Call for Spa Pavilion sale to be postponed until after elections

The Spa Pavilion at Felixstowe.

The Spa Pavilion at Felixstowe. - Credit: Archant

Legal advice is being taken to see whether the sale of Felixstowe’s seafront theatre for £1 can be postponed until after the local elections.

Former Felixstowe Mayor Mike Deacon

Former Felixstowe Mayor Mike Deacon - Credit: Archant

Senior Labour councillors want the deal scrutinised to ensure it provides best value for money – and safeguards taxpayers’ interests should the theatre venture fail.

The biggest concern is the clauses built into the contract between Conservative-controlled Suffolk Coastal council and NRG Theatres to ensure the local authority reaps the profits if the venue’s use is changed in the future or its site redeveloped.

Councillors Kimberley Williams and Mike Deacon said details of the sale price and contract had not been given to councillors outside the district council’s cabinet.

Ms Williams said she had “grave concerns” about the prospective sale of the Spa Pavilion.

kimberley williams

kimberley williams - Credit: Archant

She said: “While I understand Suffolk Coastal council’s rationale that the nominal figure reflects the considerable investment required by the developer, what is not clear is what measures have been put in place to safeguard the future of the building should the current venture fail.

“For this reason, Mike Deacon, the vice chairman of the scrutiny committee at Suffolk Coastal which examines soundness of the decisions made by cabinet, is seeking guidance from the council’s legal department on whether this decision can be urgently called back to full council and the current sale postponed until after the elections so we can ensure that the taxpayers interests are properly represented.”

Suffolk Coastal agreed the £1 price to help NRG to reopen the Spa as a theatre and restaurant by ensuring the company does not have to use its precious funds to purchase the 913-seater building and can use its money for necessary refurbishment.

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The company has already secured funds to update the building and its initial plans include a cosmetic refurbishment of the front of house, kitchen, bar and restaurant areas to enable a short summer season of touring events and the re-opening of full restaurant and bar facilities, in partnership with a well-known caterer.

A Suffolk Coastal spokesman said contracts had been exchanged, but the sale will not be completed until May 15. Details of the contract will not be revealed until that time.

He said: “At the time when we announced the sale, Suffolk Coastal District Council revealed that new arrangements had been very complex to negotiate, due to the out-dated nature of the fixtures and fittings in the Spa, as well as its general poor state of repair.

“However, as we stated, our priority has always been to retain the Spa Pavilion as a theatre venue, without it being a burden to the local tax payer.”