Update: Deadline for bids for Felixstowe Spa Pavilion extended

COUNCIL chiefs have today extended the deadline for companies to bid to take over Felixstowe’s threatened seafront theatre.

The “tender box” was due to be opened this morning, but officers at Suffolk Coastal suddenly – and mysteriously – decided to leave it closed and extend the deadline for bids by one week “due to the level of interest shown” in running the venue.

Organisations which had registered an interest now have until noon on June 18 to submit their detailed business plans.

Experts will then immediately begin evaluating the proposals for the Spa Pavilion, with councillors set to make a decision just two weeks later.

At least one organisation has made a bid – the campaigners themselves – but Suffolk Coastal will not reveal how many others they have also received.

And none of the bids are guaranteed to succeed – unless they meet the strict criteria and aims of the council for the future of the 913-seater venue.

Owners Suffolk Coastal have decided to withdraw the �240,000 a year subsidy for the building, which needs considerable investment to update it.

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“Despite the best efforts of (current operators) Openwide, we are faced with a theatre that is struggling to attract break-even audiences, and a pressing need to both invest in the fabric of the building and in its operating costs that this council is not in a position to agree to,” said Geoff Holdcroft, cabinet member for leisure and economic development.

“We had no choice other than to open up the prospect of running the Spa in the future to the market, to find out what leisure or entertainment proposals and potential investment outside companies and organisations may come up with.”

One definite bidder for the theatre is community group the Spa Pavilion Associates (SPA), and it is believed at least one large commercial operator is also interested in the venue.

“As a team of people who are intimate with the Spa and with what Felixstowe wants and needs, Spa Pavilion Associates hope that Suffolk Coastal will see our model of a charitable trust as a viable option,” said Lisa Hardy, of SPA.

Consultants concluded that if no major investments are made the Spa will quickly become unfit for purpose and that the building is already out of date.

Audiences have been falling to a degree that each ticket is being subsidised by the council by more than �7.