The troubled Burnley Empire Theatre has been put up for auction by its owners, sparking fresh hopes for its restoration.
Ranked 14th on the Theatres Trust’s Theatres at Risk Register in 2018 , the grade II-listed building has been disused for 20 years.
Campaigners have been fighting for its restoration, however the 123-year-old building recently suffered a set-back when it fell victim to a suspected arson attack.
Now its owners the Duchy of Lancaster have placed the theatre up for auction, starting at £1, with a spokeswoman claiming this is “the only remaining solution” after reportedly offering campaigners the opportunity to come up with a viable plan for the preservation of the building.
Conservation organisation the Theatres Trust has said it is hopeful the new owner will work towards the theatre’s restoration.
Architecture adviser at the Theatres Trust Claire Appleby said: “The worst case scenario is that Burnley Empire is bought by someone who has not understood the complexities and obligations associated with owning a grade II-listed building.
“This has happened before to Burnley Empire and other theatres at risk. The Empire has suffered from years of neglect, but we believe it is possible for this historically significant venue to be restored to its former glory.”
She added: “We are hopeful that any new owner will also see these opportunities and work with Burnley Empire Theatre Trust, ourselves and the National Trust towards a positive future for the Empire.
“We are certainly not giving up on Burnley Empire and would encourage anyone with an interest in seeing it restored and reopened for the benefit of the local community to support in any way they can.”
However, campaign group the Burnley Empire Theatre Trust told the Burnley Express that if the new owner cannot cover the restoration costs, the theatre is at risk of being left “unattended, unused and unsafe for years”.
A spokeswoman for the Duchy of Lancaster said the estate had worked closely with the local council and Burnley Empire Theatres Trust to try to ensure the building remained in local ownership.
She said: “We have offered it for sale at £1 and latterly offered to gift it to the council, the Theatres Trust and the National Trust for nil consideration.
“Having held the property for nearly four years to give these interested parties the opportunity to come up with a viable plan for the preservation and use of the property, there has been no realistic progress to date.”
She added: “All parties acknowledge that as ‘owner of last resort’ the Duchy is not responsible for the upkeep or restoration of the building. The only remaining solution therefore is to offer it for sale at auction.”