Pay-and-display at Sidmouth theatre ‘unworkable’

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

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

Plans to introduce pay-and-display parking at Sidmouth’s Manor Pavilion Theatre have been dismissed as ‘unworkable’ by venue users – who say they were not consulted.

The move, aimed at raising £30,000 a year for owner East Devon District Council (EDDC) to reinvest in the theatre, was first proposed in the authority’s budget and was set for approval at last week’s full council meeting.

However, Councillor Roger Giles, whose scrutiny committee considered the plans, said he did not realise key users had not been consulted and called for the proposals to be reviewed.

Speaking at the meeting, Graham Liverton, who chairs the Manor Pavilion’s steering committee, said: “Why did I first have to read of this in the paper? Surely it would have been common courtesy for you to have invited me, or someone from my committee, to give an opinion on this serious proposal? We have been totally ignored.

“I was told all the profit will go directly back to the Manor Pavilion. Call me a cynic, but I cannot believe that that will actually happen.”

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He said its size meant charging for the Temple Street car park was judged unviable when he was a district councillor – and the theatre’s is even smaller. He was told EDDC hopes to create between 17 and 20 spaces on the site.

Mr Liverton’s wife Ann, who volunteers in a front-of-house role during some productions, told the Herald: “If someone like me is doing front-of-house voluntarily, we’re going to have to spend £5 a day for the privilege. They haven’t consulted the people that use the theatre. There are all sorts of unseen issues – it’s unworkable.”

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She said charging would also impact on those buying tickets and could leave the car park full when theatregoers, performers or technicians need to use it. Sidmouth Society of Decorative and Fine Arts chairman Christine Wallace said many of her members have difficulty walking and hers is one of many organisations that will be adversely affected by changes, she says, will halve the number of available spaces.

Agenda papers state it would cost around £10,000 to make the car park pay-and-display and the move will bring in between £20,000 and £30,000 in the first year.

Councillor Iain Chubb, portfolio holder for the environment, told last week’s meeting that budget cuts had brought about the closure of two theatres in North Devon and revenue from the parking charges would go back to the Manor Pavilion. He said there would be a period of consultation ahead of their introduction.

Cllr Giles told the Herald the scheme was raised at a joint meeting of the overview and scrutiny committees in January – but there was no indication the proposals were controversial. He learned at last week’s meeting neither the theatre’s steering committee, nor Sidmouth ward members, had been consulted. He hopes to add it to the scrutiny committee’s agenda on March 30, when interested parties will be able to have their say.

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