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Nimax chief Nica Burns urges extra protection for theatres

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Theatre leaders should lobby the government for mandatory consultation on new developments close to venues to stop their operations from being threatened, Nimax Theatres chief executive Nica Burns has said.

Speaking at the annual conference by national advisory body the Theatres Trust, Burns called on the industry to campaign together to avoid more residential properties being created next to venues, which can lead to noise complaints.

She said: “I want there to be a mandatory consultation, which is illegal if it is not followed through by the local authority, [on development] around all our theatres. As an industry, in London and regionally, we need to say there should be no more residential accommodation within a certain amount of metres to an existing theatre.”

She also said she wanted mandatory consultation on changes to government policy that affected transport and the flow of traffic around theatres.

In the past, venues in London have experienced problems after new residents living adjacent to theatres have made complaints about noise.

During the 2010 summer season at the 900-seat Lyric Theatre in London, which is owned by Nimax, a complaint from a nearby resident about the noise generated from air conditioning equipment on the roof meant the venue had to turn the machinery off at 10pm every night.

Meanwhile, the West End’s Cambridge Theatre cannot perform a get-in or get-out on Sundays for its shows because its local authority Camden Council does not allow noisy works on that day.

Currently, the Theatres Trust has to be consulted by local council planning departments if development is taking place on the site of a theatre.

Mhora Samuel, director of the Theatres Trust, said she wants the trust to also be consulted on all planning applications for development adjacent to venues in the future.

She said: “The trust would really welcome the opportunity to be consulted on developments taking place adjacent to theatres and we actively encourage theatres and local authority planning teams to contact us particularly where the plans might have a negative impact on a theatre’s viability. We are therefore entirely behind the call Nica Burns made at our conference on June 11.”

Elsewhere at the conference, Flick Rea, chair of the culture, tourism and sports board at the Local Government Association, said the industry must tap into local councils’ “buzzwords and priorities” if it is to survive the projected £19.5 billion local authority budget gap of 2020.

She said the arts sector should “talk in councillors’ language” and try to fit in with local authority priorities such as regeneration and growth, which she described as a “huge agenda”.

“It is clear that the cultural sector agenda, including the visitor economy, is one of the only ones growing in this country. All the things that we in the arts are offering them add to the visitor economy,” she said.

Rea added: “You need to be tapping into those buzzwords and priorities that turn councils on. You will find that if you make the right case, what we [the cultural sector] want for the arts chimes with what they want. You just have to make the two languages work together.”

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