Plans to create the first theatre in Warrington for more than 25 years are no longer going ahead, the council’s leader has said.
Last year, Warrington Borough Council backed proposals to build a new theatre in the town, which aimed to serve both amateur and professional companies and provide Warrington with a theatre space for the first time since the Crosfields Centenary Theatre closed in 1991.
The possibility of converting a former drill hall on the Town Hall site into a 400-seat theatre was later announced, but council leader Russ Bowden has now said the local authority’s vision will not include a new theatre for the foreseeable future.
According to the Warrington Guardian, Bowden said there were “a lot of issues” with the drill hall proposal, and external advisers had warned investment would need to be significant to get it off the ground.
“What they are basically saying to us is maybe have that [the drill hall] as an ambition in the longer term but actually establish the evidence base, actually get more performing theatre here in Warrington with the dramatics groups and use that as a stepping stone proving the business case and, hopefully, justifying significant expenditure at a later date.
“But in terms of a new theatre, as a building, it is clearly off the table at the moment,” he said.
However, Bowden argued that theatre in the town “as an entity” was “very much still alive and well”.
“What we need to look at is how we can support that particular community here in Warrington with flexible space, maybe looking again at the [concert venue] Pyramid and Parr Hall and what the offer is there.”
Bowden’s comments have been criticised by fellow councillor Dan Price, who previously led on proposals for the new theatre.
He said: “Everyone leaves this town to access theatre and plays because we fundamentally lack a theatre space with wings and the flexible staging that theatre companies require.”
Price said the council had “decided to ignore all of the town’s voices and its own evidence”, and described its move as “incredibly short-sighted and totally unambitious”.