Plans for Leyland’s Runshaw College to build a state-of-the-art theatre have been passed by South Ribble Council’s planning committee, despite objections from residents.
One member of the committee spoke out against the ambitious proposals, which will see a single-storey building demolished to make way for a two-storey build to accommodate a theatre and specialist facilities for music, dance and drama.
Coun Mary Green voted to reject the plans last week, saying that neighbours on Langdale Road are worried about loss of privacy, but other members of the committee said the facility would compliment the rest of the sixth-form college and be a welcome addition to the community.
The architect who has designed the theatre said at the Civic Centre: “I have tried to keep the scale of the development within reasonable limits.
“I have also worked hard to keep the height in line with recent developments at the college, and to address concerns from residents about overshadowing and privacy.”
Sitting on the committee, Coun Jim Marsh said: “Runshaw is a magnificent place and this vibrant, professional unit should be supported.
“The so-called neighbours are on the other side of the road, so how they can complain, I don’t know.”
The council has received two letters of representation from residents.
Now, deputy principal of the college, Simon Partington, who takes over as principal in September, has said the scheme is more about modernising the performing arts facilities, rather than just the growth of the campus.
He said: “It is a really interesting time at Runshaw and during the years I’ve been here, the front of the campus has been transformed with the library, student services and restaurant all being developed from one-storey to two-storey builds.
“The one remaining building is old fashioned now, and we started to think about what we might want it to become.
“Most people agreed a bigger theatre would really benefit the college, because the current one is tired and too small for a college of Runshaw’s size.
“We believe the quality of our productions deserves a bigger audience.
“Neighbours may be worried about the growth, but it’s really about refreshing and modernising the facilities here; we can’t afford to stand still.
“The whole purpose of a college is to give students the best possible facilities and experience.”
The construction of the new building will be dependent on securing funding from the Skills Funding Agency and some private sector sponsorship.
But if all goes well, Mr Partington said work could begin in around 12 months, with a view to the theatre being completed by the summer of 2015.
Planning permission was granted with a vote of 10 to one.
There were conditions that the arts centre should not be open to the public until 6.30pm during term time, to prevent traffic congestion.