Portsmouth theatre could be made community asset for future

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SUPPORTERS of a theatre threatened with closure have been invited to submit a bid to have it listed as a community asset.

Portsmouth City Council has asked the campaigners fighting to save St Peter’s Theatre to use part of the localism act to try and keep it for future use.

More than 5,000 people have signed a petition urging the council to help them save the Fraser Road theatre, and yesterday it was debated at a meeting of the full council.

If the supporters are successful in getting the building listed as a community asset by the city council, it cannot be sold without giving community groups a chance to put together a proposal and raise the money to buy it themselves.

Council leader, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘We encourage people to look down the route of listing it as a community asset.

‘If the owners of the building choose to sell , and it has been listed as a community asset, the community has a six month period to be able to buy it.’

The Parochial Church Council, which runs the building, will not to take any further bookings beyond January next year. It says it would need to spend £1.3m to make it fit-for-purpose, money the church does not have.

This has left local theatre groups fearing the historic building will be sold and demolished, as the church seeks to save money and move to a new larger building in Portsmouth city centre.

The church and the campaigners have been talking to try and reach a solution, but have so far failed to find a way forward.

Suki Jones, who has been leading the campaign, said: ‘Residents say this is a vital resource for the community.

‘We believe we can make this into one of the jewels in the crown of this borough.

‘We realise this isn’t a council property, and they have no responsibility for it. We are asking that you consider the situation and offer your support – we aren’t asking for money, but we are asking if you could help identify local funding streams.

‘We would like some help with forming partnerships – we think this theatre space could be used in the day time by many other groups, for youth, education, even health.’

Francis Davis, giving a deputation for the church, said: ‘It is a sad situation. We are still committed to the local community and in doing the right thing, and stewarding our resources appropriately.’

The campaigners were given a list of 50 alternate venues but these were all found to be unaffordable, unsuitable or unavailable and most did not have theatrical performing licences.