Theatre group fights decision to keep tabs on it

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A THEATRE group is fighting for its future as it appeals against a planning decision.

Titchfield Festival Theatre wants to keep using a former warehouse in St Margarets Lane in Titchfield as its home.

Last March it was granted retrospective permission by Fareham Borough Council to use half of the unit as a theatre with 210 seats and the other half as storage.

The troupe is limited to 140 days of performance at the site per year, but is allowed to use it on other days for rehearsals.

However, as condition of the planning permission, the group’s use of the site and the parking habits of its patrons would be monitored for a year.

After that year, the planning committee would look at the permission again.

Kevin Fraser, the group’s chairman, said: ‘The planning officers wanted to give us planning permission with a couple of restrictions on parking which we had already met.

‘But the planning committee decided they wanted us to be monitored for a year, even though the chief planning officer said they had already been monitoring the situation for the last 15 months and there were no problems.

‘It has caused a lot of difficulties for us.

‘It only takes one person to complain about us, and it goes against us quite strongly.

‘And it makes it difficult for us to raise funds

‘If we go to any funding body they can turn around to us and say: “But you’re only there for a year.”

‘Without that long-term guarantee, we can’t do that.

‘We believe we should have that planning permission in full, and we think we’ve got some very good grounds to appeal on.’

‘We had no problems with any of the other conditions, and they have all been adhered to.

‘If we lose, we will have to submit a new application and go back for another hearing at the planning committee.’

A handful of people living near the site had made complaints to the council about noise from the theatre and claimed it had a detrimental impact on local roads and parking.

Ward councillor Connie Hockley, who was on the committee, suggested the monitoring during the meeting last March as a ‘compromise.’

But Titchfield Festival Theatre says it had no right of reply.

An inspector, appointed by the secretary of state, will conduct the hearing from 10am on February 7 at the Fareham Borough Council civic offices.