A £2.4 million theatre and arts centre has gone into voluntary liquidation.

The charitable trust managing Chequer Mead Arts Centre in East Grinstead has run up debts estimated to total tens of thousands of pounds.

Producer Michael Lowy, of the Company of Friends, which has put on pantomimes and musicals at Chequer Mead, is owed about £20,000, making him the biggest creditor.

His group has already spent money on costumes and scenery for this year's Christmas pantomime and is owed box office takings from its last production.

He said: "I am very angry we are owed money.

"The people carrying the can are the creditors.

"I haven't received one penny from the box office takings from our last production."

When built in 1996 for £2.41 million, the centre was the largest capital project developed by any town or parish council in England or Wales.

The building includes a 340-seat theatre, a gallery, two meeting rooms, a studio room and a cafe restaurant.

It was rated among the top ten East Grinstead attractions in a town "health check" last year.

Mr Lowy predicted the town would suffer if the centre was closed, though its events programme is scheduled to continue for the time being.

He said: "It's important for the community and it's of tremendous use to young people. The place is always buzzing.

"There isn't any other proper theatre until you get to Brighton. I'm hopeful it will stay open."

Insolvency firm Sterling Ford is now managing the centre in De La Warr Road and a creditors' meeting will take place on April 19 to determine its fate.

Deputy town mayor Christine Mainstone said: "We are all devastated."

East Grinstead Town Council owns the building and contributes £75,000 a year to running costs, although the Chequer Mead Arts Centre Trust is run independently of the council.

Town clerk Chris Rolley said: "The town council is proud of what Chequer Mead has achieved in developing its profile and reputation since it first opened its doors in 1996.

"The council heard with great sadness that the independent trust company that operates the building has decided it cannot close the revenue funding gap to meets its rising debts, resulting in its decision to seek liquidation.

"It aims to ensure the town retains the wonderful resource that Chequer Mead has become, on a basis that is affordable, sustainable and beneficial to the whole community".

Trustee Melvin Phillips said he could not comment until after the creditors' meeting.