Planning approved for Banbury's Grand Theatre but the fight continues

District councillors voted in favour of plans that would allow the former site of Chicago Rock and Wonder Lounge to be converted into residential and retail units.

The Grand Theatre, Banbury, is up for redevelopment. The front in Broad Street. NNL-171001-161114009
The Grand Theatre, Banbury, is up for redevelopment. The front in Broad Street. NNL-171001-161114009

Despite an impassioned presentation by Friends of the Grand Theatre group leader, Rob Kinchin-Smith, Cherwell District Council (CDC) last night (Thursday) voted in favour of the revised plans to allow the Broad Street art deco theatre to be converted into 12 flats and two ground floor retail units.

At first glance this may seem like a defeat for the various community groups that have been fighting to save the building and return it to a functional arts and entertainment hub in the heart of the town.

However planning permission to alter the 100 year old building have been in place since 2014 with no developer or contractor undertaking the project. The 2014 planning permission allowed for eight residential flats but has proven financially none viable.

The new planning permission may also prove to be an undesirable proposition for two reasons. Firstly the flats are significantly smaller than the previous eight due to the increased number and due to the fact the application also has provision for an internal ‘courtyard’ separating one side of the building from the other taking up 12.5 metres of valuable space.

Secondly the planning application has an in-built provision that 40 per cent of the market value of the additional four flats is to be used for affordable housing.

In essence nothing has really changed and the fight to save the edifice for community based arts and entertainment continues.

The application to establish the Grand Theatre as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) is also unchanged and is still under consideration by CDC.

Mr Kinchin-Smith urged the planning committee to take a tour of the theatre to experience the unique aspects of it’s interior and its suitability to function, without much initial alterations, as an entertainment hub for music, theatre and the arts.

The committee voted in favour of the revised planning application with six members abstaining from the vote.