Theatres Trust's concern over St Albans leisure centre impact

PUBLISHED: 16:06 10 April 2010 | UPDATED: 15:02 06 May 2010

Artist's impression of the theatre and leisure complex

Artist's impression of the theatre and leisure complex

BACKING for a local theatre group s concern about the impact of the development of a new Westminster Lodge leisure centre has come from a national body. The Abbey Theatre Trust has objected to the proposal for the leisure centre because of the impact it w

BACKING for a local theatre group's concern about the impact of the development of a new Westminster Lodge leisure centre has come from a national body.

The Abbey Theatre Trust has objected to the proposal for the leisure centre because of the impact it will have on its 40-plus year old theatre which currently overlooks a car park and open space.

Now the Theatres Trust has come out in support and lodged objections to the leisure centre scheme because of the adverse effect it would have on the Abbey Theatre.

Like the Abbey Theatre Trust, it is not opposed to the plans in principle because it will benefit from the upgrading of leisure and cultural facilities and environmental improvements to the area.

But it is concerned that the theatre will be compromised by the proposed development either during or after construction and wants to be convinced that that the overall scheme delivers real benefits for the theatre.

Mark Price, planning and heritage adviser for the Theatres Trust said they were specifically concerned about the access road to service the new sports centre which would run behind the Abbey Theatre.

He warned that the Abbey Theatre would lose its currently unhampered access to its rear yard for parking and access for deliveries. He went on: "As productions change, the show which is ending has a 'get out' and the new show a 'get in' which may involve a quick turnaround and the delivery, movement, storage or taking away of large pieces of sets and equipment.

"For these reasons, clear access at the relevant times is extremely important to the get-in access and none of this can be prearranged.

"Our concern is that now access is also required for the leisure centre services there will be congestion within this tight space and obstructions would be inevitable."

Mr Price also warned that the proposed outdoor performance space was too small for such a facility and would require contingency funding for maintenance and programming.

He suggested that it might be worth omitting it and providing more robust and enhanced landscaping instead.

He also called for the phasing and construction to be agreed in consultation with the Abbey Theatre and carefully consideration given to the issues of noise and vibration, particularly the impact on live theatre.

The planning application for a new Westminster Lodge leisure centre is due to go before councillors on April 28.

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