Support for new parking charges at Sidmouth theatre

President of SIDDFAS Stuart Hockey with Chairman Christine Wallace anf founder Pam Dunkley in the ca

President of SIDDFAS Stuart Hockey with Chairman Christine Wallace anf founder Pam Dunkley in the car park at Manor Pavilion. Ref shs 14 17TI 0349. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Controversial pay-and-display parking charges at Sidmouth’s Manor Pavilion Theatre have taken step closer to implementation – despite claims it will drive users away from the venue.

Cabinet members were won over by arguments that the proceeds of up to £30,000 would be invested in the venue to help secure its long-term future.

Volunteers, day users and chaperones for young performers said they will be hardest hit, but owner East Devon District Council (EDDC) says the new charges will give the theatre’s staff greater control.

Graham Liverton, who chairs the Manor Pavilion steering group, told Wednesday’s cabinet meeting: “At this 11th hour, I am asking for reason and common sense to prevail. The theatre is a public service paid for by via our council tax.

“Why have you not held one meeting with the steering committee? You have not discussed this with those that use it. You have not asked Sidmouth Town Council. You haven’t consulted. You have run roughshod over the people that use it.”

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Liz Hammond, of Sidmouth Amateur Dramatics Society (SADS), said: “Our front-of-house team is all volunteers. They would have to spend £4-£5 per show. If they decide they can’t afford to offer their services for free, it will be a further cost to EDDC.

“SADS has had a long and proud association with the Manor Pavilion since 1922. It would be very sad to see that association end with the implementation of these parking fees.”

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District councillor John Dyson, who represents Sidmouth, said he was initially against the new charges – but then he learned they have the support of the theatre manager. He said: “Graham Whitlock was prepared to support it and said within a year it will have sorted itself out. If you’ve convinced him, you’ve gone a long way towards winning the battle. I think it’s probably the right way to go.”

His Sidmouth colleague, Cllr Cathy Gardner, said she had concerns about the process behind the proposals being drawn up. She hopes it can be ‘called in’ by the scrutiny committee.

Cllr Jill Elson questioned if it was worth spending £10,000 to create 21 pay-and-display bays and dismissed the proposals as ‘stupid’.

But Cllr Iain Chubb said cars cost people thousands of pounds and asked why people willing to support a facility should be able to park for free.

Cllr Stuart Hughes, Devon’s highways chief, raised concerns about lorries reversing onto or off Manor Road, but officers gave their ‘100 per cent’ guarantee it will be safe.

The meeting heard suggestions that the charges should be in place until 6pm, not 8pm as proposed, and the maximum parking time should be four hours, not three, to account for longer performances.

EDDC would have to consult before any new parking charges were implemented.

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