Theatre bars brewery scheme

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The Independent Online
CAMPAIGNERS whose battle to save a community theatre was backed by the actress Susannah York have won their fight to stop it being turned into a pub.

An inquiry on the The Waterside Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon yesterday found in favour of the District Council, which opposed plans by the JD Wetherspoon brewery to open a bar and restaurant on the site.

York had told the inquiry in an emotional speech: "Once a theatre is gone, no matter how large or small, it is another brick removed from the foundations of our culture." Wetherspoon appealed to the environment department after the council blocked its application for permission to change the theatre.

Inspector Gyllian Grindey dismissed Wetherspoon's appeal, stating: "This would harm an interest of acknowledged importance, namely the local distinctiveness and uniqueness of the town."

The campaigners, who include councillors, amateur thespians and residents, were backed by staff at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, who added their congratulations and pledged continuing support to The Friends of the Waterside Theatre. Councillor Dr Geoffrey Lees, who led the council's campaign, said everyone was delighted. "There has been an overwhelming reaction to the decision. We all delighted and are very grateful to everyone who backed us. I have written to Susannah York thanking her for her wonderful contribution."

The council will now apply for lottery and arts council funding to refurbish the venue, and will also make council funding available for the project.

In London it was announced yesterday that the National Theatre had bought the Old Vic Annexe for pounds 1.1m from Ed Mirvisch Enterprises Ltd, owners of The Old Vic theatre.