The director behind proposals for the major redevelopment of a town theatre says there has been a lot of positivity since the plans were unveiled.
Darren Walter, director of The Castle theatre in Wellingborough, says the next three years can’t come quick enough if he and his team can get the necessary permission and funds for a multi-million pound redevelopment of the site in Castle Way.
He spoke briefly at a meeting of Wellingborough Council’s resources committee last week, where it was agreed that an options and costs appraisal for the theatre will be drawn up.
This will look at a number of options for the future of the theatre.
The Castle (Wellingborough) Ltd, which has the current contract, wants the council to transfer the theatre over to them as a community asset so they can redevelop it.
Their proposals include the site having 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.
There is a lot of excitement about itDarren Walter
Speaking to the Northants Telegraph after last week’s council meeting, theatre director Darren Walter said: “I felt there was a real warmth to finding out more about the plans.
“How we explore the right mechanisms to make it work will come out in conversations in the coming weeks.
“What we took out of the meeting was that there was some goodwill in the room towards exploring the proposals, but that the council still needed to look at some of the options.”
Following the meeting, councillors will be given a presentation on the plans and it is hoped that the report on the options will be completed by the committee’s next meeting.
Mr Walter said: “The presentation will give us the opportunity to talk about the proposals in depth.
“The conversation we are in at the moment is about being empowered to explore that vision.”
Mr Walter said they need the community as well as the council to ‘buy into the overall vision’, but added: “After we released the details last week, there has been a lot of warmth.
“There have been lots of really positive things about the proposals.
“There is a lot of excitement about it.”
As well as being published in last week’s Northants Telegraph and on the theatre’s website, the proposals have also been sent out to 20,000 people.
Mr Walter is really keen for the theatre to be at the heart of the community and he hopes the people of Wellingborough and further afield will want to support the proposals as well as be involved in the project.
If the council agrees to transfer the theatre over to The Castle (Wellingborough) Ltd, Mr Walter said they would like to start moving on the next stage of the process by February next year.
He added: “We want to move as quickly as possibly, but we have to go through the due process.
“The door has formally opened to discuss the options now.”
He added: “It has the potential to be a catalyst for a real positive change in the town and I genuinely believe it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Wellingborough.”
If the plans, costing between £10 million and £12 million, come to fruition, it’s hoped the redevelopment work would be completed by the end of 2018 and Mr Walter said: “Three years can’t come quickly enough.”
The theatre’s running costs have been subsidised by the council since it opened in 1995, but financial pressures have made it hard to sustain this approach which has led to the theatre trying to find a new business model to secure its future.