Ryde Theatre deal collapses

By Martin Neville

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Ryde Theatre deal collapses

An Isle of Wight Council deal to sell Ryde Theatre has fallen through. Picture by Robin Crossley.

UPDATED 11:00*

UNCERTAINTY once again hangs over the future of Ryde Theatre after the consortium which planned to breathe new life into the iconic building pulled out at the 11th hour.

The £400,000 deal has collapsed after the winning bidders, Drs Warren, Rebecca, Steph and Steve Thompson, who all work for the Isle of Wight Educational Psychology Service (IWEPS), withdrew their offer to allow for further public consultation.

The deal had been announced in October by the Isle of Wight Council, however it did not name those behind it. The announcement said the new owners planned to continue to operate the venue as a theatre.

In an email to their agent, copied to the County Press, they said the decision followed careful consideration of public opinion that the theatre should remain in public ownership, or that residents should have further consultation on its future.

To support the theatre, the family business, based in St Lawrence, planned to develop new income streams such as training, conference and hospitality facilities for IWEPS and its sister companies.

Dr Rebecca Thompson said: "We would be delighted to see the theatre taken on and managed by the community, but if that doesn’t work we will remain interested in involvement in the building’s future."

Ryde Town Council had raised concerns that no condition had been placed on the sale to secure the building’s future use as a venue, and was disappointed that neither they nor the local community had been consulted during the disposal process.

However, Cllr Arthur Taylor, IW member for Ryde North West, said the public had been given plenty of time to make representations when it was up for sale.

The Grade II listed theatre was put back on the market late last year after plans by Platform One to run the building as a venue and music college also fell through.

Cllr George Brown, the IW Council’s cabinet member for the economy, said: "Only Ryde Town Council formally objected to the sale but without making any constructive proposals for how the theatre could be secured in the future.

He said the council would now negotiate with the other bidders to see if a new agreement could be reached.

*Ryde Town Council hit back at Cllr Brown's comments this morning (Thursday).

A statement issued by the town council said: "Ryde Town Council was disappointed to learn this morning that the proposed sale of Ryde Theatre has fallen through.

"The Town Council would like to clarify that, despite comments to the contrary by Councillor George Brown, Isle of Wight Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for the Economy and Regulatory Services, the Town Council did not object to the proposed sale.

"The Town Council in fact wrote to Councillor Brown prior to the decision being made to raise concerns that the proposal might not secure the future of the building as a theatre venue and to suggest that this, amongst other considerations, be made a condition of the sale.

"The letter also raised concerns that the community had not been consulted either about the purchase or the lack of any conditions that might secure the buildings’ future.

"In addition the Town Council has asked the Isle of Wight Council on numerous occasions over the last three years to be put in touch with any prospective purchaser as the Town Council may well have been able to contribute to the financing of any venture if it had been able to secure office and meeting space in the building." Ryde Mayor Cllr David Woodward, said: '’We regret the comments that Councillor Brown has made about the Town Council and we reiterate again that we would like to work with both the Isle of Wight Council and any interested party to secure the future of this landmark building for the benefit of the Ryde community."

Reporter: martinn@iwcpmail.co.uk


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by Mike Crowe

22nd November 2012, at 13:45:35

Is it not time to do something definite? Take a leaf out of Shanklin Theatre's book and form "The Friends of Ryde Theatre", get in there and run it? Don't forget that the Council shut Shankln Theatre, look at it now!!

Let the Isle of Wight Council hand it over to a Trust, lock stock and barrel.

Let the Friends roll their sleeves up and get "their" Theatre back into action.

Who knows, The Friends of Ryde Theatre might be nominated for "The Queens Award for Voluntary Services 2016 and Ryde will have a wondeful Theatre again.

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by Kevin Barclay-Jay

22nd November 2012, at 12:58:03

Ryde Theatre needs over a million pound spent on it before it could open the doors to the public again....

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by Brian Harris

22nd November 2012, at 11:28:48

Ooer! The final paragraph broke halfway through - here it is again:

So, how long is “for as long as it is viable”? Probably only a matter of days, judging by the bidders’ decision to withdraw even before the contract was signed.

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by Brian Harris

22nd November 2012, at 10:50:46

Well, another shambles from IWC, as Cllr Brown blames Ryde Town Council for objecting to the sale. I would suggest that it's his delegated decision that is to blame for their "objection". To quote from his report [my bold]:

"There was NO REQUIREMENT for any bidder to use the building as a theatre / events venue;"

"Party A: [the rejected bidder]
Theatre: WOULD INTEND to operate the building as a theatre indefinitely, and plan to undertake
other commercial activities in areas of the building which would in turn support the longevity
of the theatre."

How definite is "would intend"? The road to hell ..., etc.!

"Party B: [the chosen bidder]
Theatre: the property is being purchased as a theatre/live venue, with associated
complementary uses, and will continue to be used as such FOR AS LONG AS IT IS VIABLE."

So, how long is "for as long as it is viable"? Probably only a matter of days, judging by the bi

Any views or opinions presented in the comments above are solely those of the author and do not represent those of the Isle of Wight County Press.

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