03:01AM, Monday 15 July 2013
Part of the town hall in Maidenhead could be set for a major revamp after potential plans were unveiled to turn the venue into a multi-purpose theatre complex.
The plans would incorporate a 475 capacity theatre with a new foyer, box office, club room, coffee shop, and bar as well as a 100-seat theatre for smaller productions at the Desborough Suite in the St Ives Road building.
If the plans are approved in principle, the borough will consider whether to revamp the current site or build a new centre. A revamp would cost between £1.5-2m and is the council's preferable option, as a new build was estimated to cost anywhere from £8-12m.
The proposal will be discussed by the leisure, culture and libraries overview and scrutiny panel on Thursday before going to cabinet the following Thursday.
The current venue seats 280 people and was unused on 174 days last year. The aim is to rejuvenate the site to become an integral part of the community as an invaluable entertainment centre, working in collaboration with Norden Farm Centre of the Arts.
Cllr Claire Stretton, the council’s culture champion for Maidenhead, said: "The Desborough is a much loved but sadly underused town centre resource. It needs a complete revitalisation to make it a ‘must-go-there’ town centre community entertainment centre.
"The plans are in the very early stages and I wouldn't like to put a timetable on it, but I think everyone would just like to get on with it as soon as possible."
The aim is for the Desborough Suite to be run separately from the Town Hall, potentially by a charitable trust, and Cllr Stretton believes the project could encourage others to invest in the town.
"It's catch-22 at the moment," she said. "We don’t have the footfall so the retailers don’t come in, and without the shops we don’t get the people. This is a project that could be crucial to reversing this trend."
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