The redevelopment of Hertford Theatre took a big step forward last night when the District Council approved planning permission for the project.
The investment of £19.9m will improve facilities at the theatre and make it a "beacon of sustainability for the County and for Theatres".
The redevelopment will see first release films on offer with the addition of three bespoke cinema screens, a brand new studio auditorium for smaller live acts and performances, and a plaza-style foyer with riverside café-bar. There will also be two hireable community spaces and improved access to all areas of the building.
Improved integration with the surrounding historical area will uncover the castle motte, providing a boardwalk in to the castle grounds.
The plans were the subject of a public consultation in September last year and again later after a formal planning application was submittted in November.
During a 50 minute discussion at yesterday's meeting of the Development Management Committee, councillors raised issues about parking, toilets and the layout of the new building. However there was broad agreement that the redeveloped theatre would benefit the town.
The committee voted by a majority to approve the plans, with veteran councillor Peter Ruffles abstaining.
Cllr. Ruffles has been a Board Member on the Theatre Development project, although his Board Membership and Planning Committee Membership are quite different, having declared a non financial interest he was qualified to both speak and vote at Planning Committee. He spoke supportively but made the discretionary decision not to vote.
Speaking to Discover Hertford after the meeting, he said, "As a Theatre Board member I'm obviously an enthusiast for the investment the Council is putting into Hertford. The aim is to turn a big subsidy into a people's centre which washes its face, financially. I pointed out some elements of the plans I particularly like, but left it to my fellow members to do the voting. They were unanimous in their approval of the plans."
Rhys Thomas, director of Hertford Theatre said, "Throughout the health crisis over the last year, the one thing that has been even more crucial and evident is a need to hold on to a sense of community. The improvement works will ensure that Hertford Theatre can meet demand and will sustainably stand the test of time.
"The theatre is such a hub, in the middle of Hertford Town and so well used by many community groups. The new opportunities and the emphasis on sustainability that the Growth and Legacy Project will bring are going to be exciting to watch take shape."
The theatre will close to the public from Monday 7th June 2021 in preparation for building work to begin in the summer/autumn. The next stage of the project is appointing a main contractor.
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