Portsmouth theatre loses bid to make museum garden its base

ALL CHANGE The New Theatre Royal
ALL CHANGE The New Theatre Royal

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THE New Theatre Royal has had plans for a huge temporary stage turned down.

The 40ft high tent in the gardens of Portsmouth City Museum, in Museum Road, would have hosted shows for the next 19 months while the theatre, in Guildhall Walk, undergoes a multi-million pound transformation.

But at a packed Portsmouth City Council planning meeting yesterday, residents of Pembroke Park, which backs on to the museum’s gardens, persuaded members the noise from performances would make their lives a misery.

Most are naval properties and residents said, although they tolerate a handful outdoor shows in the summer, several performances a week would be too much.

Speaking on behalf of the service families, Kath Hutton said: ‘The houses are mainly occupied by families with small children.

‘In reality many of these are living as single parents with partners away from home for long periods of time.

‘The children may have separation anxiety and sleeping issues and this will cause more distress.’

Caroline Sharman, theatre director, said they had made a number of concessions, including finishing shows at 10pm, no shows on Sundays or public holidays, reducing audience capacity by 25 per cent and having only 100 shows a year.

Councillor Rob Wood, who represents St Thomas ward, asked members of the public to clap.

He put it to the committee that even louder clapping would be heard regularly during the week in what is now a quiet residential area and people living there should not have to put up with it.

Chairman of the committee, Councillor Lee Hunt, said as a supporter of culture himself, it was a tough decision but the impact on homes would be too great.

He added: ‘It would be grossly unfair.’

The committee unanimously agreed with him and turned the plans down.

In a statement Miss Sharman said: ‘We’re disappointed but fully respect the decision.

‘We will continue to programme exciting performances and workshops whilst exploring other venues in the city.’

Work on the theatre begins next week and the last show there will be The Rite of Spring on April 20. The next performance will be Globe Theatre’s Taming of the Shrew, which was already scheduled for the museum gardens in June.