Trust set to be given go-ahead for Lowestoft’s Marina Theatre

A NEWLY formed trust looks set to get the go-ahead to take over the running of Lowestoft's biggest theatre.

After months of uncertainty over the future of The Marina, Waveney District Council's cabinet will meet next week to decide whether or not to transfer the operation of the venue to the new charitable trust.

Last week, the council's learning and skills and prosperous economy scrutiny sub-commitee approved the transfer to a group run by The Marina's current management team in association with the theatre's Friends group. On Tuesday, cabinet members will discuss a recommendation by officers to rubber-stamp that decision to 'ensure the long term sustainability' of the Marina and 'ensure improved value for money for local residents'.

The report to the cabinet recommends that the 'in-house bid is confirmed as meeting the requirements' and that the process is begun to set up a 15-year partnership management agreement which will see the day-to-day running of The Marina pass to the new charitable trust. The council will retain ownership of the theatre.

The report also reveals that four other options for the future of The Marina were 'considered and rejected'. These options were:

l The continued direct operation of the theatre (by the council itself), which was rejected due to the 'continued overspend of budget' and the risk this posed to the authority

l Operating the theatre via a private company, which was rejected as 'no private company submitted a bid' during the lengthy procurement and tendering process;

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l Closing The Marina, which was ruled out due to the 'public demand' for the theatre and 'the value the venue has to the district's cultural mix', and

l Operating the building in a different way as a 'leisure/entertainment' venue, but again no bids were made.

This final option was the one which prompted a public outcry last year when The Journal reported that Waveney was considering new ways of running the theatre in a bid to save money.

Members of the public, opposition councillors and local drama groups voiced concerns that it could see an end to live entertainment at The Marina, and they won support from showbiz stars including Ken Dodd.

Labour councillor for the Pakefield ward, Peter Byatt, welcomed the move to put the theatre in the hands of a trust. 'The issue of the Marina's future was first flagged up last May. Let us hope that after months of uncertainty, the people of Waveney can look forward to a secure future for one of our many great local assets,' he said.

Stephen Ardley, the council's portfolio holder for healthy communities, said: 'We were never going to sell off the theatre. Instead, we have carefully and meticulously managed a critically important project designed to safeguard the future of a genuine jewel in Lowestoft and Waveney's crown.'

l Postbox – pages 20, 21.

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