How we used planning policy to help Wallingford Corn Exchange.
The Grade II listed Corn Exchange in Wallingford was built as a meeting hall, concert hall and theatre, and was bought and converted to full community theatre use in the mid-70s by the volunteer-run Sinodun Players.
Theatres Trust became involved when the Corn Exchange contacted us over concerns about plans submitted to the council for a neighbouring residential development. With a shared party wall the development could at the very least limit the theatre’s operation and at most have a devastating effect on its long-term viability, forcing its closure.
Our advice was two-fold. Using the recently adopted Agent of Change principle, we highlighted that responsibility for the avoidance of noise fell to the neighbouring development, rather than the existing venue. We also emphasised points from the National Planning Policy Framework set to safeguard and promote cultural activities and historically significant venues, placing responsibility with the council to ensure the theatre was not unduly affected.
The theatre was able to use the specific planning and policy information to clearly argue the case for refusal of plans. We reiterated these comments when submitting our formal planning response and in letters to local councillors making them aware of the theatre.
Over 18 months and through multiple planning application resubmissions our strong objection rooted in planning policy added weight to the campaign and the council unanimously voted to refuse the neighbouring development. This is one of the first theatre cases where we have used the Agent of Change principle to help preserve a theatre’s viability.