Future of Sidmouth's theatre under unitary authority questioned

SIDMOUTH S theatre could be threatened if a unitary authority supersedes Devon s district councils.

SIDMOUTH'S theatre could be threatened if a unitary authority supersedes Devon's district councils.

Although East Devon District Council says it is too soon to know what will be done with theatre if the Boundary Committee favours a unitary council, town councillors want to ensure it's future is safe.

At their February monthly meeting, councillors wondered if the theatre and cinema would be taken on by Leisure East Devon, (LED) set up by EDDC, if the council goes.

"We now move in uncertain times. Sidmouth is loathed to lose Manor Pavilion," said Councillor Tony Reed.

He asked John Mickelthwait, chairman of Leisure East Devon, who addressed the council about its role, if LED would administer it in the same way it did Exmouth Pavilions.

Mr Mickelthwait said: "Personally I feel a unitary authority will not be interested in spending a lot of money on what they see as a small theatre."

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Councillor Graham Liverton said he felt the theatre was sacrosanct.

He said: "I know a lot of people in Sidmouth believe it is a lovely, intimate theatre that must be kept, no matter how. It must be preserved."

He said East Devon District Council had propped it up financially, but to a lesser degree now.

"It is a lovely, unique theatre and Sidmouth should be proud of it. If LED wants to take it over to secure it then so be it because it is so important to us all."

Councillor Tom Cox, chairman, expressed concern over what might happen to local projects if the district council lost its fight in the Boundary Committee's unitary deliberations.

"I have a certain sense of dread about that. Things created locally as assets may move away and we lose control of them," he said.

As EDDC is its landlords, owning the properties LED runs, Mr Mickelthwait said if replaced by a unitary council, new contracts would have to be drawn up transferring these assets.