Users hit out at Sidmouth theatre parking charges

Catherine Golding and other members of the Friday Art Group

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

New pay-and-display parking charges aimed at raising additional revenue for the Manor Pavilion could end up costing it £2,000 if a group leaves after 50 years.

Catherine Golding, of the Friday Art Group, said it was being ‘driven out’ as some members will refuse to pay on principle.

Others have accused venue owner East Devon District Council (EDDC) of putting financial gain ahead of community facilities, but authority bosses say the parking cash will help ensure the theatre and art centre’s long-term future.

Mrs Golding said: “It’s very bad news. I just know on principle some of our members will refuse to pay. It will cost them an extra £90 a year simply to have their car there.

“We weren’t told about this proposal and had to read about it first in the Herald – it’s incredibly disrespectful.

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“The group has been in existence for about 50 years and paying rent all that time, but they are making it difficult for us to stay there. They’re going to drive us out.”

EDDC introduced the charges to clamp down on abuse by motorists using the private site as a free car park, promising to use the revenue to secure the future.

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The restrictions will be in place from 8am to 8pm and there will be maximum stay of four hours. The new system is set to be put in place in the autumn. EDDC has reassured arts centre users that they will be able to pull in to load and unload heavy items

Jill Glazier, the acting chairman of the Sidmouth Decorative and Fine Arts Society, said: “It is very unfair to penalise theatre goers by not stopping the parking charge by 6pm.

“The move may also deter some organisations from hiring the theatre. To suggest Manor Road car park is a good alternative is unrealistic for the many users who have mobility problems – even minor – as that car park is not exactly nearby.

“During the days when there are no meetings going on at the theatre, the car park is sparsely used. I feel financial gain is being put way ahead of community facilities.”

Liz Hammond, of Sidmouth Amateur Dramatics Society, said: “This will definitely affect our cast and crew, particularly as they are all volunteers.

“Now, if someone gets in at 5pm and our cast get in at 6pm, they won’t have anywhere to park.”

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