Consultation continues as hall project may cost £10 million

Thursday 11th November 2021 3:53 pm

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PETERSFIELD Town Council says refurbishing the theatre part of the Festival Hall is most expensive part of its multi-million-pound refurbishment and upgrade plans for the ageing building.

Already the council is spending about £750,000 getting plans finalised that will make the hall built in the 1930s as eco friendly, energy efficient and carbon neutral as possible.

It also wants to make it more user friendly, fit for purpose and future proof it for future generations.

At the moment the estimated cost of the project is thought to be well in excess of £10 million.

But the council insists it isn’t in a position yet to agree the ambitious and costly project should go ahead.

The authority is also hopeful that project funding will come from grants and developer contributions - although borrowing from the government- backed Public Works Loans Board hasn’t been ruled out.

The board offers local authorities cheap-interest loans for capital works such as the Festival Hall project.

At the moment the hall is usable, but it is feared that unless action is taken now it may not be available for use in the not-so-distant future.

One of the biggest areas for modernisation is the staging, audience area, bar and theatre technicals such as lights.

This ground-floor improvement labelled The Hall Zones will include new toilets, rewiring, new plumbing and heating.

The Hall Zones (four and five) cover the very centre of the architect proposals which is the Festival Hall itself, and all the ancillary technical and backstage spaces.

The area requires the largest single part of the estimated costs of close to £5m for both zones. Almost £1m of that will be on technical theatre equipment and other backstage infrastructure.

This will include improvements to lighting rigging, sound and audio equipment as well as new ventilation and seating.

The backstage investment will also allow for a faster set-up and take-down, reducing some of the big shows’ logistic time by days.

The enhanced dressing rooms, including larger chorus room, green room, wardrobe, stage door, control room, technical store and new orchestra pit will create a welcoming multi-purpose public hall that can be reconfigured for a wide range of events.

These include theatre, concerts, exhibitions and large hospitality dinners.

Professional touring companies could be attracted to the revamped hall.

But the council insists the hall will still be available to local am-dram groups such as the Winton Players.

At the moment the council is running a programme of consultation events so residents can talk through the proposals with councillors.

Cllr Paul Milner said: "In the roadshow Pin the Zone game, where the public are asked to pin their preference on the works, around one-third of those who took part have shown a preference for the whole project to be done, especially with the aim of making the building as carbon neutral as possible. The next most popular area is to invest in all zones up to zone five.

"One-third would prefer a more modest investment of just the first 3 Zones at this time with a new kitchen and small halls, and an improved entrance and café."

The cost of zones four and five has been priced at £4,875,000, and the cost of zones one to three is about £3.5m. The combined cost of zones one to five is about £8,301,000.

For details, plans and the opportunity for feedback, see the website

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