£25m becomes £47m: Final cost of Waterside Theatre revealed

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THE final cost of Aylesbury’s Waterside Theatre is likely to be £47 million, district bosses revealed this week.

Council leaders have defended the figure, but critics this week seized on the sum, claiming the cash would have been better spent elsewhere in the Vale.

When the theatre was given planning permission back in 2006, it was expected to cost £25 million.

On Wednesday Councillor John Cartwright, leader at Aylesbury Vale District Council, said: “We believe that the final cost, including fees, will be in the region of £47 million, but this figure may adjust slightly.”

He said it represented a three per cent overspend on the £45.5 million set aside for the theatre.

Councillors heard that 80,000 people visited the theatre in its first two months, generating an estimated £760,000 for the local economy.

But with business rates determined by how popular the venue is, AVDC could have to pay up to £100,000 each year.

Councillor Steven Lambert, Liberal Democrat, said: “We have community centres and village halls in real need of investment, we could have used it for that.

“As a replacement for the civic centre, which we’ve lost, this isn’t money well spent.”

Councillor Neil Blake, who is responsible for finance, said the council has yet to get any income for the theatre.

He said: “We’re making a contribution to the running of the theatre for a period of time, because we wanted to get it off to a flying start without any financial constraints.

“That’s for the first period of the contract, which we will then review.”

The anticipated cost of building the theatre shot up to £35 million in 2008 after the first quotes were received.

Mr Blake said: “In hindsight we shouldn’t have released a figure to the public until we had some cost certainty.

“But I think we’re already seeing benefits, and we think it will attract developers to the town.”

A £35 million cost was agreed with contractor Willmott Dixon in 2008, and the following year the Audit Commission described plans as ‘sound’.

But the council says a revised auditorium floor and acoustic system saw the cost rise still further.