Campaigners told they have missed the boat in bid to call-in decision to sell Felixstowe’s Spa Pavilion
- Credit: Archant
A bid to have the decision to sell a seafront theatre for £1 called-in for a review has failed – after campaigners were told they were more than a year too late.
Suffolk Coastal council has agreed to sell the Spa Pavilion at Felixstowe to NRG Theatres, with completion of the sale due this week.
But district councillor Mike Deacon and town councillor Kimberley Williams wanted the deal to be subject of a “call-in” so it could be 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 Suffolk Coastal 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.
The councillors were concerned that details of the sale price and contract had not been given to councillors outside the district council’s cabinet and wanted the sale delayed.
Ms Williams said talks had been held with Suffolk Coastal’s legal team but the decision could not be reversed.
She said: “I was told that the decision could not be called in because delegated authority had been given to certain Suffolk Coastal officers and cabinet members in January 2014, and so the time limit for calling in that decision had lapsed.
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“At best I could ask for the decision to be scrutinised by the scrutiny committee – a toothless tiger that reviews decisions, but can`t actually reverse the decisions made.”
However, following further investigation, it had transpired that the council’s cabinet had agreed “that should no transaction be concluded by way of a closed bid/private treaty by May 2014, that further consideration of the Spa Pavilion’s future is made by cabinet.”
She said: “The negotiations for the sale of the Spa were not concluded until this year, rather than by May 2014, so the issue should have gone back to full cabinet, at which other members would have had an opportunity to explore whether proper due diligence on the prospective purchaser had been undertaken.”
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.
The council said the sale will be completed on May 15, when details of the contract will be revealed.