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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

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Fight continues to save Opera House in Workington

A pressure group has vowed to continue its fight to save an historic arts venue which is facing the renewed threat of demolition.

Opera House photo
The Opera House in Workington

Plans to knock down Workington Opera House on Ladies Walk have been re-submitted by owners Graves (Cumberland) Limited because the original planning consent has now expired.

Councillor Joe Holliday, of Opera Action Ltd, believes that the building could still be saved and has secured £10,000 from his county council’s members’ fund to pay for an “essential” structural survey.

The group had previously expressed a wish to transform the run-down building into a thriving theatre hub for west Cumbria.

Mr Holliday, who is now in talks with the owners, told the News & Star: “We expected that the planning application would be renewed because the three years are up.

“But we are still progressing with the plans and we are still in discussions with the owners.

“We are in the process of arranging for a structural survey and feasibility study. Without the structural survey we can’t get funding.

“If the initial survey says it isn’t fit to save then we won’t go any further.

“But we believe the building is worth saving and we will make every effort to do so. We believe it’s needed in west Cumbria. There isn’t a theatre like it anywhere down the west coast.”

The survey will be carried out in the next couple of months. The building has been shut for nearly a decade and has damp problems. If the structural survey suggests the building can be saved the group’s next step would be to drum up support for its revival.

But Mark Stilwell, 21, of Opera Action, said that this had proved difficult in the past.

He said: “We have tried very hard to get the public support on the Opera House but there are lots of different people wanting to do lots of different things. I think it’s been a bit forgotten about and it’s probably in a worse state now than it ever has been. I would love to think it does have a future but I’m not too hopeful.

“Keith Beattie [of the group] said ‘Once it’s gone, it’s gone’. It would be sad to lose but I don’t know what else we can do.”

The building was last used as a bingo hall until Graves moved that business into a purpose-built premises on Ladies Walk in 2004.

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