Key decision is near on future of Marina Theatre in Lowestoft

PLANS to secure the future of Lowestoft's Marina Theatre overcame their first hurdle this week, and now a key decision to confirm its 'long-term sustainability' is just days away.

As reported in last week's Journal, a new era is about to dawn for The Marina as a newly formed charitable trust prepares to take over its day-to-day operation following months of uncertainty.

On Wednesday, Waveney District Council's learning and skills and prosperous scrutiny sub-committee approved a report, 'The Future Operation of the Marina Theatre', which recommended the transfer to a group run by its current management team in association with the theatre's Friends group.

A Waveney spokesman confirmed: 'It went ahead as recommended and it will go to cabinet on March 22.'

Meanwhile, further details of the trust's bid have emerged.

The report discussed by councillors shows that when organisations were invited to make bids to take over the theatre earlier this year, six downloaded the documents but only one – Marina Theatre Management in association with The Friends of the Marina Theatre – actually submitted a tender.

In its bid, the trust makes a commitment to a full and diverse programme of stage and screen entertainment and responsibility for the repair, maintenance and general management of the building.

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The move follows the setting up of the Sentinel Leisure Trust by Waveney District Council – a body which has taken on the management of the authority's leisure services.

The council's report also states that under its management, 'the theatre has generated approximately �1m in income' and 'expended in the region of �1.22m per annum' for the last three to five years.

'With the Comprehensive Spending Review and anticipated pressure on the council's budgets, the continued overspend on this budget is a real risk to the authority moving forward,' the report says. 'The building is in need of capital investment in the region of �200k over the next five to seven years.' Resurfacing the roof and replacing seating are both highlighted as 'key areas,'

The report adds: 'This decision will ensure the long-term sustainability of the Marina Theatre, its operating staff and the services they provide to the public. This decision will enable the creation of a Charitable Not for Profit Distributing Organisation (NPDO) trust, which will be the council's strategic delivery partner.'

A final decision on the proposed transfer to the new trust will now be taken by the council's cabinet on March 22. The council will retain ownership of the building.

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