Plans to open a new theatre in Islington have come to a standstill as the developer and council clash over legal issues.
Planning permission was first granted for the 600-seat Collins Theatre in 2002 as part of a mixed-use development that also included 72 new homes and space for food and drink outlets.
The initial plan – put forward by the site’s then-owner Sally Greene – was for the venue to be a permanent home for the theatre set used in Oscar-winning film Shakespeare in Love.
However, the venue, located on the site of the former Collins Music Hall, has remained an unused shell since it was built on the basement level of the site in Islington Green in 2009.
A company called Berjaya UK Investment and Development acquired the site in 2012 and submitted proposals in 2018 to reduce the venue capacity from 600 to 400.
The plans outlined the theatre’s preferred operator as Shaw Thing Productions, a company set up in 2016.
But the council has not made a decision on the application and the developer has now appealed to the planning inspectorate.
In the appeal documents, Berjaya UK Investment and Development has accused the council of “behaving unreasonably” by not determining the application and of a “lack of cooperation”. The developer says this has wasted its time and led the company to incur unnecessary costs.
The council has said it wants to ensure that the delivery of the theatre is a key requirement of the development being completed. It also wants to ensure that any new theatre operator occupying the development is viable.
In its statement to the inspectorate, the council said: “The key concern with this application is to ensure adequate planning obligations are in place to mitigate the impact of the development, including measures to encourage delivery of the theatre.
“The applicant has not agreed to planning obligations relating to the theatre use.”
Tom Stickland, theatres adviser at the Theatres Trust, said the Collins Theatre space was one it received the most enquiries about, adding that it was keen to see it in permanent operation.
“We echo the council’s view that any operator taking on the building would need to convince them of the long-term viability of their plan,” he said.
The Theatres Trust said it was in contact with the proposed operator and the council about bringing the venue into use.
The planning inspector is expected to make a decision by the end of the year.