D-day for campaigners to save theatre

Campaigners fighting to save a Lowestoft community theatre have until tomorrow to negotiate a deal for its sale.

Campaigners fighting to save a Lowestoft community theatre have until tomorrow to negotiate a deal for its sale.

The Seagull Theatre in Pakefield was closed to the public in July after Suffolk County Council slashed its £60,000 a year funding amid a £24m wave of cuts across the county.

The move was met with outrage from the local community, who lobbied the council to reopen the building, which had been a valuable educational resource for schools and youth groups, as well as a popular amateur dramatics theatre for almost 40 years.

Then, in October, the council announced it was preparing the site for sale with a £275,000 price tag and nothing to prevent the Victorian building being bulldozed and redeveloped.

The move prompted action from the Save our Seagull campaign group, and, following an emergency appeal in the EDP, two mystery benefactors agreed to stump up the cash to buy the theatre.

Two days later the council agreed to give the SOS group until December 13 to negotiate a deal with the estate agent handling the sale.

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But as the closing date looms, campaigners say they are in the dark as to whether the council will accept their offer.

SOS spokesman Gary Hilton said: "We put in a bid as soon as that meeting was over and the council rejected that on Thursday. Now we have put a better bid in but we haven't heard anything.

"We are still hopeful that by Wednesday a conclusion can be reached whereby both parties are happy, but if not we hope the council will once again meet us before putting the theatre on the open market."

Suffolk County Council spokesman John Ross said: "Meaningful discussions have taken place and we are awaiting a recommendation from our agents, Sylvesters, on whether it will be possible to agree terms."

Waveney MP Bob Blizzard, who has been supporting the campaign, said: "I know Suffolk has a duty to get the best value from the site, but it also has a duty to promote community assets, and if they don't accept what is a reasonable and quite substantial commercial offer, it shows they are not placing any importance on their community responsibility at all."