MOMENTUM is growing within the city's business community for a new theatre in Exeter.
The Exeter Business and Trades Association, which has more than 200 members, is behind the call by a growing number of residents for a new theatre to rival Plymouth's Theatre Royal.
Many believe a new theatre should be part of the redevelopment of Exeter's bus and coach station, rather than the proposed new swimming pool with 61 per cent in a recent Echo poll voting in favour.
Ahead of a meeting on January 16 for those who are interested in the development of a major theatre for the city, John Latham, secretary of the Exeter Business and Trade Association, said: "I don't see why Plymouth should have benefits of the residents and business community of Exeter and the surrounding area are at present missing out on by not having a theatre venue in the city centre.
"A city centre theatre would not just be for Exeter residents, because cities which have theatres now attract people from as much as 200 miles away. With the hotels and restaurants Exeter has now, together with a "flagship" store such as John Lewis and others, packages could be put together to create much extra revenue for city centre businesses.
"Years ago, when you went up to London for a show, you caught the coach in the early afternoon, saw the show and came back the same night, arriving in the early hours, but it is all packages now and there is no reason why this could not also be achieved in Exeter.
"When the Exeter Vision was announced by the city council its idea was for the redeveloped bus station area to be that of a new entertainment area.
"Now it says it wishes to provide more shops and more offices, of which in particular there is already an abundance.
"And surely a new swimming pool comes under the category of leisure and recreation, not entertainment.
"During consideration of this project we could be talking not just about a theatre but maybe a multi-purpose venue with conference facilities in the city centre.
"EBTA is supporting Exeter Civic Society during what will hopefully be a positive outcome to the consideration of a future theatre in the centre of Exeter."
A spokesman for the city council said: "The larger theatres which already exist in Torquay and Plymouth receive significant subsidy to enable them to survive and attract the calibre of shows and performers they do successfully.
"They are both relatively close by and easy to get to, and are already involved in offering packages to people from further afield.
"A new venue looking to attract theatre of a similar calibre in Exeter would be in direct competition for audiences and also require large-scale subsidy on top of the considerable construction costs which would be involved.
"It is important to support the venues we have in order that they are able to continue to survive and provide the wide range of performances and entertainment they do."