THE building that was home to Bolton theatre groups for more than 40 years is to be demolished to make way for houses.
Owners of the former Theatre Church, in Seymour Road, Astley Bridge, have submitted an application to knock down Crystal Theatre, Function and Wedding Halls to build nine houses.
In summer 2012, the building’s owners, Bolton Methodist Circuit, rejected an offer of £300,000 raised by amateur dramatics groups and sold it for £500,000 to be run as a wedding venue by four directors — Amjad Kulasi, Aysha Bapu, Amna Pervez and Aadil Razzaq.
Now, the current owners say the building is not financially viable due to structural defects and the need for substantial, costly repairs for it to compete as a wedding venue with other higher quality and more centrally-located sites.
Paul Cohen, chairman of Bolton Amateur Theatre Societies (BATS), has hit out at the plans saying they have not been sufficiently consulted and a legacy will be lost forever once bulldozers move in.
He said: “I think it’s so short-sighted because it’s such a valuable asset for what we do.
“To see it get flattened, I can’t find the words.”
The consultation period has ended and, as only letters and representations in support of the plans have been received, the application will not go before the council’s planning committee.
It is due to be approved under delegated powers, by September 1.
While the main building will be demolished, the community and Scout buildings on the site will remain.
Mr Cohen said: “I don’t feel that we’ve had enough time to raise objections about losing a theatre in Bolton.
“We put up a massive fight two years ago, a fantastic business plan. That was totally ignored by the Methodists because it was purely about finances.
“I do not think our application was considered. If it was an old derelict church, fair enough. It wasn’t just theatres, it was used by the whole community.
“Some groups are still struggling to find venues. It feels like Bolton Council has let amateur theatre down in Bolton.
“Bolton is thriving with amateur theatre, compared to any other town nationally. It’s a crying shame.”
Some residents living in the area have welcomed plans for the six semi-detatched and three town houses as it will relieve traffic and parking problems at the venue during weddings.
The applicant and agent, Mr A Kulasi and RA Design and Project Management, Chorley New Road, consulted the London-based Theatres Trust on the application, which raised no objection.
The current owners were unavailable for comment.