Planning for the Future

Theatres Trust has responded today to the UK Government’s consultation paper Planning for the Future. 

As a statutory consultee within planning, Theatres Trust advises on more than 300 planning and listed building applications for new and existing theatres every year, as well as responding to Local Plans to ensure suitable policies and provision for theatres and other cultural infrastructure. 

Planning for the Future proposes radical reform of the English planning system. It aims to facilitate greater and speedier house building to address the country’s housing crisis.  As such the paper makes no substantial reference to cultural infrastructure and our response identifies a range of policies and structures that need to be included in any reformed system to ensure we promote and protect our treasured theatres and cultural facilities. 

Theatres are at the heart of our communities, promoting wellbeing and a sense of place.  They help animate the high street, contribute significantly to local businesses and the wider economy and are a catalyst for regeneration. We make a number of specific recommendations which can be found in our full response and these are based on three core principles: 

  1. High level policy enshrining the provision and protection of culture as a core principle within planning, including encouraging local planning authorities to identify gaps in provision at the plan-making stage.
  2. Protecting theatres and other existing cultural facilities, including carrying forward the ‘Agent of Change’ principle.
  3. Ensuring the provision of new theatres or cultural facilities where needed, including the possibility of a ‘standard charge’ or ring-fenced mechanism for funding the provision or enhancement of cultural infrastructure and ensuring combined Infrastructure Levy maintains or increases current receipts from CIL and Section 106 agreements.

In our view the new planning system should place culture as ‘the fourth pillar of sustainable development’ - housing provides a place to live and theatres and other cultural spaces create a place worth living.  Any changes to the planning system should address both these priorities.