The Assistant Director Place, Assets & Commercialisation introduced the first of two reports, which considered the Exmouth Pavilion from an assets and placemaking perspective. A second report prepared by the LED CEO detailed the issues around Exmouth Pavilion from an LED perspective. The Forum were asked to consider both reports together.
The first report outlined a baseline summary of issues facing the Pavilion, with a series of high level options for the Forum to consider. The Assistant Director Place, Assets & Commercialisation remarked that decisions would need to consider wider implications of the Cultural Strategy and the objectives of the Council, and factor in LED. The Pavilion was also of relevance to the placemaking work for Exmouth and the consultation undertaken in the summer 2022.
The LED CEO ran through the second report, commenting that the Pavilion was a thriving facility pre-Covid but was devastated by the pandemic, and is beginning to recover, with a good number of shows and activities booked. The building is an aged facility however, and the roof badly leaks; water runs down the walls of the changing rooms and staff put buckets down, but shows might have to be cancelled as the changing rooms are not fit for purpose. The issue is around what the Council can afford to invest to get the building into a usable condition for the public, given that it will be some years before any replacement facility can be built.
In discussion at length, the following points were made:
· Members recognised the financial challenges but expressed agreement that Exmouth must continue to have a theatre; the Pavilion is an important operating centre for culture and for the general well being of Exmouth residents.
· Members agreed that the current situation is untenable and a decision concerning repairs to the roof was needed urgently.
· One Member expressed that careful thought should be given to spending £400k on replacing the roof of the Pavilion if it is to be demolished in 5 – 10 years’ time, stating that this would be a gross misuse of taxpayers’ money.
· It was accepted that in the event that a decision is taken to build a new theatre, this could take a minimum of 5-7 years and possibly up to 10 years, so an interim solution is needed. Officers could be asked to come up with a proposal aimed only at the short term of 5-7 years.
· Some Members suggested the Ocean Suite at Ocean might be a suitable interim venue as an alternative to the Pavilion building; the LED CEO felt this would not be appropriate; the top floor of Ocean has a low ceiling and small stage with a seating capacity of 200 and would therefore be suitable only for small entertainment. The Pavilion has a capacity of 550 since tiered seating was purchased.
· Some Members expressed a view that the theatre is currently in the wrong place and should be relocated to a different area with more parking and ability to attract more footfall. One Member argued however that the Pavilion is a top tourist attraction that should not be moved; other seaside resorts have their theatre near to the seafront, and he felt this is where the theatre for Exmouth should be.
· Members were in agreement that the placemaking exercise consultants should be involved, to see if they can propose an appropriate way forward.
· It was confirmed by the Assistant Director Place, Assets & Commercialisation that a stock condition survey is in place which includes a rolling programme over 5 years.
In a vote, Forum Members approved the following recommendations.
RECOMMENDED to Cabinet:
1. Not to dismiss any option at this stage.
2. That the placemaking consultant for Exmouth (to be appointed) be asked to consider within wider work the options put forward in this report for the Paviliion, initially determining alignment against the themes, characteristics and terms of reference agreed by Cabinet.
3. That repairs to the roof of Exmouth Pavilion take place as a matter of urgency.
4. An urgent report be brought to Cabinet outlining works needed to the Pavilion over the next 5 - 7 years noting the Forum’s request that support is given to undertaking urgent repair works to the roof.
The meeting then went into private session.