Relief as government green lights money for new theatre in Worcester
THE council has been told it can move millions of pounds of government funding away from a number of scrapped projects to help pay for a new theatre.
Government ministers have given the green light to Worcester City Council to pump £6 million into building a new 500-seat Scala Theatre in Angel Place.
Council bosses had been left sweating over the rising cost of the cornerstone project – which had spiralled because of the rising cost of construction and materials – and were relying on approval from the government to move the money around to fill a mounting gap in the theatre’s renovation budget.
The budget would have been left millions of pounds short without the nod from the government.
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Councillor Chris Mitchell, leader of Worcester City Council, said: “We are pleased that the city council’s request to reallocate some of the Future High Streets Fund grant has been approved by the government, removing any major concerns around the budget for the proposed Scala redevelopment.
“The new arts centre will be a fantastic addition to the city, and we now await a planning decision with great anticipation.”
Several parts of the project have already been ditched and work to convert the grade II-listed Corn Exchange, next to the Scala Theatre, into a 110-seat venue was the latest to be abandoned because of budget problems.
The city council said it expected the government to back its request but having U-turned on plans to sell the Swan Theatre, admits the budget for the project could still be as much as £500,000 short.
The funding, which totalled £18 million, was given to the city in 2020 as part of the government’s ‘Future High Streets Fund’ to carry out several redevelopment projects to form an ‘urban neighbourhood’ in the north of the city centre.
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The work, which had originally intended to focus on new shops, cafes, restaurants and bars, a new performance and arts venue and other cultural facilities, some family-friendly attractions as well as housing and office space, included the new Scala Theatre as well as work at the former Co-op supermarket in Angel Street, the wider Angel Place and Trinity House.
The city council said it will take £6 million away from the now-scrapped Trinity House work, which would have seen the dilapidated building on the corner of the city’s St Nicholas Street and Queen Street turned into apartments, and pump it into transforming the Scala Theatre.
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Worcester City Council submitted a planning application for the new Scala Theatre at the end of last year – which included using the neighbouring grade II listed Corn Exchange as a foyer – having been forced to redraw the plans because of money woes.
Last September, council managing director David Blake warned councillors that the future of the project was almost solely reliant on the government allowing the council to move money away from its list of ditched schemes.