Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge Town Council has this week outlined its plan to turn around the town’s loss-making Princess Theatre amid fresh concern from residents.

Burnham resident Tony Lynham has told councillors at their latest meeting that a cross-party “task force” of councillors and a local business expert should be “urgently” formed to help the council-owned theatre identify savings and income.

A Freedom of Information Response obtained by Mr Lynham indicates The Princess Theatre has run up a £437,401 deficit over the last seven years, excluding £12,000 of maintenance costs paid by the council.

He says that while the theatre is a “super community asset,” it can’t be left to go deeper into debt.  He also supports proposals to move the Town Council away from its current base in Jaycroft Road into The Princess Theatre.

Princess Theatre seating in Burnham-On-Sea

Burnham and Highbridge Town Council Clerk Sam Winter told Burnham-On-Sea.com this week: “We appreciate that there is some concern about the total running costs of the Princess Theatre & Arts Centre over the last eight years, but it is also grateful to Mr Lynham for his positive and supportive comments made in favour of this community asset in Burnham-on-Sea. The Town Council is committed to taking action to both reduce operating costs of the Princess and to increase its income.”

“The Princess building itself is important and steeped in local history but has required costly maintenance and modernisation over recent years. The Town Council is delighted to have successfully applied to the Hinkley Point C Community Fund for an award of £163,000 to improve the toilets, seating and public areas.“

“The Princess does not just operate as a theatre; it is a community facility very regularly used by twenty-one not for profit and local community groups. The Princess is a place where people gather to be entertained, socialise and make friends. It is a venue used by support agencies to offer counselling and benefits advice and it brings the Arts to an area acknowledged by the Arts Council as being one that has the least opportunities to engage with cultural activities.”

“The Town Council is very excited to welcome the newly appointed Business Development Officer, Beccy Armory, to the Princess. Beccy has significant and extensive experience in the Arts sector. She previously held a lead role in the team that resurrected the Brewhouse Theatre, Taunton; reopening it and rebuilding its reputation to what is now a thriving business and community arts centre.”

Princess Theatre, Burnham-On-Sea

“The Princess Management Committee consists of ten town councillors who will be working closely with Beccy to bring about positive change that will benefit the Princess’ financial position and its cultural offering.“

“The Town Council has also resolved to explore options for relocating the Town Council office to the site of the Princess Theatre, whilst maintaining full use of the Theatre and Arts Centre as a community space.”