Final bid to save seaside theatre from demolition ends in failure

A long-running campaign to save a seaside theatre that once attracted some of the country's biggest stars has ended in defeat.

The Futurist

In a letter to Scarborough Borough Council, the Department of Communities and Local Government said the local authority’s decision to sanction the demolition of the Futurist Theatre on the town’s seafront will not be referred to Communities Secretary Sajid Javid.

The 2,100-seat venue opened in 1921 and attracted the likes of The Beatles, Dame Margot Fonteyn, Andy Williams, Bette Davis and Shirley Bassey in its heyday, and hosted some of the country’s top summer seaside shows, but its future has been the subject of a dispute between theatre lovers, conservationists, its owners and Scarborough Council for years.

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Community campaigners wanted the theatre, which shut in 2013, to be refurbished and reopened but any lingering hopes of earning a reprieve for the building have now been scuppered by Whitehall’s decision.

The ruling means demolition work is expected to begin in the new year. Extensive work to stabilise its cliff side location is also planned.

The council has been waiting for the Secretary of State’s decision after the authority’s planning committee approved the theatre’s demolition by 11 votes to three last month.

Flamingo Land wants to build a coastal attraction on the site of the building, but Scarborough Council will be footing the £3.91m bill for the demolition, which is expected to take 13 months.

In a letter to the council, the Department of Communities and Local Government said Mr Javid had “carefully considered the case against his call-in policy and is content that it should be determined by the local planning authority”.

The letter goes on to say: “The Government is committed to give more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues, and believes planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible.”

Council leader, Councillor Derek Bastiman said: “We very much welcome today’s important decision, which allows us to proceed to demolition and kick-start a bright new future for this prominent site in Scarborough South Bay.

“It demonstrates that our planning process is transparent, robust and comprehensive and that our councillors had the full facts in front of them to be able to make an informed decision.

“This is an important step in the continuing success of the Borough of Scarborough as a great place to live, work and visit and we now look forward to working with Flamingo Land in realising their exciting proposals for this important site.”

Coun Janet Jefferson, one of the leading figures behind the campaign to save the theatre, said the Communities Secretary’s decision had been met with great disappointment because of a belief the Futurist could have been restored and remained a leading British theatre.

“People are upset and angry,” she said. “The council hasn’t listened to the people locally and how much this is a treasure to Scarborough.

“Live theatre is the boom at the moment and councils across the country are restoring theatres and there wasn’t so much work to do on this building when we did the petition signed by 6,850 people.

“It’s three years since the principal developer for the site was chosen and we still don’t have a definitive idea of what’s going to go there.”