Campaigners win fight to save Weymouth Pavilion after councillors pave way for takeover (From Dorset Echo)
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Campaigners win fight to save Weymouth Pavilion after councillors pave way for takeover
CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save Weymouth Pavilion are delighted after councillors paved the way for them to take over the theatre.
While there is more discussion ahead, the decision could effectively save the much-loved Pavilion from demolition and enable the community to take it off the council’s hands.
The decision by Weymouth and Portland Borough Council’s management committee yesterday was a recommendation and the full council will have the final say on February 21.
Councillors heard the Pavilion would close as planned at the end of May and could remain shut for a time while a tendering process goes on and legal matters are thrashed out.
At the forefront of the tendering process will be the Save the Pavilion group which wants to run it as a not-for-profit community interest company and develop it as an arts, performance and workshop space. It’s the only group to express an interest in taking over the Pavilion and is supported by many organisations which use it plus the 1,000-strong Friends of the Pavilion.
Phil Say of Save the Pavilion, who had urged councillors to ‘give the community a chance’, said afterwards he was ‘pleased and excited’ – and urged the community to get behind it. He added: “It’s now ours for the taking. The preferred option has been suggested and the ball is now in our court.
“Assuming we’re successful, the council will set criteria which we’ll have to comply with.
“What we desperately want to avoid is a lengthy closure of the Pavilion.”
Closing and demolishing the Pavilion was proposed as it is costing the council too much.
Councillors invited expressions of interest and were faced yesterday with future options, including demolition and turning it into a car park at a cost of £500,000.
Members voted unanimously to initiate a tendering process to lease the Pavilion with criteria supporting community use.
Some pressed for this process to start immediately after February 21 but were told criteria would have to be agreed at a meeting in April, allowing officers time to work out details.
Finance and assets spokesman Peter Chapman reminded members there were ‘critical’ cost pressures for the council to consider including government grant reduction, a commitment to carry out further harbour work and increased maintenance costs at the Pavilion if it kept it going.
He said a community group running the Pavilion would have access to grants but would need to increase revenue and build up volunteers.
Committee chairman Mike Goodman said it would be wrong to talk about the implications for Pavilion staff at this stage, especially as many of them attended the meeting.
The Pavilion employs 14 full and part-time staff plus other casual workers. Save the Pavilion’s proposal envisages a few new paid posts being created.
Leisure and tourism spokesman Ian Bruce said he would do all he could to support the community proposal but he hoped others would come forward too, including businesses.
“It needs a complete community effort,” Coun Bruce said.
l Councillors also recommended a number of other proposals including a reduction of £100,000 in the CCTV budget, closing the TIC and funding further harbour walls work.
Passionate supporters speak with one voice
COUNCILLORS heard from a range of speakers in support of the Pavilion.
Cathy Page-Nash from the Friends of the Pavilion said it would be ‘criminal’ to demolish the Pavilion which she described as Weymouth’s only cultural asset.
“If you’re not interested in running it, turn it over to the people who care,” she said.
Mrs Page-Nash said demolition would cost more than retaining it.
Brian Crump, whose father Harold organised variety shows at the Pavilion, said Weymouth’s Olympic legacy would be forgotten if the Pavilion were to be demolished as people would remember that more.
Alderman Peter Rendall said: “I speak to a lot of staff who have been there for a long time and are extremely loyal and hard-working, and it appears no-one has spoken to them about how they will be affected.”
He added: “God forbid you go along with demolition, it would be sacrilege.”
Catherine Dunford complained she had received few replies to a letter she sent to councillors.
She added: “We’re proud of the Pavilion and don’t want to see Weymouth degenerate any further.”
Former engineer Gerald Mabb claimed the cost of demolition would be far greater than £500,000 and Mick Burt questioned the Pavilion finances and requested the accounts for the last three years be reviewed.