Theatre upgrade promise justifies campus homes

A Leicestershire college's offer to fund continued operation of a town centre theatre seven miles away has persuaded an inspector to allow a mixed scheme next to one of its main campuses

The scheme involved redeveloping an educational and agricultural complex owned by the college for 70 dwellings, up to 850 square metres of business space and a village shop. In refusing permission, the council concluded that the scheme would increase car dependency at a site generally remote from services and facilities and questioned the shop’s long term viability.

Despite accepting that a local bus service was reasonably good, the inspector held that the future occupiers of the houses would be largely car-dependent. Paragraph 34 of the NPPF states that such developments should be located where the need to travel is minimised, he observed.

The college explained that a theatre it owned and operated in the town centre had been subsidised in poor years and this was unsustainable due to a shortfall in funding generally. As part of the appeal development, it proposed to invest £2.1 million in the theatre to bring it up to modern standards. This would be more likely to place it on a firm financial footing, the inspector decided.

In his view, this would ensure that a popular community facility attracting people from a wide area was maintained. He also noted that a financial contribution would repair a grade II* listed building and secure an affordable housing development. He concluded that the adverse effects of car dependency would not significantly and demonstrably outweigh the range of benefits offered by the scheme, including delivery of modern employment space.

Inspector: Jonathan Hockley; Hearing

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