Localism Bill

Memorandum submitted by the Theatres Trust (L 117)

Summary:

· The Theatres Trust Act 1976 states that The Theatres Trust exists to promote the better protection of theatres.

· The Theatres Trust encourages applicants and developers to contact it at pre-application and early facilitation stages.

· The Trust regards local theatre provision as essential in creating and maintaining employment, enterprise and business start-ups in their local area.

· The Theatres Trust supports the Community Right to Challenge in principle and would therefore wish to be a party in the consultation process so it can offer specialist advice and ensure sustainable use of theatre buildings.

· In terms of Assets of Community Value, it advises that ‘locally listed’ buildings and sites that have already been identified as buildings of local significance or local heritage assets are also automatically selected.

· The Trust further requests that provision is made to include The Theatres Trust specifically to be able to make nominations onto a list.

· The Trust requests that provision is made to ensure there is wider consultation particularly with statutory consultees on the disposal of ‘listed land’.

· As a statutory consultee in the planning process, the Trust wishes to become a consultee on pre-applications for Neighbourhood Plans.

· The Trust requests that further regulation and good practice procedures are required on consultations for Neighbourhood Development Orders, policies and designations and would like to contribute to such guidance.

Submission:

1) The Theatres Trust welcomes the opportunity to give evidence to The Communities and Local Government Committee inquiry into localism and the decentralisation of public services. Our response relates only to where the Localism Bill relates to issues affecting theatre buildings and land required for theatres.

2) The Theatres Trust Act 1976 states that The Theatres Trust exists to promote the better protection of theatres. It currently delivers statutory planning advice on theatre buildings and theatre use through The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2010 (DMPO), Articles 16&17, Schedule 5, Para (w), that requires the Trust to be consulted by local planning authorities on planning applications which include ‘development involving any land on which there is a theatre.’ This applies to all theatre buildings, old and new, in current use, in other uses, or disused. It also includes ciné-variety buildings and structures that have been converted to theatre, circus buildings and performing art centres. .

3) The Theatres Trust also encourages applicants and developers to contact it at pre-application stages to receive advice that will identify any planning, design and environmental issues early on that could impact upon viable theatre use, or the potential for such use, and also on the integral design and strategic location of new theatres.

4) In addition, the Trust works with local community groups and theatres advising them on ways in which they could take forward capital plans to secure the future of theatres in their area and ways in which they could be protected.

5) The Trust regards theatre provision as essential in creating and maintaining employment, enterprise and business start-ups in a local area. Cultural industries, in particular theatre, attract leisure spend from audiences, visitors and their communities. They are also places where people volunteer and can be a part of their local community.

Chapter 3: Community Right to Challenge

6) As the Trust understands it, a 'community body' (section 66(5)) e.g. a theatre group would be entitled to express an interest in providing any service which is supplied by a county council, district council or London borough council, unless the Secretary of State chooses to exclude certain services (section 70(1)).

7) The Theatres Trust supports the Community Right to Challenge in principle. We are currently aware of many voluntary, community bodies, charitable bodies, parish councils and staff from Council organisations who wish to take on the running of their local theatre. Two such examples are The Ventnor Winter Gardens Rescue Group and the Matlock Bath Pavilion Group, which has recently formed itself into a company known as Grand Pavilion Ltd to take on the Grand Pavilion in Matlock, Derbyshire.

8) In our opinion, subject to due diligence, the challenge should prove successful as theatre provision would of course improve the well being of the authority’s area. However, the Trust is concerned that although theatre groups will understand the needs of the local community, they will not necessarily be successful in securing a theatre. This is because the successful challenger would only be free to participate, in competition with other bidders, in a procurement exercise which the local authority would run (section 68(2) and also be the decision maker. There therefore needs to be some sort of independent adjudicator to ensure there is transparency and impartiality.

9) The Theatres Trust would therefore wish to be a party in the consultation process so it can offer specialist advice and to ensure the sustainable use of theatre buildings. This could be done by amending (section 69 (5)) to make it a duty for the authority to notify statutory consultees in relation to their specific remit.

