Runshaw College plans to build theatre

Runshaw College theatre and performing arts centre plans, Langdale Road, Leyland
Runshaw College theatre and performing arts centre plans, Langdale Road, Leyland

Runshaw College bosses have unveiled sensational plans to build a multi-million pound theatre and performing arts centre in the heart of Leyland.

Plans are set to submitted for the two-storey building on Langdale Road this week, and the ambitious proposals include a state-of-the-art theatre to seat up to 300 people, workshops, dressing rooms, music rooms, recording studios, drama studios, a dance studio, rehearsal rooms and social space, including a refreshments bar and box office.

If approved by South Ribble Council, the work will mean demolishing the existing and outdated Borrowdale building, which houses classrooms and a small restaurant, and replacing it with the new 2,700 square metre facility.

Principal at the college, Kathy Passant, said: “Our dream is to create a wonderful performing arts centre because there is a real lack of modern facilities in Leyland and Chorley at the moment.

“This is a really exciting opportunity for us and we know there is demand for something like this.

“It would just be absolutely fantastic if this does go ahead.”

The proposed centre would be used by students, arts groups and local communities, as the college regularly receives requests to house teaching and performances from local dance, music and stage schools, but its present resources are inadequate for the job.

The college also wants to build on the success of former performing arts students from the area, including internationally renowned opera singer Amanda Roocroft, actors John Thompson and Steve Pemberton, musician Lloyd Cole and Oscar-nominated film writer Tom Bidwell.

In recent years, students Sam Major and Tim Booth were awarded the only two nationally available male scholarships to the Northern Ballet (worth a combined £70,000), and Jonathan Murray was awarded £30,000 to study at the Manhattan School of Music.

“Our performing arts students are stunningly successful, going on to the study the best courses at the best universities,” Mrs Passant added.

“We want to build on that success for our current students, but when we looked at the potential to expand the facilities, we were restricted in the confines of our own building.

“If we do build this, it will also finish off an impressive college frontage; we really want it to have the ‘wow’ factor.”

At the moment, Runshaw showcases 10 different productions each year in a room which has been transformed into a theatre, and they are nearly always sold out.

It seats around 170 people, and the hope is that the new 300-seat theatre would attract more members of the public to watch the performances.

Mrs Passant added: “It’s an idea we have been developing since the summer.

“When we completed the new library, it made it even more clear that the Borrowdale building could be put to much better use.

“We came up with the plan to demolish it and build something which is consistent with the rest of the college’s new buildings.”

The college does not have enough funding to carry out the huge project yet, which could cost between £6-7m, so would have to rely on funding bids to get the cash.

“It is a great deal of money,” Mrs Passant said. “If we get planning permission first, then we will look to apply for funding in the future.

“We have spoken to our neighbours because we want to keep them happy, but we have explained that it’s very early days and that we do not have the money to do this yet.”

- What do you think of Runshaw’s proposals?

Email your views to kay.taylor@lep.co.uk