Community asset bid to save Banbury’s Grand Theatre

The Grand Theatre, Banbury, is up for redevelopment. The front in Broad Street. NNL-171001-161137009
The Grand Theatre, Banbury, is up for redevelopment. The front in Broad Street. NNL-171001-161137009
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Efforts to preserve the Grand Theatre in Banbury’s Broad Street stepped up a gear as the group fighting for its survival applied to have the building designated as a community asset.

The Friends of the Grand Theatre have nominated Wonder Lounge, formerly The Grand Theatre, for listing as an Asset of Community Value under the Assets of Community Value (ACV) Regulations, and is being evaluated by Cherwell District Council.

Successful designation as an ACV will not guarantee the edifices survival but it will recognise the theatre’s value as a social and cultural asset to the community.

Under the legislation the approval of ACV status would provide four layers of protection. ACV status is a consideration in planning applications and can be used by the planning inspectorate as a factor in refusing permission for change of use or demolition.

There are two purchasing aspects to an ACV. Community right to bid allows an ACV to be purchased by a group representing its users or the local community, while a compulsory purchase rights states that an ACV-registered building can be compulsorily bought by the local authority or council if the asset is under threat of long-term loss to the community.

The fourth level of protection allows the removal of permitted development rights for change of use and demolition of public houses and was one tool used by Bloxham villagers in an attempt to save the Red Lion pub.

Rob Kinchin-Smith a founding member of The Friends of the Grand Theatre said: “The Friends believe that this building is too good to lose and that a community performance space and hub in this key location in the town centre could be a key driver in bringing much-needed life and footfall back to the ‘old town’.”

The Grand remains the subject of a planning application to turn it into two retail units and 12 flats.

The Friends group is dedicated to “the protection and preservation of the building as a social and performance venue for the benefit and well-being of the whole community”. Its Facebook community page currently has over 3,000 members.

To voice your opposition email Cherwell Council’s planning dept at DM.Comments@cherwell-dc.gov.uk quoting 16/02529/F

The development will be discussed at the upcoming Cherwell District Council planning meeting at Bodicote House on Thursday March 16 from 4pm.

To read the planning report in full go to page 157 of the public record.