THE Theatres Trust has performed a U-turn — and launched an 11th hour bid to save the former Theatre Church.
The organisation, which initially raised no objections to the controversial planned demolition of the historic building in Astley Bridge, has now written to Bolton Council calling for the former theatre to be saved.
Bosses took the unusual step after learning about the lack of affordable theatre space available to Bolton’s thriving amateur dramatics groups.
The trust, which promotes the value of theatre buildings, has said that if the council does approve the application, a section 106 agreement should be made to provide money for a replacement venue.
It said: “The trust has become aware of a number of community groups who had a connection with the building for over 40 years until its closure in 2012 and who highly valued the use of the Theatre Church for both community and theatre use.
“Representatives from the Bolton Amateur Theatre Societies and CATS Youth Theatre have indicated they raised considerable community funds to bid for the building at the time of its sale, though were unsuccessful.”
In summer 2012, the building’s owners, Bolton Methodist Circuit, rejected an offer of £300,000 raised by amateur dramatics groups.
The building, in Seymour Road, was eventually sold for £500,000 to private owners who opened Crystal Theatre, Function and Wedding Halls. Owners now plan to build nine houses on the site.
Paul Cohen, chairman of Bolton Amateur Theatre Societies (BATS), said: “We think that’s an amazing response, the fact that the trust has listened.
“It has seen that the theatre is important to Bolton because we have lost so many.
“The fact that it has recommended a section 106 is brilliant news because it will hopefully make the council sit up and listen."
The planning application will be discussed by councillors at a meeting on September 25. The building’s owner, Mohamed Nawaz Kulasi, was unavailable for comment.