EDDC bosses to discuss new parking charges at Sidmouth theatre

Sidmouth Manor Pavilion.
Picture by Alex Walton. shs 9673-29-10AW

Sidmouth Manor Pavilion. Picture by Alex Walton. shs 9673-29-10AW - Credit: Archant

Council chiefs will have their say on controversial plans to charge for parking at a Sidmouth theatre when they meet on Wednesday (April 5).

Critics slammed the pay-and-display proposals as ‘unworkable’ when they were first revealed but owner East Devon District Council (EDDC) said the 21 bays could bring in up to £30,000 to invest in the Manor Pavilion.

The authority also wants to clamp down on the non-theatregoers who take advantage of the free car park and address the ‘chronic’ lack of parking in Sidmouth.

Councillor John O’Leary, EDDC’s lead councillor for culture, said: “[The Manor Pavilion and the Thelma Hulbert Gallery] have an important role to play in the district, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to support them financially, and we have to become more commercial if we are to remain committed to their financial sustainability.

“While I appreciate that not everyone will be happy with a pay-and-display car park at the theatre, we do not believe it will disrupt the everyday use of the theatre.

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“The creation of this pay-and-display car park will also help alleviate the chronic lack of public parking that Sidmouth suffers from and so will be good for shoppers as well as local businesses in the town.”

Critics of the proposals raised concerns about the impact on ticket buyers, especially when there is a queue, volunteers who give their time freely and those who use the venue during the day.

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Cllr Cathy Gardner urged any groups against the charges to address Wednesday’s meeting, or lobby her and her Sidmouth colleagues to speak on their behalf.

According to the cabinet papers, anyone buying tickets would be given 10 minutes’ grace before parking wardens take action.

The car park would allow a maximum stay of three hours, between 8am to 8pm on any day, at a cost of £1 per hour. As most evening shows start between 7.30pm and 7.45pm, theatregoers would have to pay another £1 for their evening entertainment.

For hirers of the venue, there would be a separate entrance and exit to enable them to bring sets in and out.

This will form part of a planned segregated parking area for theatre use only, allowing room for vans to turn and park next to the theatre for ease of unloading, and where theatre staff will be able to park.

This zone and its entrance/exit will be completely separate from the main 21-space pay-and-display car park.

It will cost around £10,000 to upgrade the car park and could bring in between £20,000 and £30,000 in the first year.

The matter will be discussed by cabinet members at Knowle from 5.30pm.

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