Multiplex effect on theatres '˜could be for greater good'

A multiplex cinema at Union Place could have a major impact on Worthing's theatres revenue '“ but the risk could be for the '˜greater good'.

Wednesday, 20th July 2016, 12:07 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 1:45 am
W03049H14-Theatre. The Connaught Theatre Cinama Theatre Union Place Worthing

That was the message to Worthing Borough Council cabinet members last week, as plans to kick start regeneration of the town centre site were debated.

New homes, restaurants and a six-screen cinema are part of the vision for the dilapidated site.

The plans could, however, negatively affect the adjacent Connaught Theatre, which generates more than £300,000 of surplus income from its cinema operations annually.

Director for the economy Martin Randall admitted there would be an impact but argued it could be for the ‘greater good’.

He said the ‘wider prize’ was to deliver significant economic benefits for the town, adding a revised theatres offer ‘may not sit uncomfortably’ in a newly-created cultural quarter.

Speaking at the cabinet meeting last Wednesday, leader Dan Humphreys said: “This is a Conservative council. We believe in competition. We don’t believe in protection and believe in exposing our own assets as much as everyone else’s to competition.”

The council hopes to strike a £3million deal with developers, which would see it acquire the freehold of a mixed-use development.

Up to £3million would be borrowed, with the council’s High Street surface car park added to the development site.

A bid to the Government’s local growth fund has also been submitted – and would minimise the amount needed to be borrowed if funding was granted.

Cabinet members unanimously agreed to pursue the deal.

The decision was rubber stamped on Tuesday, with full council unanimously approving the proposal.

Liberal Democrat leader Hazel Thorpe called for Changing Places disabled toilets to be included in any development brief.

Green councillor James Doyle questioned whether the development needed a frontage onto Chatsworth Road and Chapel Road to provide a better link to the town centre.

Trust option for overspending theatres discussed

Transferring operation of Worthing’s theatres to a charitable trust was among the ideas proposed on Tuesday to safeguard their future.

The taxpayer-subsidised theatres came in over budget by £120,000 in the 2014/15 financial year.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Bob Smytherman called for the Conservative administration to consider outsourcing operations to a trust,

It followed his suggestion at a scrutiny meeting on Thursday for the Assembly Hall to be gifted to the community to cut costs.

Leader Dan Humphreys did not rule out the trust option – but added he was happy with the progress being made on the town’s cultural offer.

The theatres overspend has improved on the £484,000 deficit in 2013/14, with the council celebrating an ‘improved’ cultural offer.

Since then, operational costs have been cut by half.