Market Theatre planning application withdrawn after community backlash to flats plan

The Market Theatre in Hitchin has launched a JustGiving survival appeal after missing out on a grant through the Culture Reco...

The application to turn the Market Theatre into flats has been withdrawn - Credit: The Market Theatre

Hitchin's Market Theatre has been saved for now, as plans to renovate the 25-year-old venue into flats have been withdrawn.

A source familiar with NHDC's planning committee has confirmed that the application has now been withdrawn by the applicant before planning officers could make a decision on it.

It is not yet clear why the application has been pulled it, but large swathes of opposition to the plans have emerged online following our report. The planning portal will continue to show the applications until it is updated.

Last week, the Comet revealed that the building that houses The Market Theatre, which has been operating in Sun Street since 1996, was subject to two new planning applications that could see the building converted into three two-bed and two one-bed apartments.

Parts of Hitchin's community hit back following on from the Theatre Trust's comments - the national advisory body for UK theatres - objecting to these plans in "the strongest possible terms".

Glyn Doggett, Market Theatre manager, said: "We're over the moon, both Kirk (MT's artistic director) and I think this is great news. We have just been amazed by the incredible reaction of the community. Every time I look at the objections, they're going up!

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"It's definitely positive news for the theatre, at a time which has been incredibly difficult for us and when we're struggling, this is good news and a massive boost."

In total, 162 public comments have been made on NHDC's planning portal. Every comment so far has been an objection to the plan to turn the historic venue into five new flats.

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From Westmill to Sunnyside, the town's residents decried the potential renovation and described the theatre as "valuable", "positive", "unique" and "much-loved".

Cllr Sam Collins, who represents Hitchin Highbury ward, added: "The planning application, if it were to go ahead, would have had a seriously detrimental impact on the arts in Hitchin and in the wider North Hertfordshire area.

"Performing Arts in Hitchin not only contribute to the wellbeing of the local population they also generate employment opportunities locally and at a high level. Hitchin is increasingly being used as a filming location, developing and enhancing the already strong local performing arts scene must be a priority for the town's future."

Cllr Paul Clark, deputy leader at NHDC, said: "I was aware of this issue, as were Cllr Sam Collins and Cllr Keith Hoskins, and each one of us has objected to this plan as the theatre is a vital part of Hitchin’s cultural offering.

"All three of us will keep our eyes open in going forward in case another application is submitted in the future."

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