Burnley Empire redevelopment evaluation is ‘last chance saloon’

Inside the derelict Empire Theatre in Burnley. Photo: Fragglehunter Inside the derelict Empire Theatre in Burnley. Photo: Fragglehunter
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Burnley’s Empire Theatre will be assessed to see whether it is fit for redevelopment, after the local council agreed to help fund a viability study.

Following discussions with the Theatres Trust and a local campaign group, Burnley Council said the theatre was in “last chance saloon” and agreed to contribute £5,000 towards the cost of the survey.

However, the local authority ruled out contributing any funding towards a major capital redevelopment project because of austerity cuts to its budget.

The grade II listed Empire Theatre has been derelict for more than 20 years, and is believed to have housed renowned theatre companies including the Old Vic, Sadler’s Wells Ballet and Sadler’s Wells Opera during the Second World War.

Last year, campaign group Burnley Empire Theatre Trust launched a petition to save the theatre from disrepair, which has since attracted more than 1,700 signatures.

Councillor Bea Foster said: “At our meeting with the Burnley Empire Theatre Trust and The Theatres Trust, it was acknowledged by everyone that this is the ‘last chance saloon’ for the building.”

She continued: “As the Council is facing significant financial pressures from the Government’s austerity programme the Council will not be in a position to put in any financial resource into capital works on the building, or for any ongoing revenue support.”

“However we feel that we should help support this local group and The Theatres Trust in this final opportunity to see if a viable future for the building can be found.”

A spokeswoman for the Theatres Trust claimed the Empire was “an important and much-loved building”, and said it was “delighted” to bring the local council and campaign group together to discuss the building’s options.