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Fareham venue set to leave council management after revamp

Plans have been revealed for a multimillion-pound redevelopment of Ferneham Hall in Fareham, under which the venue would leave council management.

If the plans are approved, the capacity of the main auditorium will be reduced from 708 seats to 400.

According to Fareham Borough Council, about half the venue’s seats are currently empty during performances.

A second auditorium featuring a screen and projector will be added, along with community rooms and a dance centre, allowing the venue to operate as a community centre alongside the professional theatre. The remodelled venue will be fully accessible and includes a new lift.

While the final cost of the project has not been determined, the council plans to fund the development through Community Infrastructure Levy contributions – a planning charge on other developments.

Fareham Borough Council is proposing that the venue should be managed by a leisure trust on a not-for-profit basis.

According to the council, the venue currently operates at an annual deficit of about £400,000, and the new operator would be expected to manage the remodelled venue as a commercial operation, which would eventually no longer need subsidy from the council.

The council will invite prospective operators to bid for the venue later this year.

If the plans are approved, the council plans to close Ferneham Hall towards the end of 2019 for up to two years while the works are carried out.

Executive member for leisure at Fareham Borough Council Sue Bell said: “Our vision is to provide a busy community and entertainment venue that includes daytime and evening activity, seven days a week. Our new-look facilities would enable us to offer a great choice of entertainment to residents and provide local community facilities for those living in and around the town centre.”

Fareham Borough Council will be launching a consultation next week to gather views on the proposals from industry figures and members of the public.