Monday 18 February 2008

The Theatres Trust

15 February 2008
Ms Deborah Tobin
The Planning Inspectorate
4/04 Kite Wing
Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Temple Quay
Bristol BS1 6PN

Dear Ms Tobin,

Town and Country Planning Act 1990 – Section 77 Application by Arrowcroft Limited. Site at land adjoining East Croydon Station, George Street, Dingwell Road and Lansdowne Road, Croydon Application ref: APP/L5240/V/1198485 Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment)(England and Wales) Regulations 1999

London Borough of Croydon (Land West of East Croydon Station, the Gateway Site) Compulsory Purchase Order 2007

The Theatres Trust was sent a CD on 25 January 2008 of information which responds to comments and criticisms of the Environmental Statement (dated 2007) made by objectors to the planning application. I am writing to express our concern over proposals for the replacement for the Croydon Warehouse Theatre (WT).

The Theatres Trust is The National Advisory Public Body for Theatres and a statutory consultee on planning applications affecting land on which there is a theatre. This applies to all theatre buildings, old and new, in current use, in other uses, or disused. It was established by The Theatres Trust Act 1976 'to promote the better protection of theatres'. Our main objective is to safeguard theatre use, or the potential for such use, but we also provide expert advice on design, conservation, property and planning matters to theatre operators, local authorities and official bodies.

The Theatres Trust has no confidence in the additional information supplied following the Public Inquiry and does not consider that the proposals put forward guarantee a proper replacement for the Croydon Warehouse Theatre. The referred plans are inadequate in that there are no existing and proposed sections or plans for the theatre and therefore it is difficult to assess the integral design or whether the theatre will be fit for purpose. Theatres are very complex buildings technically and do need to be very carefully planned both inside and out. Furthermore, we would need to be certain that safeguards are in place to secure the sustainability of the theatre set out in a Section 106 Agreement.

We are deeply concerned about the suggestion on page 39 (S12.5 P12.51) of WSP's Response that 'the relocation of the WT will be dependant on agreeing lease terms and Theatre to relocate, fit out and operate a replacement theatre and the production of a business plan demonstrating to Arrowcroft's satisfaction that would be able to operate a theatre within the development on a viable basis.' This clause would make the prospect of the Warehouse Theatre moving to new premises virtually impossible.

The Warehouse Theatre or indeed any other theatre operator would never be able to prove that such a business would be viable particularly where additional capital money would be required for fit-out. Small independent theatre companies have very tight margins and work for the cultural benefit of the local community. They rely on public funding from bodies such as the Art Council Lottery Fund, the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Big Lottery, the RDA or the local authority. Funders require evidence of need to be demonstrated by catchment and competition analysis, public benefit, social, economic and environmental impact, and evidence that stakeholders' views have been taken on board through consultation.

Furthermore we note that a separate application for the Warehouse Theatre would be required and that it is only Arrowcroft who have to be satisfied that the theatre can operate on a viable basis. With so many indeterminable outcomes the Trust fails to see how a replacement theatre would meet conditions as required by Arrowcroft. In addition Arrowcroft appears to put all the risk onto the theatre but does not accept any responsibility or offer any compensation for the environmental or operational conditions that would be imposed by its development and which would adversely affect the delivery of a viable business plan.

Without clear plans planning permission and fair provisions with a Section 106 The Theatres Trust continues to oppose the application.

Yours sincerely,

Mark J Price
Planning and Architecture Adviser

The Theatres Trust is the National Advisory Public Body for Theatres, protecting theatres for everyone.

A list of the trustees can be viewed here.

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