‘save’ it from demolition attracted almost 900 signatures in the space of just a few weeks.
“There are no plans to knock down the Elephant and there never has been,” he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
“We do not have to save the Elephant because it is not at threat.
“We have entered into an exclusivity agreement and are coming up with plans to do with the Elephant and the whole of the Sports and Leisure Centre including the swimming pool.
“I cannot tell you what the plans are going to be as that work has not been finished yet.
“I am very confident with the calibre of organisation we are working with we will come up with some very exciting plans. They are a credible organisation and I am very confident with that.”
The petition on the Elephant building – lodged by Ian Rogers, leader of the newly-formed Coventry Citizens Party – is also calling for it to be transformed into an arts centre with a rooftop bar terrace.
Utilising the space for arts and events would be an important part of Coventry’s City of Culture legacy, Mr Rogers said.
He added: “The Coventry Elephant is an important part of the city’s culture and heritage. It is an iconic building and a symbol which represents the city.
“With some creative vision the council can make the elephant even more modern than when it was first built.”
Asked if the idea was to keep the Elephant building in public use, Cllr O’Boyle added: “In an ideal world, yes.
“Lots of people have lots of ideas about what to do with these buildings but unless you get the finances behind that all it is is ideas.
“That is why we have extended into an exclusivity agreement with a good partner who have a great track record.”
The petition can be viewed at https://bit.ly/3gRQHh5.
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