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Felixstowe: Only one group bid for Spa

Despite an extensive campaign to attract interest from the leisure and entertainment sector only one bid has been received to take over the running of Felixstowe’s Spa Pavilion after the closure of the formal process that required interested parties to submit their detailed business plans.

The submission was officially opened this afternoon, and now a full appraisal of the received bid will be carried out prior to a report being made to Cabinet in July for it to decide the next steps forward.

Innovative ideas from leisure and entertainment companies from across the country were sought for the Suffolk Coastal-owned building as the Council attempts to secure an exciting and long-term future for the Spa as a leisure and entertainment venue that is both financially self-supporting and attractive to both local residents and visitors to the resort

It could continue as a theatre, but equally the Council is open to firm and viable proposals that would see a change of use to develop the building as an attraction that would see the crowds return in large numbers.

“It is disappointing that despite 12 different organisations downloading the documents we have received only one formal business plan which will now be rigorously appraised before our Cabinet reaches a decision next month,” said Cllr Geoff Holdcroft, Cabinet Member for Leisure and Economic Development.

“It may well be that the lack of firm interest is both a reflection of the general cautious nature of investors during these difficult economic times, or another indication that a regional theatre like the Spa cannot survive without significantly increased subsidy and money from the Council.

“There had been a good level of interest and with the half-term break, the Jubilee holidays and other factors, we agreed to extend the deadline to give as much opportunity for firm proposals as possible. Sadly, that interest has not been translated into reality,” added Cllr Holdcroft.

Suffolk Coastal agreed earlier this year to end its contract with the Spa’s current managers Openwide Coastal early in 2013. The Council decided it could no longer afford to give the necessary long-term financial commitment to the theatre, which currently receives around £250,000 a year and which needs at least £3 million in maintenance and improvements to bring it up to modern standards.

Consultants brought in by the Council had concluded that if no major investments are made the Spa will quickly become unfit for purpose and that the building is already out of date. Audiences at the Spa have been falling to a degree that each ticket was being subsidised by the Council by well over £7.

The Spa is set to stay open until after Christmas and has a packed and varied range of attractions taking to its stage over the coming months including the Summer Youth Project. For full details visit www.thespapavilion.org/

“Despite the best efforts of Openwide, we are faced with a theatre that is struggling to attract break-even audiences, and a pressing need to both invest in the fabric of the building and in its operating costs that this Council is not in a position to agree to. We had no choice other than to open up the prospect of running the Spa in the future to the market, to find out what leisure or entertainment proposals and potential investment outside companies and organisations may come up with,” said Cllr Geoff Holdcroft, Cabinet Member for Leisure and Economic Development.

The Council will now evaluate the one submission that has been received and, if Cabinet agrees it is a viable bid, will work with the organisation concerned to enable them to implement their proposal for the operation of the Theatre. If the bid is not viable the Council will consider other options for the venue.

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