The chief executive of Fairfield Halls fears the venue might never reopen if it closes for two years of redevelopment, it was claimed last night.

Simon Thomsett has sent a letter to all members of Croydon Council’s cabinet expressing concerns that Labour’s planned £12m upgrade for the halls could jeopardise the future of the concert hall.

The plans would see Fairfield closed as early as next spring next year, with a planned reopening date of 2018.

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The council's Conservative opposition group argued for a phased redevelopment over a longer time period that would not result in prolonged closure.

At last night’s cabinet meeting, councillors on both sides of the aisle accused each other of playing politics with the future of Croydon’s biggest cultural venue.

Referring to the letter from Mr Thomsett, councillor Tim Pollard expressed concern about the level of input from Fairfield in Labour’s plans.

He said: "This scheme is potentially a disaster. The idea that we close Fairfield Halls for two and half years and then expect it to re-open afterwards — what happens if the property market takes a downturn?"

Addressing Labour council leader Tony Newman, Coun Pollard added: "There is a very significant risk that any kind of economic downturn will result in a closed Fairfield, part refurbished, and a scheme that collapses around your ears… you will then be responsible for the destruction of the key cultural asset in this borough. I hope you are prepared for that."

Coun Newman accused the opposition leader of "incredible negativity".

Conservative councillor Lynne Hale said her group were not opposed to the principle of redeveloping the halls, but raised the potential for job losses as a result of the project.

She said: "You’ve got a large number of staff at Fairfield who are jittering."

Coun Alison Butler said there were daily discussions taking place with the Fairfield board about jobs. 

She also claimed the phased closure plan preferred by the Conservatives would cost an additional £4.8 million.

 Mr Newman also said there was an interim plan in place to provide schoolchildren who would otherwise visit Fairfield Halls to take part in different cultural activities around the borough.

Councillor Stuart Collins said: "The film Shawshank Redemption says, ‘Fear holds you prisoner, but hope sets you free’.  But your side, every time something comes up, you never go to hope. It’s always about fear. One thing that will set the Fairfields free is giving it hope.

"Stop being down on everything and negative."