Leicester taxpayers footing £120,000 bill for upkeep of Haymarket Theatre
Taxpayers are footing a £120,000-a-year bill for the upkeep of Leicester's disused Haymarket Theatre, it has been revealed.
City mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said the venue, which was closed in 2007, will continue to leave Leicester City Council with costly service charges and rates until a buyer can be found.
The 753-seat theatre, built in 1972, is on the market for £500,000 but no firm buyer has yet stepped forward.
Sir Peter said: "I am very upset about the cost we face because of the Haymarket.
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"The decision to close it was taken 10 years ago and the process was mismanaged by the city council. A decision was taken some 10 years ago to move productions to what is now Curve, but a buyer should have been found for the Haymarket before that happened.
"Now we find ourselves with a large property which is expensive to maintain.
"I am upset about that but what we need to do now is secure a sale of the premises."
The council has had interest in the site from "a number of leisure organisations and some religious groups".
Sir Peter said: "There is one particular group which is of interest. We are following that up but I don't want to say too much.
"The place was built as a theatre, so something along those lines may work."
The council has a lease on the Haymarket which runs to 2073.
Sir Peter admitted he may be prepared to reduce the £500,000 asking price to offload the property.
He said: "I think £500,000 is a reasonable price but I am open to sensible offers. We want to find a use that brings some activity back to that part of the city centre."
The city council had been offered a £5 million Government grant to transform the Haymarket into a youth hub, but the council's previous administration abandoned that scheme when it realised it could not afford the day-to-day running costs of the ambitious project.
Sir Peter, who took charge of the council after that idea was scrapped, said: "The business plan was poor and it was an opportunity lost."
Conservative opposition councillor Ross Grant said: "I think we are going to be stuck with this building for a very long time and the costs associated with us."
Fiona Green, 56, from Belgrave, who was a regular theatre-goer at the Haymarket, said she was upset to see the building lying empty.
She said: "It does sadden me because I enjoyed some wonderful evenings.
"I have no idea what it could be used for. I doubt it will be a theatre again because it would compete with Curve, which is an excellent venue."