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Fresh drama over underground theatre bid in Angel

Town Hall in clash with developers over plans for 600-seat venue by Islington Green

30 August, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

An artist’s impression of the proposed Collins Theatre, as seen from Essex Road

PLANS to open an abandoned underground theatre in the heart of Islington have hit a brick wall as the council and developers clash over legal issues.

Planning permission to build the 600-seater Collins Theatre by Islington Green in Angel was granted back in 2002 but successive attempts to complete the scheme and open the theatre have run aground.

The latest developers to take on the site, Baraja UK Investment and Development, have now appealed to the planning inspector, accusing the council of acting “unreasonably” and meddling with “commercial negotiations” between Baraja and the proposed theatre operator, Shawthing Productions.

Baraja’s plans would see the theatre altered from its current “in the round” set-up to become a 400-seater conventional stage. They are also seeking to increase the amount of commercial space for the likes of shops, bars and restaurants by more than a third of what was in the previous deal.

“The appellant considers that the council has acted unreasonably in dealing with this application,” a statement from the developer’s spokesman said.

“Heads of terms had been agreed with the proposed theatre operator before a meeting with the council, the appellant and the proposed theatre operator and after that meeting negotiations have come to a standstill.”

The council has fired back saying the developers will not guarantee that the theatre will open within a five-year time frame.

In the council’s statement to the inspectorate, it said: “The key concern with this application is to ensure adequate planning obligations are in place to mitigate the impact of the development, including measures to encourage delivery of the theatre.

“The applicant has not agreed to planning obligations relating to the theatre use.”

The theatre sits below the site of the Victorian Collins Music Hall, where Waterstones is now based. Top acts such as Charlie Chaplin and Benny Hill performed there before it closed in 1958.

The appeal was submitted last month and the planning inspector is expected to make a decision by the end of the year.


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