CAMPAIGNERS gave a cautious welcome to an opportunity to save a much-loved theatre.

Thurrock Council this week threw out an olive branch to supporters of the Thameside Theatre in Grays, which is under threat.

The council had considered including the theatre in its fire sale of council properties to help it fill a £34.3million financial black hole.

However, the council is now suggesting relocating the library registry office to a new civic building with the possibility of allowing a community group to take over the theatre.

Odette Stevens, a volunteer at the museum based in the Thameside complex, joined the fight to save Thameside. She welcomed the chance of a community takeover but said campaigners wanted to scrutinise the details.

She said: “I think this is a good idea but community ownership is far from a done deal and the campaign group will be discussing their response. There is a breakdown of running costs and they are not that bad. The council has exaggerated what’s wrong with it.

“It’s not going to cost a lot to put right. It needs a new boiler and things like that. It’s all the stuff that should have been done over the years.”

Ms Stevens added: “They want to move the library and the registry office but they aren’t giving them much room. The library will have room for eight bookshelves and two computers but at the moment they have about 30 computers and two floors of books.

“They are talking about putting us in an empty shop in the High Street but there won’t be enough space as we have so many artefacts. We want to stay where we are and we want to be together with the library.”

Proposals "to deliver services more effectively from fewer buildings" will be discussed by the corporate overview and scrutiny committee next week.

Mark Coxshall, councillor responsible for regeneration, strategic planning and external relationships, said: "Many of the buildings we have traditionally operated services from are now old, dilapidated and no longer fit for purpose. It is estimated that it will cost a minimum of £16million to bring the Thameside Complex alone up to standard, this investment is only to maintain the current building and will not increase capacity or bring any much needed improvement to the performance area.

"These proposals will allow us to re-imagine services for the 21st century which are based in communities rather than behind the doors of aging buildings, with the additional benefit of releasing surplus buildings so land can be used for redevelopment and regeneration purposes. However, I also welcome interest from local groups on the potential for community asset transfer of the Thameside Complex."