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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

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£1m Carlisle arts centre approved

A proposed £1 million arts centre has been approved – despite a last-ditch bid from justice officials to block it.

Rickergate arts centre graphic
Artist's impression of how the centre would look

Carlisle City Council planners have given the scheme, at the former fire station in Warwick Street, Rickergate, the go-ahead.

But they were told how the Ministry of Justice had lodged objections at the last minute on behalf of the nearby magistrates’ court.

Officials had raised concerns over the possible impact of the new arts centre on the courthouse.

They said deliveries being made at the rear of the centre during weekdays, as well as noise generated by visitors and users, could disrupt the court.

The Ministry of Justice also called for any windows overlooking the court to be obscured as prisoners are brought in through the back yard of the old fire station building.

But the council’s case officer Stephen Daniel told committee members some of the conditions placed on the arts centre scheme by justice officials were “unreasonable”.

Planning member Hugh McDevitt hit back at the Ministry of Justice’s comments – likening the courthouse to a “large toilet”.

He said: “For them to object amazes me when they have put that [building] there.”

Mr McDevitt also accused justice officials of “opposing everything” and raised concerns that if they didn’t like the arts centre project they would have the power to block it.

Planners rubber-stamped the proposals subject to further discussions with the Ministry of Justice about their concerns.

The project involves transforming the old fire station into a symbol of the city’s “growing potential and ambition”.

Work on the Carlisle City Council scheme is set to begin in June, with the centre scheduled to open next spring.

Proposals show that the building will retain the character of a fire station.

The station closed in 2012 and supporters of the project say the building will feature a performance space ideal for music, comedy, theatre performances and exhibitions.

The original facades and architectural integrity of the building – which includes the old police station, magistrates’ court and old fire station – will be preserved.

Council leaders insist the scheme will bring more attractions and say residents are positive about its success.

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