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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

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Cash bid kickstarts drive for Cumbrian art centre expansion

Plans for a vibrant new arts centre have taken a major step forward with the submission of a £850,000 funding bid.

Kirkgate graphic
Artist's impression of how the Kirkgate Centre could look

Bosses at the Kirkgate in Cockermouth have put in an application to the Arts Council for the cash which will kick start a fundraising campaign to generate £2 million to transform the centre.

Earlier this year campaigners won a long-fought battle for planning consent to overhaul the Kirkgate after Allerdale councillors turned down the ambitious scheme.

Directors at the centre lodged an appeal against the council’s decision with a government planning inspector ruling in the Kirkgate’s favour.

The scheme to redesign the centre has been three years in the making but the proposals led to a bitter division in the town with opposition to the plans to redevelop the former Victorian school with zinc-clad extensions linked to the main building with glass walkways.

Allerdale Council was sent a 366-name petition in support of the plans and more than 65 letters of support, but was also given a 266-name petition against the scheme and 59 letters of objection.

Against officers’ advice, the authority’s development panel rejected the scheme because it said it was out of keeping with the surrounding conservation area prompting the Kirkgate to lodge an appeal with the Government.

Now bosses at the Kirkgate are hopeful that their bid for £850,000 will be successful. The application is the first part of a two stage process which will see a decision expected in July 2014.

A further more detailed application will then be submitted by October 2014 with a decision expected by March 2015 so work can start early 2016.

In addition to the Arts Council submission the Kirkgate is also bidding for cash from other sources including the Big Lottery Fund. A £200,000 fundraising campaign will also be launched by the centre itself through sponsorship, donations and specific activities.

Anna Clark, chair of the board of directors, said: “ The staff, board and volunteers of The Kirkgate Centre have worked extremely hard to prepare this application, ensure that it is robust and has the best chance of being approved. This development is very exciting and will create a vibrant, modern and high quality arts and community venue which the people of Cockermouth will be very proud of.”

The redevelopment will give the Kirkgate a new glazed foyer with box office, meeting room and café. Alongside the Bitter Beck there will be new offices, toilets and a lift and at the rear there will be improved access to the stage plus dressing rooms.

Kate Parry, general manager, said: “When the scheme is complete, we will have much improved facilities for all who use the Kirkgate, for those who come to plays, gigs and films and for the artists we attract. Also people with disabilities will also find the building much easier to use.”

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