The concept designs and budget for the redevelopment of Ferneham Hall has been approved.
Councillors at the executive of Fareham Borough Council voted unanimously to approve the concept designs and a £12.35m budget for the redevelopment of Ferneham Hall at a meeting on Thursday evening.
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 redevelopment is hoped to turn around the fortunes of the ‘tired and old’ theatre, which received a £270,000 subsidy from the council last year, according to Councillor Susan Bell.
Addressing the meeting, she said: ‘Ferneham Hall is looking tired and outdated but has served us well over the past 40 years.
‘It was agreed that remodelling was around 20 to 25 per cent cheaper than demolition and rebuild, and a phased approach would also cost more and be very disruptive to a new operator.’
The council will pay for the development through the community infrastructure levy (CIL), which is made up developer contributions. It is projected it will take five to eight years to receive sufficient contributions to fund the project, with borrowing making up the shortfall.
The council received two bidders to run the theatre, with the council voting unanimously for their preferred Trust operator. The council will remain the owner of the building.
Council leader Sean Woodward acknowledged the 'uncertainty’ that Ferneham Hall staff faced with the theatre closing for two years whilst the work is carried out.
He said: ‘I would like to extend our support and gratitude of Ferneham Hall staff past and present.’
He added that the council had been supporting staff to find new roles within the council or employment elsewhere.
Cllr Bell said: ‘A redundancy package is available and, for some, is the preferred option. However, others have chosen to remain with the council and are currently trialling redeployment opportunities.’
More detailed plans will be put before the council’s planning committee in October, with the theatre to close in January 2020.