Banbury Grand Theatre campaigners defeated as council approves flats proposal

The exterior of Banbury Grand Theatre, when it was in use as a bar and restaurant
The exterior of Banbury Grand Theatre, when it was in use as a bar and restaurant
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Plans to turn Banbury’s Grand Theatre into flats were approved by Cherwell District Council on March 16, despite strong opposition from campaigners.

This is the third application to have been submitted to the council since 2014. Initial plans to turn the theatre into six flats, two mews houses and retails units were approved by the local authority but were deemed financially unviable.

A further submission was made in 2016 and then withdrawn. Those plans were amended and resubmitted, proposing 12 flats and retail units. The latest application was granted at yesterday’s planning meeting.

Last week the Friends of the Grand Theatre, which is campaigning for the theatre to remain a performing arts venue, nominated the building for listing as an asset of community value.

If approved, this status would have to be considered in planning applications and could be grounds for refusing permission for change of use. It could also allow the rescinding of plans that have already been approved.

Yesterday’s decision does not affect the nomination for ACV status.

Rob Kinchin-Smith, who leads the Friends of the Grand Theatre group, criticised the planning committee’s lack of commitment to ensuring that the venue retained its community and performance uses.

Writing on the group’s Facebook page, he said: “So much for localism and faith in the people. So much for a diverse, vibrant town centre. The campaign continues, with renewed resolve.”

Although the century-old art deco building’s proscenium arch, circle and fly system remain intact, it has not been used as performance venue since the 1960s, and has been vacant since 2014.

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