Norden Farm left in dark over Desborough Suite revamp plans

Norden Farm left in dark over Desborough Suite revamp plans

Luke Matthews

Norden Farm left in dark over Desborough Suite revamp plans

Bosses of the Norden Farm Centre for the Arts say they have been kept in the dark over sweeping council plans to create a multi-purpose theatre complex in the heart of Maidenhead.

The Royal Borough is considering spending anywhere between £1.5m and £12m on  transforming the Desborough suite that is part of Maidenhead Town Hall complex or by building a new venue from scratch.

It would be home to a 475-seat theatre with a new foyer, box office, club room, coffee shop and bar.

There would also be a second 100-seat theatre for smaller productions.

The council said in a statement released on Monday that it would work in collaboration with Norden Farm to provide different – but complementary – entertainment.

But Norden Farm said the announcement came out of the blue.

Chairman of the arts centre’s  trustees Paul Rutherford said: “While there is no doubt the town needs regeneration, the specifics of the Desborough project come as a surprise.

He continued: “No one from the council has spoken with the trustees, management team or staff on how this might impact Norden Farm.”

He added: “Going forward, I hope the council chooses to work closely with us with the aim of increasing choice, not diminishing it.”

If the plans for the Desborough suite are approved in principle, the preferred option would be to revamp the site at a cost of between £1.5-2m, as opposed to a new build with an estimated cost anywhere from £8-12m.

The council said the venue could be run by a charitable trust, with its own manager and staff.

Norden Farm is the town’s main entertainment venue and the Desborough suite is used for amateur dramatics productions.

The proposal and potential funding will be discussed by the leisure, culture and libraries overview and scrutiny panel today (Thursday) before going to cabinet on Thursday.

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.

“This is a project that could be crucial in bringing people back into the town.”

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