DAVID Dimbleby has warned that heavy cuts will put the future of a renowned gallery at risk.

The award-winning Towner Art Gallery, which attracts 150,000 visitors a year, would have its funding slashed by 50 per cent if Eastbourne Borough Council’s proposal is approved.

Mr Dimbleby, chairman of the board of trustees for Towner, said the planned cutbacks would damage not only the gallery but Eastbourne in general.

He said: “Eastbourne Borough Council is proposing cuts that jeopardise the future of a critically acclaimed and popular arts organisation. Towner has played a central role in the cultural and social life of the town, the surrounding area and further afield, for nearly 100 years.”

The Question Time host added that while the cuts would not necessarily force the gallery to close, they would have a considerable impact on the quality and quantity of the exhibitions it hosts.

He said: “We could lose six out of ten exhibitions a year as well as your award-winning learning programme, putting at risk everything that Towner stands for.”

The council is proposing a reduction of £200,000 in April followed by further cuts in the years to come.

It currently invests £614,000 in the gallery each year.

It also invests £44 million into the nearby Devonshire Quarter area, which includes Devonshire Park Theatre and the Congress Theatre.

Towner Art Gallery is the largest of its kind in the South East.

It has a permanent collection of more than 5,000 artworks including the world’s largest selection of works by Eric Ravilious, who grew up in Eastbourne.

Other notable artists whose work is displayed at the gallery include Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, David Bomberg and Grayson Perry.

Earlier this year, Towner unveiled a £500,000 cinema which shows a range of films and artists’ installations.

The Towner was established in 1920 but the ever-increasing collection of art contained within it demanded a bigger space.

Plans for a new building were approved in 2005 and the new-look Towner opened four years later.

In 2014, Towner became an independent charitable trust, supported by a board of trustees headed by David Dimbleby.

The gallery’s outreach programme has seen the Towner invite more than 8,000 children through its doors.

It also provides support for adults and children with mental health conditions and people living with dementia and memory loss.