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Theatres Trust welcomes news that potential West End theatre will not be converted into hotel

The Saville Theatre will not be converted into a hotel

The Saville Theatre
© Rod Evan, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

The Saville Theatre venue on Shaftesbury Avenue has been saved from a possible redevelopment following a public inquiry.

The venue, which was first opened in the 1930s and is currently used as a cinema owned by Odeon, has a famous frieze across its frontage, which depicts "Drama Through the Ages". The frieze is held to be one of the most important public sculptures from the period.

In a statement on the Theatres' Trust website, the company highlighted how the Grade II listed former theatre had "a particularly successful period in the 1960s under the ownership of Brian Epstein", before being converted into a cinema in 1970.

Planning permission had been sought to convert the venue into a hotel, with a smaller cinema in the basement. This was initially rejected by London Borough of Camden in 2019 and an appeal was thrown out this week.

While not currently a theatre, the Trust noted that: "there was need and demand for additional large-scale theatre space within the West End for which the site provided the last realistic opportunity to deliver due to its size, internal volume, access and that it was in existing cultural use. This was substantiated by submissions from a number of established theatre operators and producers."

So who knows, we may be getting a fresh venue added to Shaftesbury Avenue before too long.

The Theatres Trust's national planning adviser Tom Clarke said: "Theatres Trust is delighted with this outcome, following months of hard work preparing evidence to ensure we could robustly protect this important building. There is every potential for live performance use to return to the Saville one day, and we believe the Inspector's decision not only protects this building as a heritage asset and emphasises the need to fully justify loss of cultural provision but also recognises how cultural and performance use of the site contributes to wider strategic objectives such as maintaining the vitality of Theatreland and the West End."

The Trust has also revealed grants to help venues accommodate social distancing measures will be given out to 40 organisations across the UK including the Hampstead Theatre, Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, Northern Ballet and the Traverse.

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