Redgraves in last-ditch fight to save their theatre

The Redgrave family has joined forces with the people of a small market town to save its repertory theatre from being razed to the ground to make way for a leisure complex. Corin Redgrave described the plans to demolish the Redgrave Theatre, named after his late father, Sir Michael Redgrave, as "shameless".

Opinion in the ancient river valley town of Farnham, Surrey, has been divided over plans for a £100m 750,000sq ft (67,500sq m) concrete complex comprising an eight-screen cinema, shops, affordable housing and an underground parking facility, which would displace the bowling green.

But now that the developers, Crest Nicholson, are on the verge of being granted planning permission, saving the Redgrave has attracted renewed interest.

The neighbouring Grade-II listed Brightwells House is to be refurbished but the Redgrave may be scrapped - despite being included in the listing after it was built on council land in 1974.

More than 10,000 people - one-third of the population of Farnham - have registered their objection with the council.

Abigail McKern, an actress in Rumpole of the Bailey and a resident, said: "It's the people of Farnham against the absolutely enormous developers. I don't feel like I'm living in a democratic country."

Other celebrated theatre enthusiasts such as Judi Dench, a patron, Geraldine James and Gemma Jones have joined the Redgrave family in adding their voices to the protest.

Jemma Redgrave, who recalls cutting the ribbon at the opening of the theatre when she was six, said: "My family were thrilled to be part of it. I would be very sad to see it go. Nearly half of the [£255,000] funding came from donations from local people - and yet they were not consulted when the theatre was closed."

The theatre auditorium was built to test the design used in London's renowned Barbican Theatre, where every spectator has a clear view of the stage.

The thespian couple James Bolam and Sue Jameson have been supporting the Redgrave since it closed. He said: "It's such an excellent theatre and such a wicked waste to leave it empty and then pull it down. Actors like us know a good theatre when we work in one and the Redgrave is a great theatre. Once it goes dark it's quite easy for developers to go sniffing around."

According to the Farnham Theatre Association (FTA), the theatre closed in 1998, with many blaming council management. Despite this, for the past three summers the New Farnham Repertory Actors Company (NFPAC) has performed in a marquee outside the theatre to sell-out crowds.

The FTA have requested that Ruth Kelly, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, make a "disposal order" for the Redgrave Theatre and Brightwells House to ensure that it remains in use for the purpose for which it was originally intended.

Paul Callcutt, co-director of Crest Nicholson, argues that the development brief did not include the "derelict, boarded-up Redgrave Theatre", which would be replaced with a town square, while Brightwells House would be restored as a restaurant.

He said: "You can't stem re-generation for a bunch of people who want to save their theatre. If someone came to me with the dough then I would consider providing a theatre in the scheme. I have people ripping this scheme to shreds and wrecking a whole load of social goods."

He added: "I feel quite deeply that we have a great development here. It hits every sustainable development button that you can imagine."

Gillian Ferguson, leader of Waverley Borough Council, said: "They [opponents of the scheme] are very unhappy about change in particular. But there is no doubt that that part of town needs attention. There will be a town square and we will preserve the existing green space. There will be housing in the town centre - rather than adding to the edges of the town - with 88 affordable housing units, shopping, retail and cinema."

Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot