Titchfield performing arts group fights council ruling

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A THEATRE group has accused Fareham Borough Council of acting unfairly by refusing to grant it a permanent planning permission at its base.

An independent inspector led a one-day hearing at the council’s civic offices after Titchfield Festival Theatre appealed against the decision by the local authority.

It wants the trial period condition dropped and full permission instated.

Council officers had recommended that the troupe be granted full permission to use the former warehouse unit in St Margaret’s Lane.

But at a planning committee meeting last March, councillors voted six to three in favour of only granting a temporary 12- month permission.

This was to see if allowing the theatre to operate at the site would have a detrimental impact on parking and roads, as well as whether it created noise late at night.

But the group had been monitored by council officers for 15 months before the application was heard – and they never identified any problems.

Theatre chairman Kevin Fraser said: ‘As far as we’re aware, there have been no noise complaints about the shows and we keep a detailed log of decibel readings.’

The group has 35 parking spaces at the site and permission from nearby Holiday Inn for its car park to be used as overflow parking.

John Hall, advising the group, said: ‘Planning officers are professionals who come to meetings aware of all the issues and to advise the lay members.

‘Then the councillors make their decision. Those planning officers are then left scrambling around for legal reasons as to why the application was, in this case, rejected, against their recommendation.’

Senior council planning officer Alex Sebbinger said: ‘Before the application was made, there were no restrictions in place, so they were effectively operating “unregulated.”

‘This trial period sets out the parameters of the planning approval.’

The venue is limited to 140 days of performance per year, it can operate up to 11pm, Monday to Saturday, and 10pm on Sundays.

The inspector, John Chase, did not set a date for publishing his verdict.