CONSULTATION on the future of New Brighton's Floral Pavilion theatre is underway.

A specialist provider is currently being sought as part of a proposal to help attract the bigger shows to the seaside venue in a bid to make it more successful.

A report to be considered by the council's environment overview and scrutiny committee on July 2 says the authority is continuing to look at plans first revealed last year to bring in a national organisation to take over the theatre.

The 800-seat theatre does not produce its own plays which means it is limited in the performances it can attract, as well as the percentage of ticket sales it may retain and the income it may generate.

Environment overview and scrutiny committee chair Chris Blakeley said he hoped the council listens to the public, adding that it needs to improve the way it consults.

Cllr Julie McManus, cabinet member for community services, said: "This is a process which will include extensive consultation and engagement with the many people who use the Floral Pavilion and those who work there to ensure they are fully involved in making decisions about its future.

"Over the coming weeks and months we will be talking to theatre-goers who visit the Floral, the volunteers who give so much of their time to ensure it's such a fantastic destination, and of course to the staff and our trade union colleagues about the best way forward.

"We want to see this iconic cultural institution serve the people of Wirral to best effect for decades to come, and as cabinet member I will work closely with my colleagues on the scrutiny committee, and other council members, to make sure they are fully involved in this process and build a consensus on the final decision about the theatre's future.

"This is not about selling off a council asset.

"If there is agreement about taking this proposal forward we would retain the freehold and place restrictions on its future use to guarantee it remains a theatre and conference venue."

It is more than a decade since the theatre was rebuilt. Its overhaul played a key role in kick-starting the regeneration of New Brighton.

These proposals could remove the financial pressure of operating the theatre – expected to be around £550,00 a year – while also ensuring it can grow in the audiences it attracts and build on the prestige it already commands.

With a commercial theatre operator the Floral Pavilion could be in a better position to book performers for a number of theatres, obtain a greater share of the income from tickets and attract even more well-known acts.

The theatre and site would remain in council ownership, leased to the provider to allow them to make the necessary investment.

A restrictive covenant would be put in place to ensure it can only be used as a theatre and conference venue.

This approach would see theatre staff transfer to the new theatre provider.

A marketing campaign has been launched and potential operators have until July 15 to submit expressions of interest, after which they will be assessed by councillors before any decision is made.

A report on the progress of the proposals is due to be presented to the Council's Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee when it meets on July 2.

Cllr Chris Blakeley, chair of the committee, said: "As we have seen with other recent proposals, the council needs to improve the way it consults and actually listens. 

"The Floral is a much-loved local facility and the staff there do a fantastic job to welcome visitors from across the region. 

"When the cabinet's proposals come before the committee, I'll be looking for evidence that the staff have been involved in this plan and that the wider public has also been given the chance to have their say."