Burslem panto in peril after roof repairs dispute with Stoke-on-Trent City Council
A THEATRE'S annual festive pantomime faces being cancelled amid a six-month city council dispute over roof repairs.
Bosses at the Queens Theatre, in Burslem, say Stoke-on-Trent City Council's failure to fix the building's roof is causing water to leak into its dressing rooms every time it rains.
Kilnstone Properties, which runs the theatre, is 10 years into a 100-year lease on the property.
However, the council retains responsibility for maintenance insurance at the Wedgwood Street venue.
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Now, owner Steve Ball – who claims to have invested £2,000 in temporary repairs – is considering legal action because the roof has still not been fixed, six months after it was reported as leaking.
The theatre attracts almost 4,000 people to its annual pantomime.
But upcoming festive performances of "Once Upon a Panto Time", for which tickets have already been sold to school groups, will be cancelled unless the repairs dispute is resolved.
Mr Ball said: "The cast is absolutely devastated that the prospect of cancellation is looming.
"It was first reported to the council in April. This is a listed building and we got on to it straight away and put on plastic coating to stop it leaking in.
"But the council then told me they were dealing with it and I was not to go on the roof or do anything else. It won't be long before ceilings are coming in and plaster is peeling off.
"At the moment, the pantomime does not look likely. This is going to close us.
"It feels like it's going to take a miracle to get the council moving in time."
Mr Ball said the council also failed to inform him about asbestos discovered at the building, even though he holds the property register.
He fears officers are attempting to force him out of the lease so they can sell the property or use it for their own regeneration schemes.
"I feel like they are just trying to get us out of the way by making things as difficult as possible."
Christian minister Carl Washington, aged 43, of Bentilee, who is due to star in the pantomime, said: "The pantomime at The Queens is something I'm passionate about. A lot of people like to attend it because they can't afford tickets at The Regent.
"We've met to discuss the script and there has been a lot of background work on the set and the scenery.
"It seems like it could be such a simple job for the council, with all of the workforce and money they have behind them." The Queens Theatre was shut in 1999 after part of the ceiling collapsed into the auditorium.
It remained empty until Mr Ball's Kilnstone Properties took over and refurbished the building in 2003.
A spokesperson for Stoke-On-Trent City Council said: "The council is in direct contact with the leaseholder, Kilnstone Properties, regarding the Queens Theatre.
"We would not comment further at this point, other than to say that Stoke-on-Trent City Council is fully committed to supporting and developing business and fostering arts and cultural activity, which helps to make this a great place to live."