A formal study is to assess the best way of ensuring The Maltings can continue to deliver arts to the Berwick area in the longer term.
It is being planned in the wake of a surveyor’s report which estimated the building needs repairs approaching £2million.
The news was revealed by Maltings chief executive Matthew Rooke in response to last week’s announcement by Northumberland County Council (NCC) that it has abandoned its plans to relocate council services to the theatre.
“Despite this outcome, we’ve been greatly heartened by NCC’s re-affirmed commitment to maintaining The Maltings in its current form and ensuring that we can continue to operate safely and remain open to the public,” said Mr Rooke.
“The reality is though, that as an ageing building, The Maltings is starting to show the signs of age with increasing frequency.
“For example, NCC spent in the region of £250,000 in 2014 on replacing our fire and emergency lighting system, and at the end of last year they funded a series of repairs to the air handling/heating system.
“A recent survey commissioned by NCC from leading independent surveyors Faithful & Gould has indicated that a sum approaching £2million may need to be spent on the building within the next three years – in respect of the exterior of the building and access, its heating and its electrical systems.
“Whilst NCC recognises its ongoing responsibility for the lease commitments that were made to The Maltings (Berwick) Trust by its predecessor as our landlord, Berwick Borough Council, it’s right and proper that we should jointly continue to look at a range of options in response to the building’s inevitable ageing and deterioration to make sure any investment of public funds in the building is made to maximum effect.
“We’re grateful for NCC’s commitment to support a study which will look in detail at the recommended maintenance and replacement programme set out in the Faithful & Gould report, evaluating not just the cost of the programme of work but also the impact on The Maltings, such as possible short term closure to facilitate these works.
“We have just celebrated 25 years and despite its inherent limitations, the building has served us and the local community well to date.
“However, we very much look forward to bringing great art and entertainment to Berwick and showcasing the wealth of talent that exists in our community for the next 25 years.
“So we have to be open to all the possible options, from maintaining the building that we have to exploring whether the sums involved in repairs might be so high that they’d be better spent in partnership with others on developing a new facility fit for the 21st century - in terms of technical requirements, venue facilities and customer comfort.
“Accordingly we will work with NCC over the next three months to maximise their support for a formal study into how best to ensure the long term security of our programme, maximising the many ways in which we play a vital role in the local community and economic well-being of the region.
“Our expectation is that the study will definitively establish the relative merits of investing in the existing building compared to jointly working on plans for a new purpose built space so that we and NCC can plan effectively for the future.”
A feasibility study carried out by consultants found that NCC plans to co-locate services in a revamped Maltings were not economically viable.