Banbury’s Grand Theatre making way for homes and shops

Robert Shepley - EditorBanbury News, Cherwell District Council

Banbury News - The Grand Theatre Banbury

Planning approved for Banbury’s Grand Theatre

Two shops and 12 flats are set for development in Banbury town centre following a council decision.

On Thursday Cherwell District Council‘s planning committee approved permission for the site of The Grand Theatre on Broad Street to be redeveloped as shop units and one and two-bedroom flats.

The building was most recently used Chicago Rock Cafe and Wonder Lounge and currently stands empty.

The proposals will retain the structure’s historic Art Deco frontage, which dates back to around the 1930s.

The Grand showed its last film (Raquel Welch in “The Biggest Bundle of Them All”) on 14th December 1968, but still remains complete, including its circle and projection room.

The planning application was challenged by the ‘Friends of The Grand Theatre‘ who wanted to save The Grand as a community asset.

The group said “Whether this changes anything remains to be seen, as The Grand has had planning permission for flats and shops for the last three years without any development taking place.

“The most concerning feature of the granting of consent was the lack of commitment shown in Banbury’s old town, the planning committee declaring that community / social / performance uses are inherently unviable, even if run by a charitable trust exempt from business rates and taxes.

“So much for localism and faith in the people. So much for a diverse, vibrant town-centre. The campaign continues, with renewed resolve!”

Cllr Colin Clarke, Cherwell’s lead member for planning, said: “We are keen to see empty properties in our town centers brought back into use and there are clear social and economic benefits to making more housing and retail space available in the town centre.

“This building was once used as a cinema and theatre. However, it has not had these uses for some time and this application does not bring about the direct loss of an entertainment facility.

“The proposals put forward by the applicant are sensitive to the fact that this is a locally listed building within a Conservation Area and they will help preserve the historic character of its distinctive frontage.”

Two shop spaces permitted under the proposals would have frontage onto Broad Street and the flats will be split over two three storey blocks, one of which will face onto Pepper Alley.

The building’s most recent authorised use was as a restaurant. A previous permission for the building’s redevelopment as eight flats and two shops is still current and this was considered an important factor in yesterday’s decision.