Theatres are amazing places; places where we go to watch, listen and be inspired; places where we go with friends; places where we go to perform.
For the last five years, I have had the honour of being Planning Trustee with the Theatres Trust. This has been a rewarding role, but my term is coming to an end, so the Theatres Trust now needs a new Planning Trustee. This is a voluntary role, but appointed by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. With a small staff team, the Board consists of 15 trustees of varying backgrounds.
Many do not realise that the Theatres Trust is a statutory consultee in the planning system. Established by the Government in 1976, the Trust is the national advisory public body for theatres that works to promote the protection of theatres.
Over the last five years, I have been involved in discussions and decision making about sponsorship and grant funding, research, advice, appointment of staff, promoting the Trust at events, advising on the Trust’s response to planning applications and policy documents and contributing to advice notes on planning issues.
Planning is a crucial activity for the Trust. It comments on some 350 pre-planning, planning and listed building applications and appeals a year. Proposals in England, Scotland and Wales range from seating alterations at Richmond’s Theatre Royal to the new Sadlers Wells East theatre. A 100% response rate within the agreed timeframes was achieved.
The Trust also responds to local and neighbourhood plan consultations seeking to ensure that the protection and enhancement of cultural facilities is included in planning policy.
Responding to planning applications about adjacent developments that could affect neighbouring theatres is an increasingly important part of our planning work. We welcome the adoption of Agent of Change principle in the National Planning Policy Framework. This places the burden of costs and mitigation on new development, rather than existing uses suffering restrictions or even closure following complaints from new neighbours.
As well as planning work, the Trust campaigns for theatres including through its ‘Theatres at Risk’ Register and working alongside others in the sector, supports theatres through grants and provides a range of advice.
Theatres take on many forms and face a range of issues. The West End needs more space, but there is little opportunity to provide that. Then there is the instability of smaller venues operating on tighter profit margins, short-term leases and decreasing public funding. Yet these smaller venues mean so much to the community and are important stepping stones for performers and producers, writers and directors. Cultural wellbeing is important.
This is a fantastic opportunity for someone interested in offering their planning skills and expertise in return for a rewarding role working alongside others to ensure that current and future generations have access to good quality theatre buildings where they too can be inspired by and enjoy live performance. And you never know…just like me, you may find yourself sitting next to one of your teenage pin ups. You will definitely learn new skills and meet a fabulous group of people committed to ensuring the future of theatre.
More information about the Theatres Trust and the role can be found at: https://publicappointments.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/appointment/theatres-trust-4-x-trustee-appointments/
Closing date: 8 January 2020 at 10am
Further information about the Theatres Trust can be found on our website: http://www.theatrestrust.org.uk/
Ann Skippers is a chartered town planner with over twenty years experience in a career that has spanned local government, academia and private consultancy. As President of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) in 2010, Ann represented the professional institute’s 23,000 members at various events in the UK, USA and Canada.