Revised plans for Playhouse hub scheme to be discussed

Alnwick Playhouse.
Alnwick Playhouse.

Key discussions are to take place to thrash out revised plans to transform Alnwick Playhouse into a community hub.

Talks are being held about the possibility of moving the town’s library, tourist information centre and county council front-office facilities into the building, which would still be used as a theatre.

As part of the plans, Northumberland Theatre Company (NTC) would move out and relocate to a new premises.

But, the plans have taken another twist after the county council recently revised its proposals.

The Playhouse Trust is now considering the new shared-usage plans.

Liz Anderson, vice-chairman of the Playhouse trustees, gave an update at Thursday’s Alnwick Town Council meeting.

She said: “The board of trustees had reached an understanding with the county council, but the proposals were changed and we are now dealing with new architects with different ideas.

“We have had two meetings, including with Active Northumberland, which we hope will take us forward.

“The county council wishes to purchase the Playhouse, buying it from the NTC, relocate the theatre company, and then lease to the Playhouse Trust the parts that we need.

“We know what the council wants more or less, but we are very anxious that, in addition to the auditorium and the café, we get to access the studio, because it would be a backward step if we were to lose that.

“The trustees await the detailed plans. The devil will be in the detail. The issues for negotiation include the financial aspects.

“If the trustees’ requirements are not met and a suitable compromise can’t be reached, the Playhouse Trust would consider the possibility of buying the building from NTC and relocating the theatre company to Rock, which is the current plan, but that would be difficult.”

Alnwick town and county councillor Gordon Castle is the county council-appointed member of the Alnwick Playhouse board. He said: “The county council has no wish to interfere with the management of the Playhouse or the operations of present activities. They are interested in saving the building and using it as a community hub.

“It would still be called the Playhouse, but the devil is in the detail and we will have to see what the proposals from the county council amount to.

“I believe it is a price worth paying to save the Playhouse. If this does not succeed, where does the money come from?”