Planning application close for Prescot Playhouse

Plans for a £19m Jacobean theatre in Prescot which have been in the offing for eight years are due to progress to the next stage, with a planning application expected by Knowsley Council in the next month.

The project was first proposed by the Shakespeare North Trust in 2007, but stalled after a failed bid for National Lottery funding.

The 350-seat 30,000 sq ft theatre is to be built to designs by Inigo Jones from 1629. According to the Trust, the proposed site in Prescot town centre was the location of the first indoor Elizabethan theatre outside London built in the late 1500s.

The scheme will include teaching space alongside the indoor theatre.

A planning application was due to be submitted at the start of the year, however it was delayed in order to wait for the finalisation of Knowsley’s local plan.

Helm Architecture with Austin-Smith:Lord previously advised the Trust on plans for the Prescot playhouse. No one at the Trust was available to confirm if the design team had changed.

The project is being spearheaded by academics at Liverpool John Moores University and the Rose Bruford College of Theatre & Performance.

George Howarth, MP for Knowsley, last week promoted the project in a debate in the House of Commons. In response, Ed Vaizey, Minister of State for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, said: “This speaks to my personal passion to put culture and heritage at the heart of our communities, recreating a historic link with our greatest playwright. It would also be a part of the northern powerhouse.

“It will depend to a certain extent on philanthropic support. Next year is a unique opportunity to raise its profile, as it will mark 400 years since Shakespeare’s death. The government is very supportive, and will work with George Howarth in any way we can to bring this to fruition.”

It is understood that the Trust intends to prepare another application for Lottery funding.

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Excellent! Prescot and Knowsley Hall’s links with the Bard should be celebrated and such a theatre will give Knowsley the cultural hub it lacks and allow historic Prescot to flourish. Linked with educational opportunities in the surrounding extremely disadvantaged area, and plugged into the cultural offer of the wider Liverpool region this project could fire on several fronts and boost the northern powerhouse too.


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