Blackpool’s former ABC Theatre, which in the past has hosted performances from the Beatles and Morecambe and Wise, is facing demolition following a council decision to buy the site and turn it into a car park.
Built as a music hall in 1895 the venue was totally revamped in 1963. It has been used for television variety performances, as a cinema and most recently a nightclub.
The venue has been closed since 2011 and now Blackpool Council has agreed to purchase the building to secure “a strategic site for the development of the town centre”.
In the short term it says it plans to use the area as a car park to recoup the initial £635,000 it will need to buy the site and to help fund the cost of redevelopment, which it estimates at £1.3 million.
Campaigners are fighting the plans. One petition called Stop the Demolition of the ABC Theatre, which proposes the building be used as an entertainment museum, has attracted more than 2,000 signatures.
Mhora Samuel, director of national theatre advisory body the Theatres Trust, said: “The council needs to come up with a stronger, clearer vision about the future of the current building or a new building on the site before it progresses with any action which might involve demolition.”
She added: “The important point is that the building has always had a history of either being in theatre, cinema or entertainment use and it’s been a popular public dance venue. In terms of what is being proposed – either in the current building or in a new one on the site – plans should reference its former entertainment uses. Otherwise Blackpool loses a venue with a long and important history as a place of entertainment.”
Graham Cain, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for tourism and culture, said: “I am more than happy to meet with interested parties and funders to discuss their ideas. One meeting has already been set for someone to show us their proposals.
“I want to reassure residents that this council is willing to listen to their views and a decision won’t be made until we’ve considered all the options put forward.”