Chapter 4: Assets of Community Value

10) Section 71 requires local councils to draw up and publish a ‘list of assets of community value.’ The Theatres Trust supports the concept of the list and is pleased that successful and unsuccessful nominations will be provided free on request (section 78). Theatres or potential land identified for theatres, we believe, would certainly fall into this category.

11) We also suggest that ‘locally listed’ buildings and sites that have already been identified as buildings of local significance or local heritage assets are also automatically selected and inserted within the ‘list of assets of community value.’

12) We are also keen to ensure that as much information about the asset is recorded (section 72 (4)). Under section 73 (2) and (3) it is not clear if The Theatres Trust could make a nomination. As the national advisory public body for theatres, we already maintain similar lists as part of Facilitation and Theatre Buildings At Risk (TBAR) registers and would certainly wish to make nominations.

13) We request that further provision is therefore made to include The Theatres Trust. It also follows that we would wish to be notified of nominations (section 75 (2)) and review (section 76 (5&6).

Moratorium on disposing of listed land

13 Under section 79 (2) with regard to the disposing of ‘listed land’ Condition A specifies that the owner has to notify the local authority before it is disposed but there is no provision for the local authority to notify widely or to statutory consultees. Section 81 (4) only provides for ‘matters to be publicised in the area where the land is situated.’ This could cause serious issues for land adjacent or adjoining theatres where The Theatres Trust was not aware it was on a list.

14 Land adjacent or adjoining a theatre is particularly valuable, because it may provide access to enable sets to be brought into the theatre or to provide parking and storage areas for example. Neighbouring land which could potentially be developed for another use could have a serious impact on the functioning or future sustainable development of a theatre. A site notice might not be discovered or picked-up locally and The Theatres Trust would not be given the opportunity to offer its specialist expertise and advice where a site affected theatre operations.

15 We therefore request that provision is made to ensure there is wider consultation particularly with statutory consultees.

Neighbourhood Planning

16 Section 61 W sets out requirements to carry out pre-application consultation before applying for (61(1)(a)) ‘planning permission for the development of any land in England’ and (61(1)(b)) ‘the proposed development is of a description specified in a development order.’ However, the following clauses on consultation (2&3) only suggest that consultation should be carried out with people ‘in the vicinity of the land’.

17 As a statutory consultee in the planning process, The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2010 (DMPO), Articles 16&17, Schedule 5, Para (w) requires the Trust to be consulted by local planning authorities on planning applications which include ‘development involving any land on which there is a theatre.’

18 For consistency, it is our request that provision in made to ensure statutory consultees are included within the pre-application consultation process.

Schedule 9 Neighbourhood Planning. Part 1 Neighbourhood Development Orders

19 Neighbourhood Development Orders would essentially extend the framework of permitted development rights and could have potentially advantageous effects on theatres. However, The Theatres Trust is concerned that section 61E (10) (d&e) and section 61E (13) which stipulate the giving of notice, publicity, the availability of documentation and publication of plans by the local planning authority, is not robust enough to ensure adequate consultation.

20 The Trust requests that further regulation and good practice procedures are required on consultations and would like to contribute to such guidance.

21 Similarly, 61G (11) considers provision in connection with the designation of areas as ‘neighbourhood areas’ and procedures relating to consultation over proposed designations.

22 In the same way, The Trust would also like to contribute to any guidance relating to consultation over designations.

Schedule 9 Neighbourhood Planning. Part 2 Neighbourhood Development Plans

23 Neighbourhood Development Plan is a plan that sets out policies in relation to development and use of land in a particular neighbourhood area specified by the plan and could have potentially advantageous effects on theatres. The Trust already comments and makes contributions and amendments to local plans throughout the UK and wishes to ensure that it is consulted on Neighbourhood Development Plans in the same manner. However, The Theatres Trust is concerned that section 7 (8) (d&e) which stipulates the giving of notice, publicity, the availability of documentation and publication of plans by the local planning authority, is not robust enough to ensure adequate consultation.

24 The Trust requests that further regulation and good practice procedures are required on consultation and would like to contribute to such guidance.

February 2011