Campaign to save Scarborough’s Futurist Theatre changes tack following demolition vote

The interior of Scarborough's Futurist Theatre
The interior of Scarborough's Futurist Theatre
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Campaigners fighting to save Scarborough’s Futurist Theatre are pinning their hopes on the venue being listed to prevent the local council demolishing it.

Councillors from Scarborough voted to spend £4 million to demolish the theatre earlier this week, following a lengthy dispute over the building’s sustainability. It was closed in 2014, after Scarborough Borough Council and the venue’s then operators failed to agree financial terms for its running.

However, campaigners are hoping that an application from the council for a Certificate of Immunity from Listing, meaning the venue could not be statutorily listed for a period of five years, will be rejected. The application was submitted last year, and a decision – ultimately made by the culture secretary – is expected imminently.

The Theatres Trust, which bas been campaigning for the venue’s future since it first appeared on its Theatre Buildings at Risk register in 2008, said: “Should the certificate be rejected, the building will automatically become statutory listed, which would be a real barrier to the building’s demolition.”

Adam Flynn, from the Save the Futurist campaign, added: “There is a possibility that the application for immunity will be rejected, in which case it would immediately be listed. I don't know if we are holding our breath on that one but we will see. That would make it [demolition] a lot more difficult.”

At a council meeting on Monday, councillors voted 22 to 21 in favour of demolition.

Flynn told The Stage the campaigners were “shellshocked” by the decision and claimed demolishing the venue would do “a real disservice” to the town.

He said the campaign group was proposing to redevelop the theatre, but had not been given sufficient time to formulate these plans.

“We don't have another receiving proscenium house in the town and it’s the biggest in the region. The modernisation we wanted to do meant it could receive smaller projects but the bigger ones too, such as megamusicals. We wouldn't sustain them for as long as somewhere like Manchester but at least we could have got the product in. If we could it would have been the only theatre in the region capable of hosting that sort of thing,” he added.

The Theatres Trust also said the plans would have brought “real economic benefit to the town”.

A spokeswoman for Historic England, which oversees listing applications, confirmed it had received a Certificate of Immunity application for the Futurist and was in the process of formulating its advice, which then goes to the culture secretary, who makes a final decision.

“If the final decision from an application is to deny a COI then that normally results in the listing of the building,” she added.

Historic England was previously asked to list the Futurist in January 2015. It advised that, although locally important, it did not have “the special historic or architectural interest to merit listing at a national level”.

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