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Proposal for new theatre in Warrington 'off the table'

Former drill hall in Bath Street, Warrington Image copyright John M/Geograph
Image caption The theatre plans were previously backed by Warrington Borough Council

Plans for a new theatre in Warrington have been taken "off the table", the borough's council leader has said.

A proposal to explore the possibility of converting a former drill hall on Bath Street into a 400-seat venue was revealed in September.

This was an "exciting prospect" but had "a lot of issues", the Labour-run council leader Russ Bowden said.

The decision to stop the plan was "incredibly short-sighted", independent councillor Dan Price said.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service said the plans for a new theatre started to take shape after Warrington's cultural commission, set up following the town's failed City of Culture bid in 2017, conducted a public consultation.

Residents felt the town lacked a "cultural identity" and many demanded a new theatre to replace Crosfields Centenary Theatre, which shut in 1991.

A total of 15 recommendations, which included a new theatre, were backed by Warrington Borough Council in July 2018.

'Bigger vision'

However, Mr Bowden said the authority needed to have a "bigger plan and vision" and, for now, that would not include a theatre.

He added that there might be "a much smaller investment in the short term to provide that kind of space as part of a longer journey".

Mr Price, who was previously at the helm of the plans, said it was "a sad state of affairs".

"The council has decided to ignore all of the town's voices and its own evidence, listening instead to external advice," he said.

"It's incredibly short-sighted and totally unambitious.

"This cannot become Warrington's reputation."

He called on those in support of a new theatre to get in touch to "prove the doubters we can make it happen".

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