Hastings Borough Council is to launch a formal and wide-ranging options appraisal of the future operation of the White Rock Theatre.
The council says the appraisal will be undertaken in the context of the masterplan for the town and the White Rock area, and specifically, with regards to ensuring comprehensive and sustainable cultural provision going forward.
The move coincides with the expiry of the council’s current contract with HQ Theatres & Hospitality (HQT&H) who have managed the theatre on behalf of the local authority since 2009.
HQT&H will remain actively engaged in discussions about the future of the venue and will continue to operate the building during the options appraisal and while future plans are being developed. It is expected final recommendations will be presented to cabinet in November 2017.
Cllr Kim Forward, deputy leader of the council and lead member for regeneration, said: “The importance of the White Rock Theatre as the main cultural venue for Hastings is highlighted in the recently completed White Rock Masterplan.
“Our current management contract with HQ Theatres & Hospitality ends in January 2019, and the council’s annual subsidy cannot continue beyond then. But we also recognise how important the White Rock Theatre is to Hastings and the local community, so we need to start planning ahead now.
“The options appraisal will help us understand the possible future uses of the site. This work should be completed by late autumn 2017, giving us time to put plans in place for beyond January 2019.”
Julian Russell, CEO of HQ Theatres & Hospitality, added: “We welcome the fact that HBC’s masterplan has highlighted the importance of cultural provision within the White Rock area and the council’s focus on defining future options for the site.
“We are proud of what has been achieved at the theatre over the past nine years and look forward to continue working in partnership with the council as they develop and define their plans for the future use of the site.
“The options appraisal will take a little time to complete, and in the interim we appreciate that causes a degree of uncertainty.
“On completion of this phase there will be more clarity regarding the management of the venue’s events diary for the period beyond January 2019.
“During this period we have every intention of assisting HBC wherever we can with the appraisal and I have confirmed our ongoing commitment and support as the council’s plans become more clearly defined.”
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