DESIGNS for Ferneham Hall after its multi-million pound redevelopment have been unveiled before a council vote to approve the plans today.
The executive of Fareham Borough Council will be voting to approve the design concepts by architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and the redevelopment’s budget of £12.35m.
The work will see the current 708-seat theatre expanded to 800 seats, with a café operating throughout the day on the ground floor and a terrace bar on the first floor.
The expanded foyer is hoped to create a ‘better flow’ of patrons according to Councillor Susan Bell, executive member for leisure and community.
She said: ‘It just gives a more airey feeling in the foyer.
‘I think the designs are very exciting.’
The council had originally planned to cut the number of seats within the theatre to 400, but a public consultation and discussions with theatre operators showed there was a need for expansion.
Cllr Bell said: ‘We talked to theatre operators, who said what we’re offering is needed to attract a better quality of performance.
‘800 seats is the cut off.
‘And Fareham is going to be getting bigger, so what we want is to build something that will accommodate that.’
The theatre will also feature a studio space located on the first floor, with capacity for 25 people to accommodate a range of activities from yoga to Brownie groups.
Cllr Bell added: ‘It is very important that it will be open to the wider community.’
It is hoped the refurbishment will improve Ferneham Hall’s finances as the cultural space lost £400,000 in 2017.
Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Fareham Borough Council, Councillor Roger Price, said the architects have ‘achieved’ the council’s brief.
He said: ‘In general the designs seem very good.’
Cllr Price raised concerns ensuring the final designs feature step-free access to the stage from both the auditorium and the dressing room.
He said: ‘I’ve seen there are a number of disabled toilets as part of the design, but its important the final designs are fully accessible when it comes to accessing the stage.’
The redevelopment is due to close the theatre for up to two years, with work to begin in January 2020.