Council plan to sell theatre

KIRKLEES Council hopes to close and sell Dewsbury Little Theatre in Batley Carr.

Monday, 17th October 2011, 12:55 pm

But it is unlikely the facility will be replaced.

The president of a local opera group said the loss of the community theatre was ‘a great pity’.

The Little Theatre is a converted chapel on Upper Road, originally built in 1864.

In recent years, it has been blighted by electrical and boiler failures, leaks and flooding. The estimated bill for repairs and disabled access would have run to hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Neither the press nor the public were allowed to be present when the plan to sell off the theatre was discussed at a Kirklees Council cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

But details emerged in an agenda for today’s Heavy Woollen planning sub-committee meeting.

The report, drawn up by council officers, said: “It is presently proposed that the council closes Dewsbury Little Theatre and sells this asset.

“Discussions have been held with the managers, Millennium Stage Productions, who are keen to withdraw from their lease arrangement with the council as soon as possible. They no longer have the capacity to manage the venue.”

The report said the council had discussed its plans with drama groups which rent the theatre, asking them whether they would move to Batley or Dewsbury town halls. The majority were happy to do so, it said.

The report also said plans to improve the stage areas at Batley and Dewsbury town halls may now not happen because of budget cuts.

One of the groups which until recently used the Little Theatre was Batley Gilbert and Sullivan Society.

Its president Robert Thurman said: “It’s a great pity.

“I’m not surprised that they are hoping to sell the theatre. It has been quite clear over the last few years that the facilities have been deteriorating and little expenditure has been put in to repair the fabric of the building.”

The group has since started using Batley town hall for its shows, but Mr Thurman said the Little Theatre’s size and design had been ideal.

He said: “It is very disappointing because it provides a very good venue – a better venue than the town halls.

“At the end of the day the town halls are concert halls, for want of a better word, and they don’t give the ambience of a theatre.”

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