THE management company of the Wyvern Theatre is set to sign on the dotted line to take over the reins of the Arts Centre within weeks, which one drama group said could mark the end to its performances at the venue.

HQ Theatres is expected to take over the administration of the Old Town premises by the end of January, which is slightly later than first expected after hold-ups with surveys.

The move comes after Swindon Council launched a programme to find alternative ways to fund its leisure and cultural services by outsourcing its management to private providers. The authority has to make savings of £3.6m from its leisure and culture budget by April.

But Western Players drama group chairman Alan Wrixon, of Wroughton, said he was concerned the change-over would see a spike in rates that theatre groups would have to pay to the venue, meaning his group would no longer be able to stage its plays there.

“It is a massive concern for us – we have a number of performances we put on throughout the year there and we want to be able to carry on using it,” said the 67-year-old.

“Everything seems very muddled with no clear answers on what is going to happen. Our group has had dealings with the Wyvern and we are worried this will mean prices will go up.”

He said the whole community would be losing out if local theatre groups, like his own, can no longer use the centre to show their work.

Coun Garry Perkins, cabinet member for economy, regeneration and culture, said he was pleased the council was doing everything it could to safeguard the future of the theatre.

“I’m pleased we have secured the future of the Arts Centre,” said Coun Perkins, who represents Shaw.

“We have tried to find the best possible solution for the customers and for the people putting on the shows.

“We had hoped everything would have been sorted out before Christmas but these things always take longer than expected. The paperwork should be going through over the next few weeks.”

No one at HQ Theatres responded to the Adver’s request for a comment before it went to print, but the council said it would be up to the management company to set the rates.