A Hampshire theatre company has accused Fareham Borough Council of using “bully boy tactics” in a row over a new 450-seat theatre built without planning permission.

Titchfield Festival Theatre argues its new £1.7m Arden complex, which sits behind its already existing theatre on St Margaret’s Lane, could be built without the consent of planning officers.

But Fareham Borough Council says the space in question only had permission to be used as storage and has served a notice requiring the site to close by the end of February.

The theatre company was already prosecuted by the council earlier this year for hosting a number of unauthorised weddings at The Great Barn.

Chairman of the Planning Committee, Cllr Nick Walker, said: “Titchfield Festival Theatre has left the Council with no option but to pursue this formal planning enforcement action. 

“It is beggars belief that anyone would build a new 450-seat theatre without first securing planning permission.”

In 2019, a planning application for a 567-seat theatre was rejected.

A second application submitted later that year was also refused.

The council says this was due to the "unsustainable and poorly accessible" location of the site, "inadequate levels of parking spaces" and a "significant increase in noise affecting neighbours".

Despite this, performances continued - with shows being advertised on the theatre company's website throughout December and well into 2024.

Daily Echo: The company are still running performances at the ArdenThe company are still running performances at the Arden (Image: Submitted)

Kevin Fraser, artistic director at the company, said Titchfield Festival Theatre asked Hampshire County Council if it could purchase, rent or lease unused land near the site "on repeated occasions" - most recently in September.

However, "nothing has happened".

He added: "Don’t forget that many other theatres – such as Kings Theatre in Portsmouth – have no dedicated car parking at all.

"Since this theatre opened, there have been zero complaints. Actually, there have been no objections from residents since Titchfield Festival Theatre opened at St Margaret's Lane in 2010.

"Titchfield Festival Theatre will continue to resist these bully boy tactics to try and destroy something that is only good for the general population of Fareham and beyond."

The site won't be able to operate as a theatre after February 29 unless an appeal is lodged.