ARTISTS have criticised a council’s decision to review its cultural facilities, which could lead to the closure of a popular arts centre.
Fareham Borough Council has agreed to spend £50,000 carrying out a ‘feasibility study’ to look into improving Fareham’s cultural facilities, potentially closing the Ashcroft Arts Centre and merging it with the Ferneham Hall.
The Ashcroft Arts Centre is run by Hampshire County Council and the Ferneham Hall is run by Fareham Borough Council, and both are near each other in Osborn Road.
Council leader Sean Woodward said that the study, being carried out by council officers and staff from Hampshire Cultural Trust, would be looking at creating an improved centre at Ferneham Hall, which could accommodate groups from Ashcroft.
He said: ‘We are looking to create something that is better than the sum of two parts. It is not about cost saving, it is about producing one truly great facility in Fareham.’
However, artists such as actors in the Portchester Players, an amateur dramatic society, fear they would not be able to afford or fill the Ferneham Hall.
Kay Sumpner, from the group, said: ‘It will be a tragedy for Fareham. It will not enhance the artistic offering. It will squish it.’
In the study, Ferneham Hall will be redesigned to feature a new studio and workshop space, café, bar, and box office.
The study is due to be completed by the end of October and will also look at improving Westbury Manor Museum, which is run by Hampshire Cultural Trust.
Janet Owen, chief executive officer of Hampshire Cultural Trust, said: ‘Fareham has so much to offer in terms of arts and culture and there is potential to make it even better.
‘Bringing two highly-popular venues together under one roof would create an exciting new hub for the people who live, work and visit Fareham and we are excited about seeing the results of the feasibility study.’
Cllr Woodward said that if the plans were to develop in October the public would be consulted.