Theatre supporters look forward in anger

A CONTROVERSIAL decision to knock down a newly-opened theatre has been defended by planners after supporters of the playhouse reacted with anger to the move.

A CONTROVERSIAL decision to knock down a newly-opened theatre has been defended by planners after supporters of the playhouse reacted with anger to the move.

The Angel Theatre, Rendlesham, near Woodbridge, is earmarked for demolition to be replaced by a village green as part of redevelopment proposals for the domestic side of the former Bentwaters air base.

Owners, Seebrook Holdings Ltd, and planners at Suffolk Coastal District Council are finalising a scheme to bring in various community facilities as part of a long-term project to have a village of 3,000 residents and 1,200 homes.

The charitable trust that runs the Angel Theatre, housed in a former American cinema, is currently in discussions to relocate to the nearby empty community centre. This could accommodate a performance area, 350 seats and have childcare facilities.

Maintenance work has been undertaken by the Angel Theatre Trust since it opened the site nearly three years ago and 20,000 tickets have been sold for a wide range of performances.

With a capacity of nearly 500 seats planners have said, in a report to be discussed this week, that it would be difficult to make the theatre economically viable and have it in use as well as the community centre.

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"The Angel Theatre was never intended to be a long-term option and it would add significantly to traffic generation in circumstances where the council has sought to minimise the generation of traffic from this site," says a report going before Wednesday's development and control sub-committee.

"The former cinema is of a lesser quality than the former American community centre and, whilst regrettable, it is matter of fact that the applicant is perfectly entitled to demolish the building once the current temporary lease and temporary planning permission expire in July."

Rolf Harris opened the theatre, which has actress Liz Hurley as patron, at a grand cermony in September 1999.

Paul Cawthorn, of Woodbridge Road, Tunstall, is one of the theatre's supporters and hopes it can remain for future generations to enjoy.

''The Angel now serves the Suffolk community well and is constantly improving. Popular plays, concerts, touring ballet all regularly appear plus really big stage musicals," he said.

''Surprisingly, the big stage at the Angel is actually larger than many seaside theatre stages including the Felixstowe Spa Pavilion stage for example.

"For this reason perhaps, families in the future deserve this young purpose-built theatre to be left intact for enjoyment of folk at leisure.''

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