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Burnley Empire saved after campaign group buy it for £1

Burnley Empire. Photo: Scrappy NW/Flickr

A campaign to reopen the derelict Burnley Empire Theatre has taken a major step forward, after the building was sold to a group which has been trying to save it.

The troubled building was put up for auction [1] earlier this month by its owners the Duchy of Lancaster, with a starting price of £1.

Now the building has been purchased for £1 by Burnley Empire Limited, which is a company formed by campaign group Burnley Empire Theatre Trust.

The deal was originally offered to the group by the Duchy of Lancaster in 2015, but the organisation was not able to take on a project of that scale.

However the group has now been able to take up the offer due to support from the Theatres Trust, the National Trust, theatre consultancy Theatresearch and a donation from an anonymous philanthropist.

Burnley Empire Limited also has the backing of Burnley Borough Council and has received support of offers in-kind from local businesses.

Burnley Empire Limited director Sophie Gibson said: “We are excited to finally own the building that we all care about so much.

“It has been a hectic couple of weeks as there were lots of things to put in place to enable us to take on the building. We’d like to thank everyone who has supported us so far, in particular the Theatres Trust, National Trust, David Wilmore [at Theatresearch], Burnley Council and the Duchy of Lancaster.”

The next steps will be to carry out an assessment of the theatre’s condition and fundraise for immediate repair works and the longer restoration project.

According to the Theatres Trust, the restoration project will focus on making the building wind and water-tight and work towards a longer-term goal to restore and reopen the building for the benefit of the local community.

Architecture adviser at Theatres Trust, Claire Appleby, said: “As Burnley’s only surviving music hall and grade II-listed theatre, Burnley Empire is a magnificent building with a high level of architectural interest and a fascinating history.

“But it is much more than that. It is a building that offers real potential for its local community and the new student population of Burnley.”

Burnley Empire Theatre, which is ranked 14th on the Theatres Trust Theatres at Risk Register [2], has been disused for 20 years.

The 1,200 seat venue was built in 1894 and used as a theatre until 1938, when it became a cinema, and later a bingo hall. The theatre has been empty since 1995, when bingo moved out.