Parking charges ‘threaten future’ of Sidmouth arts group

Catherine Golding and other members of the Friday Art Group

Catherine Golding and other members of the Friday Art Group - Credit: Archant

Artists say proposed new pay-and-display parking charges at a popular Sidmouth venue will double their costs and could spell their group’s demise after 40 years.

Owner East Devon District Council (EDDC) says the proceeds of up to £30,000 a year will be reinvested in the Manor Pavilion to secure its future.

But users of the adjoining Arts Centre say they have been ‘completely ignored’ and left questioning what its fate will be.

Friday Art Group member Catherine Golding said: “We have guaranteed we will give EDDC £2,000 a year in rent. There should be some recognition of that. They don’t have to do anything about renting the room.

“We get the impression the new charges are inevitable – we don’t want to accept that.

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“We’ve got to speak up for ourselves. It would be an awful shame if, after all these years, we don’t exist any more.”

She said the parking charges would cost each member £90 – around the same as what they each pay for rent of the venue.

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Another member, Roy Smith, said: “EDDC have just completely ignored the Arts Centre. It makes you wonder if there’s another reason. This is going to break the back of the centre.”

The proposals are to spend £10,000 creating 21 spaces in the car park, which an EDDC spokeswoman said has been ‘abused’ for many years.

She addedd: “While some users of the venue are unhappy with the suggested pay-and-display, most users and members of the public understand and appreciate something needs to be done.

“As all the money raised by the car park charges has been ring-fenced to go into the theatre and arts centre, this will secure the future of the venue and also benefit everyone who not only hires the venue but also members of the public who attend the many events and productions.

“All councils are having major cutbacks, and although the venue is very successful, it has to remain successful and must plan for the future.

“All local groups have a 50 per cent discount on hire charges, and the art centre charges have not increased for two years.

“Turning the car park into a pay and display amenity not only resolves the everyday problems, but will also secure the future of this very popular and successful venue, allowing it to move forward and be used and enjoyed by other generations.”

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