Weymouth Pavilion Theatre under threat of closure

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Weymouth Pavilion Theatre faces closure or demolition, if a voluntary or private group cannot be found to run the building.

At a meeting this week, Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, which owns the venue, considered several options to cut future costs.

Its current annual subsidy for the theatre stands at around £400,000 per year, but the need for essential maintenance work means the venue is expected to cost around £700,000 per year to run from the 2013 tax year. The council needs to cut its overall annual spending by £3.9 million by 2019/20.

In the draft budget report to council members, a proposal was made to “close the pavilion, demolish the building and reinstate the area as a car park”.

The document also stated that a “key learning point” from the 2012 Cultural Olympiad was that “you don’t need to have a physical building to deliver an arts and cultural programme”.

If the building were to close, a borough-wide arts and culture programme has been suggested, which would be funded by £100,000 per annum from the council.

A decision on the pavilion’s future is expected in February, when the council meets to assess the budget in full.

In the meantime, the local authority will be inviting groups to put forward offers to run the building independently, and without subsidy from the council. Meanwhile, the council's proposals will go out to public consultation.

Peter Chapman, Weymouth and Portland Borough Council brief holder for finance and assets, said: “These are unprecedented tough times for the local economy, and over the past two years the amount of money the borough council receives from the government has fallen by 28%. Further large cuts are anticipated until 2019/20.

“The future of Weymouth Pavilion was debated, and it is clear that the council simply cannot continue to subsidise the complex as the situation stands.”

He added: “We will look into options for private or voluntary groups to take on the Pavilion, and we will assist with all the detailed financial analysis. If this does not happen, the option is to close the complex.”