Demolition ‘an option’ for Felixstowe theatre

Felixstowe’s Spa Pavilion theatre is under threat of demolition after the local council failed in its initial bid to find a new operator for it.

The 900-seat theatre was put up for sale or lease last December after the council announced it could no longer afford the £250,000 annual subsidy for the company running the venue, Openwide International.

Following an unsuccessful application from a local group that hoped to keep the venue as a theatre, Suffolk Coastal District Council will now put the bidding process to the open market.

The council said the first round of bidding was aimed at entertainment and leisure companies that would be able to sustain the venue as a performance space, but the new process will be open to any company that can add to the tourist and cultural facilities in Felixstowe.

This includes the possibility of demolition to make way for a new venue.

A spokesman for Suffolk Coastal District Council said: “Demolition is not off of the agenda. Someone could come up with an alternative theatre for the site, which involves knocking it down. It could be rebuilt with modern features and a more efficient capacity level – the Spa Pavilion at current capacity is clearly too big for Felixstowe.

“The council actively sought someone to take over the building and continue to run it as a theatre. To date these efforts have proved unsuccessful, and while we hope that this latest bidding process will attract fresh and realistic proposals, we also have to address the possibility that the Spa Pavilion’s future may not be exclusively as a theatre.”

Lisa Hardy, a co-ordinator of local group Spa Pavilion Associates, which entered and then withdrew its bid to lease the venue after it was deemed financially unviable by the council, said she doubted that demolition would lead to another theatre being built.

“Spa Pavilion Associates definitely does not want to see the building demolished. Felixstowe needs a theatre and if [a new company] went as far to demolish the theatre I doubt very much there would be another one in Felixstowe again,” she said.

The council said it expected to have the new bidding procedure, which it claimed would be less restrictive than the first one, in place by September, with the closing date for new business plans six weeks after that. It maintained that it would prefer not to see offices or homes built on the site.

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