Theatre should be shut down because of lack of parking - council

Fbc Stuart Morton Giving Evidence To Planning Inspector Nancy Thomas 2  May 17 Ldrs
Fbc Stuart Morton Giving Evidence To Planning Inspector Nancy Thomas 2 May 17 Ldrs

A lack of car parking spaces at a 450-seat theatre in a Hampshire village is among the reasons it should be shut down, the borough council has argued.

While Titchfield Festival Theatre’s artistic director was said to be very resourceful in finding parking venue spaces for its patrons, the council criticised their convenience and safety.

As part of a mammoth fourth day of the inquiry, highways evidence was presented to the planning inspector to decide if the Arden – part of a complex of Titchfield theatres – should stay open or be closed or consider a ‘fall-back’ position to reduce its seat numbers to 341.

Fareham Borough Council issued an enforcement notice, claiming the venue did not have planning permission, with the theatre now appealing.

The government-appointed planning inspector heard evidence about the impact of the increase in theatregoers visiting the 450-seat Arden Theatre over a year.

Fareham Borough Council said how customers get to the theatre and where they park at the semi-rural location was part of the ‘harmful effect’ on highway safety, including the free flow of traffic and the living conditions of nearby residents.

Experts presented evidence on ways of getting to the theatre, such as walking and cycling, bus services, and cars, and they looked at the impact of increased traffic and parking on the Titchfield and St Margaret’s Lane area.

Stuart Morton, representing FBC, said walking routes and bus services are inadequate and not enough people will cycle to the theatre.

Tom Fisher, on behalf of the theatre, said buses could be used by non-drivers like youth theatre members, staff and theatregoers who may get to the venue by bus and then a taxi or lift home.

They both agreed the bus service stopping at 8.20pm meant it was not viable to get home after the last theatre performance by bus.

Mr Fisher identified walking routes within the 1.6km walking radius Mr Morton had not included in his report. He said these non-traffic routes, ‘cut-throughs’, would be used by theatregoers walking and some bus users.

Mr Morton said St Margaret’s Lane was inadequate for catering with theatregoers as they were forced to walk into a carriageway with over 100 vehicle movements per hour.

Mr Morton and Mr Fisher agreed about congestion on St Margaret’s Lane at peak theatre times but disagreed on the danger.