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Farnham’s Redgrave Theatre approved for demolition again

The Redgrave Theatre in Farnham, Surrey. Photo: Theatres Trust

Fresh plans to demolish the Redgrave Theatre in Farnham have been approved, in another blow to the dormant theatre.

The decision to renew listed building consent to tear down the building has prompted some to question the viability of the development slated for the area. It has not begun construction despite being green lit more than a decade ago.

A conditional contract to create a major retail and residential district was awarded to developers Crest Nicholson and Sainsbury’s in 2003. It has not yet started. Listed building consent must be reapplied for every three years.

This is the third time an application has been submitted [1] to demolish the theatre building, which is attached to the grade II-listed Brightwell House. The Redgrave acting dynasty has been heavily involved in the site over its history.

The plans come 20 years after the Redgrave Theatre was closed by Waverley Borough Council. It will be knocked down and the adjacent Brightwell House will be converted to form two restaurants.

The council approved an application for consent to demolish the building last week, despite it attracting 260 objections and five votes of support from neighbours and consultees.

Among the objectors was the Theatres Trust. It opposed on the grounds the plans do not offer a replacement cultural facility or a financial contribution to support an existing facility.

In a letter to Waverley council, planning consultant Ross Anthony said: “The trust recognises the importance of investment and regeneration within town centres. It takes a proactive role in encouraging local authorities and the private sector to rejuvenate and reuse existing theatre buildings as a catalyst for regeneration.”

However, that this is the third time listed building consent has been sought by the developers “puts the viability of the scheme in doubt”, the trust said.

“There is clearly an issue with the applicant’s ability to deliver this scheme. As it now appears to be unviable, it is unlikely they will deliver any of the public benefits needed to justify a renewal of this consent for the unnecessary loss of the grade II-listed theatre. As well as the associated harm to Brightwells House,” Anthony added.

Campaigners fighting to save the theatre also argue the scheme is not viable, describing it as a “white elephant”.

Anne Cooper, chair of the Farnham Theatre Association, told The Stage the group was disappointed but not surprised by the council’s decision to renew listed building consent.

She claimed developers Crest Nicholson had “still not found enough shops and restaurants to make it viable”. Cooper said the group believes that if the plans were altered, the theatre could have a realistic future and is committed to continue fighting.