Theatre ‘at risk’ from town’s retail extension

Chorley Little Theatre

Chorley Little Theatre

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Historic Chorley Little Theatre could be under threat from the planned new £10m Market Walk extension.

Council chiefs have been warned the theatre – built in 1910 – could close if help is not given to promote it.

“Chorley Little Theatre only exists on ticket and bar sales, and if that drops off we’re in trouble. It’s entirely run by volunteers and any profits go into keeping the building going.”

Ian Robinson

The Market Walk plans will go before Chorley Council’s development control committee tonight. They include restaurant, leisure, retail and office proposals on the Flat Iron car park, land to the south and the site of the council offices on Union Street.

National chain Reel Cinema wants to open a six-screen complex in the shopping precinct as part of the extension. Others are also showing an interest. The plans have been recommended for approval by the authority’s planning officers. But bosses at the Little Theatre - run by Chorley Amateur Dramatic and Operatic Society (CADOS) - fear for the future of the Dole Lane venue.

In addition, the council has been told that the Chorley Empire Community Cinema – also operated at the theatre – is likely to close as a result of a new cinema coming to town.

CADOS chairman Ian Robinson told the council: “It is the feeling of CADOS (operators of Chorley Little Theatre) that this development is broadly good. We had more than 20,000 admissions last year - a record - but still feel we exist in a bit of a bubble, and hope increased footfall - particularly a family-friendly night-time economy with brands like Nandos and Frankie & Bennys - will benefit us too. We hope people will want to make a night of it and come to the theatre. Were the new development to keep visitors in the Flat Iron area of Chorley, and in fact take customers away from our events, then we would struggle to continue.

“Chorley Little Theatre only exists on ticket and bar sales, and if that drops off we’re in trouble. It’s entirely run by volunteers and any profits go into keeping the building going.”

He added: “For Chorley Empire Community Cinema the situation is even more complicated.

“It is highly likely that the opening of Reel Cinemas will cause Chorley Empire Community Cinema to cease operations.

“Reel Cinemas will have an advantage over us because they’ll have newer films and comfier seats. So the future of Chorley Empire Community Cinema really is up in the air, but the most likely event is it will close down and any remaining operations taken over by CADOS.”

Council leader Alistair Bradley described Chorley Little Theatre as “one of the jewels” in Chorley’s leisure crown. “It offers a very cultural offer in Chorley,” he said. “I use it as much as anybody else. I don’t want to see anything that puts them in jeopardy, but you can’t stop progress. Chorley has a very limited offer and we want to expand that.” He added: “There’s things we’ve done that has helped and things we’ve done that haven’t worked out, but we’ll keep doing it.”

He said the Little Theatre benefited from people coming to Chorley for a night out.

One council proposal will result in the nearby alleyway called Peter Wink that links Market Street to Peter Street, having the name Theatre Walk in metal framework as part of a refurbishment scheme.