A campaign group aiming to re-open Doncaster’s redundant Grand Theatre has called on bosses of the Frenchgate Centre to include the crumbling building within a £10million leisure project.
Plans have been unveiled to develop an eight-screen cinema, 56-room hotel and gym within the shopping centre.
Now Margaret Herbert, chairman of the Friends of Grand Theatre Group, which is dedicated to restoring the Grade II listed theatre to its former glory, has said the time is right to re-open the theatre and include it within the scheme.
She said: “I have been inundated with messages of support since the plans to open a cinema at the Frenchgate were announced.
“And everyone has been saying the same thing – the theatre should be at the centre of the plans.”
The Grand, originally built in 1899, has now stood empty and derelict since its closure in 1995 and is sandwiched on prime land between the transport interchange, the Frenchgate Centre and Sainsbury’s supermarket. It was last used as a theatre in 1958, being used as a bingo hall up until its closure.
More than 60,000 angry protesters and a host of celebrities backed a campaign to save the venue from demolition, and because of its listed status the building is protected, but has now stood untouched for 20 years.
Mrs Herbert said: “The theatre would bring so much more to the shopping centre. The building is right in the centre of the town with ideal transport links and parking.
“It makes total sense to include the Grand as part of these leisure plans.”
Since the Grand’s closure, the town’s new performance venue, Cast, which replaced the Civic Theatre, has become the town centre’s main entertainment venue – but Mrs Herbert says many people are put off by the multi-million pound venue’s location.
“It’s right on the edge of town and I think a lot of elderly people aren’t happy about having to walk through the town centre at night,” she said.
“There also aren’t any buses to that part of town so, to me, the Grand remains the best choice to have a theatre in the town centre.”
If approval is given to the Frenchgate scheme, it could mean there would be two cinemas in the town centre, as Doncaster Council announced plans to develop one in the Waterdale area last year.
Mrs Herbert has now called on Frenchgate Centre bosses to hold talks including the Grand in the scheme and added: “We need a big push and as much support as possible. A brand new theatre should be the flagship of this project and we hope to see it happen.”