Cautious welcome for bid to secure Byre Theatre future in lease deal

Councillors in north east Fife have cautiously welcomed plans to safeguard the Byre Theatre’s future by extending St Andrews University’s lease on the building until 2054.

By Craig Smith, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Wednesday, 24th November 2021, 3:19 pm

The proposals, which still have to be signed off by the council’s assets and corporate services committee, could see the theatre bought by St Andrews University for just £1 upon lease termination - meaning FIfe Council would lose out on an estimated £445,000 capital receipt.

However, members of the north east FIfe area committee have given the idea their blessing - provided the university sees through its commitment to maintain and develop the theatre for locals and visitors alike.

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Byre Theatre, St Andrews

Liberal Democrat councillor Tim Brett acknowledged the university’s various pledges to develop the theatre and enhance links with the local community as part of the proposed agreement but called for some sort of “mechanism” to be put in place to ensure they are met.

Conservative councillor Tony Miklinski also questioned what alternative options had been explored, while Lib Dem councillor Jane-Ann Liston noted that tens of thousands of pounds worth of Common Good funding had previously been ploughed into the Byre’s operation.

All of those points are expected to be touched upon in a final report to committee next month, but Labour councillor Brian Thomson suggested the proposed way forward appears best for both parties.

The St Andrews Green Film Festival held at the Byre Theatre in 2019

And he added: “If the university hadn’t stepped in then the Byre wouldn’t be here in its current shape or form.”

St Andrews University took over the Byre in 2014 after financial difficulties forced the theatre to close a year earlier.

SInce then it has hosted a varied and vibrant programme of university performances, events and activities, as well as conferences, exhibitions, social and engagement activities.

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