Croydon Council’s £30m budget for redeveloping Fairfield Halls may be insufficient to cover the scope of its plans, an advisory panel has warned.

A Theatres Trust peer review criticised the council’s proposals for the venue, highlighting a lack of clear strategy on about who will run the venue, poor planning and design problems.

The panel, which included current and former chief executives of Birmingham Symphony Hall, the Bristol Music Trust and Birmingham Royal Ballet, urged the authority not to “lose sight” of its ambition to reduce running costs to free up more money for arts development instead of maintenance.

It expressed concerns that "no finalised operational brief" was in place and said identifying an operator to running the theatre complex "as soon as possible is critical".

The report “strongly suggested” a trust be established to run the halls when they are re-opened as the council may face difficulties getting everything it needs from a commercial operator.

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The Save Our Fairfield campaign, which lobbied vocally for part of the venue to remain open during refurbishment, said the report “mirrored” its own warnings that Fairfield will be fatally damaged following its July 15 closure, which they fear would see it lose its connections with arts and culture.

Andy Hylton, a former technician at Fairfield who has led the campaign, said: “Croydon Council, and the ruling councillors, have mismanaged the closure since they sprung the plans on the Fairfield Halls charity in October 2015.

“This report raises concerns about the lack of foresight, which mirrors the warnings which we've raised as part of the campaign.”

But Councillor Timothy Godfrey, cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport, denied the report was critical and said the project would not exceed its £30m budget.

He instead suggested the Save Our Fairfield campaign had been “nothing but negative”.

He said: “The former operator had serious financial problems and the Theatres Trust peer review is an amazing opportunity to have experts from across the country share with us their experience.

“What we can’t do is have another 30 years of zero investment, the place needs continual investment and a new operator is going to bring in those charitable funds and commercial funds.

“The Save our Fairfield campaign has been a tide of negativity when the Fairfield project has been the best thing that has happened to this town for decades. “No other council is spending £30m on their arts venue.”

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The council in March submitted a planning application for a £750m transformation of the town centre after the theatre complex's management agreed to the closure to allow for the revamp.

Long-awaited plans to overhaul the dated building and transform it into a venue that council leader Tony Newman claimed would "outdo the South Bank" were first unveiled in October.

They prompted a noisy debate about the impact of the closure would have on Croydon's cultural scene.

The town centre development also includes plans for a new Croydon College building, more than 2,000 homes, offices, restaurants and shops spread across land between George Street, Park Lane and Barclay Road.

Cllr Godfrey said the council should have a clearer idea of how the venue will be run by Easter next year, about 12 months before its scheduled re-opening date.

He added: “It remains an option [to have a trust running the complex.] That is what the procurement process is about – it is about finding an operator.

“The whole design from our professional teams at the Fairfield has all been about making sure it reflects an adaptable venue with lots of commercial income opportunities.

“By sourcing the best of the industry from classical to contemporary music to theatre, we are asking what works as a really good mix.”

RELATED: Charity that runs Fairfield Halls files for administration days after venue shuts for £30m refurbishment

The panel questioned whether an improved get-in process – in which the set, props and other hardware are moved into the theatre ahead of a show – and a bigger stage would entice touring musicals to Croydon.

The trust instead suggested Fairfield’s operator should look to “build on the Hall’s reputation for music to create a new centre for international music”.

Cllr Godfrey said: “From that feedback we are not doing major work to the get-in but we have switched more money to the customer focus to further improvements to the Ashcroft Theatre and to the rest of the venue.

“There are lots of theatres with different get-ins, it is more important to get the customer side of things right that spend millions on an improved get-in.”

Mr Hylton said campaigners would continue to push for a proper interim arts programme while the halls were closed, adding: “A hotch-potch collection of disparate events around the borough is just not good enough for a large town like Croydon.

“We need unity in order to maintain a strong cultural offering for our children and citizens.”

Simon Thomsett, Fairfield’s former chief executive, last year said he believed the venue might never re-open if it closed for two years.

In March, the council moved to mitigate the impact of the closure on damage by hiring a creative director to spearhead efforts to revive the borough’s cultural life.

Three days after the venue closed Fairfield (Croydon) Ltd, the charity that ran the venue, filed for administration – informing its 220 staff that were made redundant that they were unable to pay their settlements.