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The Grand Theatre could become two shops and 12 flats

The former Grand Theatre making way for homes and shops?

Two shops and 12 flats are set for development in Banbury town centre following a council decision.

On Thursday (16th March) Cherwell District Council’s planning committee approved permission for the site of a former theatre on Broad Street to be redeveloped as shop units and one and two-bedroom flats.

The building was most recently used as a night club and currently stands empty. The proposals will retain the structure’s historic Art Deco frontage, which dates back to around the 1930s.

Cllr Colin Clarke, Cherwell’s lead member for planning, said:

“We are keen to see empty properties in our town centres brought back into use and there are clear social and economic benefits to making more housing and retail space available in the town centre.

“This building was once used as a cinema and theatre. However, it has not had these uses for some time and this application does not bring about the direct loss of an entertainment facility.

“The proposals put forward by the applicant are sensitive to the fact that this is a locally listed building within a Conservation Area and they will help preserve the historic character of its distinctive frontage.”

Two shop spaces permitted under the proposals would have frontage onto Broad Street and the flats will be split over two three storey blocks, one of which will face onto Pepper Alley.

The building’s most recent authorised use was as a restaurant. A previous permission for the building’s redevelopment as eight flats and two shops is still current and this was considered an important factor in yesterday’s decision.

Rob Kinchin-smith, from Friends of The Grand Theatre, said:

“The 12-flat, 2-shop plan for The Grand was approved by Cherwell’s planning committee

“Whether this changes anything remains to be seen, as The Grand has had planning permission for flats and shops for the last three years without any development taking place.

“The new permission grants consent for 12 flats and 2 retail units, but the new flats are much smaller and the permission requires a financial contribution towards off-site affordable housing provision of 40% of the full market value of 4 of the new flats, so it appears that the new plan not much more viable than the old one…

“The planning permission doesn’t affect the Asset of Community Value nomination.

“Whilst the status quo is thus remains unchanged, the most concerning feature of the granting of consent was the lack of commitment shown in Banbury’s old town, the planning committee declaring that community / social / performance uses are inherently unviable, even if run by a charitable trust exempt from business rates and taxes. So much for Localism and faith in the people. So much for a diverse, vibrant town-centre.

“The campaign continues, with renewed resolve..!“

The Grand Theatre

The Grand Theatre was first opened in 1911. Originally a live theatre, it began screening films from 1929, when “Showboat” became the first sound film to be shown in Oxfordshire. The Grand Theatre was closed on 13th June 1935, for reconstruction and modernisation.

The Grand Theatre re-opened as an independent cinema on 12th December 1935 with Paul Cavanagh in “Without Regret” and Bing Crosby in “Two For Tonight”. Designed in an Egyptian/Deco style by Joseph G. Gomersall of the noted architectural firm Drury & Gomersall. It was taken over by Associated British Cinemas(ABC) in August 1943, but was never renamed.

It closed on 14th December 1968 with Doris Day in “Where Were You When the Lights Went Out?” and Raquel Welch in “The Biggest Bundle of Them All”. It was converted into a bingo club, operated over the years by ABC, Star, EMI and Zetters.

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