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."