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HAZLITT THEATRE: Crunch meeting on venue's future delayed by a week - details

Thursday 7th January 2021

A CRUNCH meeting to decide the future of the under-threat Hazlitt Theatre has been delayed for a week.

Maidstone Borough Council’s Economic Regeneration and Leisure (ERL) Committee was due to convene on January 19.

MBC claims the delay is to 'allow work to be completed on a number of options for the future sustainability' of the venue.

The authority blames recent changes to the COVID-19 status of the borough meaning it has 'been difficult for solid, fully remodelled business forecasts to be prepared' by the council and the contractor, Parkwood Theatres, in time.

An MBC statement said: "The ERL Committee meeting will therefore be delayed until Tuesday 26 January to allow extra time for detailed forecasts and reports to be prepared."

MBC's leadership caused public uproar when it sought to terminate the Parkwood contract to save £243,000 in the face of falling revenues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The theatre has been unable to stage any major events and has been closed for much of the past year.

MBC saw little point in paying Parkwood for services it could not provide but critics are afraid if the Hazlitt was to close, there would be little chance of it reopening.

A resolution on November 12 by an MBC committee took the decision to mothball the theatre but was later overturned by the policy and resources committee later that month. This resulted in a deferment until January 19 to allow for greater clarity to be sought.

The vote was split down party lines - the Liberal Democrat and Labour coalition, which runs the council, was narrowly beaten by the Tories, one independent and a rebel Lib Dem.

ERL chairman Paul Hooper said this evening: " is clear that because of the ever-changing Covid-19 government guidance and restrictions, that some additional time is required to get the information that our decision makers will need to be sufficiently informed before making any further decisions."