Councillors agree to look at options over future of Wellingborough’s Castle theatre

How The Castle theatre in Wellingborough could look if it was redeveloped
How The Castle theatre in Wellingborough could look if it was redeveloped

Councillors have agreed for a detailed report to be drawn up on options to consider over the future of a town theatre.

Members of Wellingborough Council’s resources committee agreed to having an options and costs appraisal for The Castle theatre in Wellingborough town centre last week.

Doing nothing is not really an option here

Cllr Tim Allebone

It follows a request by The Castle (Wellingborough) Ltd, which currently has the contract, for the council to consider their proposals for the theatre to be transferred over to them as a community asset so they can redevelop the site.

If the proposals became a reality, the multi-million pound redevelopment could see the Castle Way site boasting a 500-seat main theatre with capacity to go up to 700 for music concerts, a 200-seat studio theatre, a 100-seat cinema screen, a 100-seat restaurant, two bars and an enhanced foyer and public spaces.

The proposals, costing between £10 million and £12 million, would also see a creation centre offering three professional grade rehearsal spaces and space to build sets, a private function room, a business centre with meeting rooms and board room as well as a creative industry hub with office and studio space for start-up, emerging and established creative industry companies.

Before councillors agreed to officers drawing up a report of options to consider on the theatre’s future, three members of the public addressed the committee, including Marion Turner-Hawes who is chairman of the Castle Fields Community Group.

She urged the council to include representatives from the local community in any review of the options for the theatre, and added: “The Castle theatre is an essential asset to the area and also has a considerable role to play in encouraging and enabling our many diverse communities to develop our own interests and skills in the performing arts and community management.

“I would like to see The Castle theatre registered as a community asset so no decision about its future ownership could be made without recourse first to the communities of Wellingborough.”

Theatre director Darren Walter also addressed the committee before members discussed it.

During their discussion, Cllr Tim Allebone said: “Doing nothing is not really an option here.”

Cllr Peter Morrall said: “The opportunity to develop it and provide more facilities on that site is one that would be very worthwhile.”

However, concerns were also raised about the potential loss of a council asset and whether sticking with the status quo would be safer than making changes.

A number of councillors said they would like more information about The Castle’s proposals and they have asked to have a special presentation by the theatre on it.

Following their discussions, members agreed to officers carrying out the options and costs appraisal.

It is hoped that this could be completed by the committee’s next meeting in December.

The theatre’s running costs have been subsidised by Wellingborough Council since it opened in 1995, but these plans have been drawn up by the theatre because financial pressures facing the authority have made it difficult to sustain this approach.

These plans mean they would no longer have to rely on the authority for funding, which was just short of £400,000 in 2010 but has fallen year on year and is now £218,000.

Mr Walter said last week that they have had to look at the whole business model to find a future for the building that doesn’t rely on council funding but would remain true to the theatre’s principals.