Plans for Ringwood arts centre get green light

Daily Echo: An artist's impression of the proposed arts centre in Ringwood An artist's impression of the proposed arts centre in Ringwood

A MULTI-MILLION-POUND plan to provide a town with a showpiece arts centre has been given the go-ahead.

Civic chiefs went against the advice of planning officers and approved an application to build a raft of new facilities in the centre of Ringwood.

The new centre will include a bar and a 300-seat theatre that could also be used as a cinema.

Members of the district council’s planning committee were given a round of applause by supporters of the scheme after backing the £4.5m project.

Council officers had recommended members to reject the proposal, saying that it would result in the loss of trees and car parking spaces and would also have a severe impact on two nearby homes.

Steve Clothier confirmed that the tallest part of the building would be three times higher than a neighbouring bungalow.

But Cllr Michael Thierry made an impassioned plea to fellow members of the committee.

He said: “We’re elected to make a difference – and today we can make a significant difference to the town of Ringwood.

“We need to look beyond bricks and mortar, the design of the building and the impact on just two of the 8,000 properties in the town.

“We have to consider the wider benefit to the whole community.”

Cllr Thierry said that two drama groups were currently using “woefully inadequate” facilities and added: “We need to think what this scheme will mean for Ringwood and the wider community. It’s a building the whole district will be able to take pride in.”

The centre will be built on land currently occupied by the Greyfriars Community Centre.

Cllr Sue Bennison was one of several members who spoke against the proposal, which was submitted by Ringwood and District Community Association.

She said: “This is clearly a very ambitious plan and will serve a huge part of the community but the proposals are too large for the site.

“The neighbouring bungalow will have a brick wall right next to it.”

But the application was approved by nine votes to five.

After the meeting Mike Osborne, chairman of the steering group, said: “I’m delighted that councillors have approved the scheme, which is going to be wonderful.

“It’s a great relief that Ringwood can now go ahead and give the community what it wants.”

Mr Osborne said that three years of fundraising would be followed by an 18-month construction period, which meant that the centre was still five years away.

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