Campaigners hoping to buy and save the Grade II listed Victoria Theatre in Lower Broughton were horrified last week when it was announced that building would be auctioned off by property dealers, Pugh, on 6th September.*
This afternoon, a public meeting of the Salford Victoria Theatre Trust at St Boniface's Social Club heard that the auction could be stopped if the building was registered as an 'asset of community value', which gives community groups a six month period to try and raise purchase money before a private buyer can be confirmed.
However, to be registered as an asset of community value, an application has to be approved by Salford City Council, so the race is now on to get the paperwork in and for the Council to rubber stamp it.
The Trust is confident that its business plan for community use of the theatre is sound as it is based upon a similar one for the successful Plaza cinema in Stockport...
"We know it can work" said the Trust's Sam Kelly "We need to get some hope back in the place. The theatre was built on the Victorian entrepreneurial spirit of Salford and there's not another theatre like it in the North West. It would be good for the old Lower Broughton community to show the new community what was here."
Members of the group are to launch a petition within days, urging Salford Council to work with the Trust to help save the theatre.** The Council has already stated in its latest 'Local Plan' that the building will be protected, "securing its positive reuse, preferably for a community use in keeping with its original function and design", but has done nothing since.
A forward decision notice by the Council is due in the next few months on 'Future proposals for Cambridge Industrial Area in Lower Broughton', including 'acquisitions of interests in advance of development'. So far, all details have been kept secret.
The Victoria Theatre auction currently has a guide price of ?350,000 but few people believe it will get anywhere near this figure as the building is listed and cannot be knocked down.
The Trust is hoping that it won't be sold, or that a private buyer purchases the building that will work with the group in a public/private partnership, perhaps leasing it to the community group which will then restore it and put it to good uses.
Suggestions have included theatre and tv schools, an SEN function and construction apprenticeships during the restoration, together with a cafe and a venue for bingo and live events.
As Salford Council is also spending hundreds of millions of pounds on office blocks, the RHS Garden in Worsley and various development proposals, the Trust is also hoping that it might cough up for the theatre, to save a real community asset.
In the meantime, however, the race is on to get the Victoria Theatre registered as a community asset and stop that auction...
To keep in touch with all developments, see the Save the Victroia Theatre Salford Facebook page ? click here
*See previous Salford Star article on the auction ? click here
*For a full background also see Salford Star article on the Salford Victoria Theatre Trust ? click here
Update: 29th August - The petition to Save The Victoria Theatre has now been created - click here to sign it