We are a statutory consultee in the planning system in England, Scotland and Wales. We comment on theatre related planning applications and advise on planning policy to secure cultural policies that protect theatres.

We work to safeguard theatre use, or the potential for such use and can help you establish the most viable and effective solution for your theatre building.

Planning applications

Local Planning Authorities are required to consult us on any planning application involving land on which there is a theatre or which will have an impact on theatre use.

This applies to all theatre buildings, old and new, including those currently in theatre use, those in other uses, and those that are disused. Ciné-variety theatres, circus buildings, arts centres and spaces that have been converted or adapted for theatre use, such as pub theatres, are all within our remit.

Theatres are advised to look out for applications near their buildings and to let us know so we can make formal representations.

View our recent planning applications responses.

Planning legislation

The Theatres Trust Act 1976 and the Theatres Trust (Scotland) Act 1978 defines a theatre as ‘any building or part of a building constructed wholly or mainly for the public performance of plays’. In this context ‘plays’ has the same meaning as in the Theatres Act 1968 and this encompasses all forms of performance in a theatre, which could include drama, dance, ballet, opera, musicals, song, circus, acrobatics, physical theatre, puppetry, mime, comedy, variety, cabaret, magic and live art.

These are the statutory instruments that set out our consultation requirements:

  • England - The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015, Schedule 4, Paragraph (x)
  • Wales - The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (Wales) Order 2012, Schedule 4, Paragraph (r) – as amended by The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (Wales) (Amendment) Order 2016
  • Scotland - The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (Scotland) Regulations 2013, Schedule 5, Paragraph 11
  • Northern Ireland theatres are covered under an administrative agreement

Planning use class

Most theatre buildings in theatre use are afforded the special protection of being sui generis. This means they are not in any use class and any change of use requires planning permission. However, some buildings may still fall under another use class, and it is therefore important to check the use class of the building with the local planning authority.

Visualisation of large modern theatre building with a busy square outside


We encourage applicants and developers to contact us for pre-application advice at the earliest possible stage. In the first instance we request that plans and details of proposals are emailed to us, and we are happy to arrange a site visit to discuss plans in more detail.

Listed building consent

Many theatres are listed buildings and will therefore require Listed Building Consent to carry out alterations. We can provide advice on architectural significance or heritage value for applications for Listed Building Consent, Conservation Area Consent, and statutory and non-statutory designations.

Local planning

We work to ensure all local plans and local development plans include policies that safeguard and promote culture and sustainable theatre use. This includes local plans, supplementary planning documents, area action plans, community infrastructure levies, and planning obligations.

Neighbourhood planning

Under Schedule 1 of the Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012, local authorities, parish councils and designated local groups should consult us on the preparation of a neighbourhood development plan or order, where the plans affect an existing theatre or a new performing arts venue is proposed.


We commented on 277 planning and listed building applications in 2022/23


We commented on 75 local and neighbourhood planning documents in 2022/23