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Cafe plan for derelict Burnley Empire is ‘huge blow’ to restoration

Inside the derelict Empire Theatre in Burnley. Photo: Fragglehunter

Plans for a cafe in the former foyer of the derelict Burnley Empire have been labelled a “huge blow” to the future restoration of the building.

Burnley Borough Council has approved a 10-year temporary planning permission for the theatre’s front entrance to be used as a cafe, despite the planning officer in the case advising just a three-year lease.

The Theatres Trust has argued that works to this part of the building would “hamper future public access to the theatre” and recommended rejection. At most it argues that a two-year temporary lease be granted, with any alterations to the building to be constructed so that they are fully reversible.

Ranked 14th on the Theatres Trust’s Theatres at Risk Register 2018, the grade II-listed Victorian theatre has been disused for 20 years.

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A statement from the Theatres Trust states: “This is a huge blow to Burnley Empire Theatre Trust, the campaign group looking to restore and reopen the building, and to the future restoration of Burnley Empire.”

It states that the council’s decision leaves an “enormous uphill struggle” for Burnley Empire Theatre Trust and says: “It is disappointing that the council has not recognised the real potential of this building which could provide Burnley and its new student population a vibrant cultural and historical focal point of which to be proud.”

It adds: “We made it very clear that permission for a period any longer than three-years would not only be unacceptable to us, but would likely jeopardise the opportunity to restore the theatre as an asset for Burnley.”

The Theatre is owned by the Duchy of Lancaster, and the applicant listed on the planning form is Mr and Mrs Musso.

Burnley Borough Council has not responded to a request for comment.