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Have your say on plans for Bishop's Stortford's new arts centre

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East Herts Council is giving residents a preview of Bishop's Stortford's new arts centre this week as consultation on the £15.5m plans begins.

From Friday (July 16), the authority will ask for feedback on its first proposals for the controversial cinema-led scheme.

Its project team has been working with industry experts, including Philip Meadowcroft Architects, CinemaNext and Theatre Projects to develop the brief for the five-screen multiplex and performance space which replaces a £30m vision for a centre with a 544-seat theatre at its heart.

Earlier this year, the council was forced to scale down its ambitions after Government lending rules changed for local authorities and Covid-19 blew a hole in East Herts' budget.

Artist's impression of Bishop's Stortford's new arts centre (49160241)
Artist's impression of Bishop's Stortford's new arts centre (49160241)

The removal of the auditorium, coupled with the demolition of the United Reformed Church Hall in Water Lane as part of the wider development of the Causeway, has provoked widespread dissatisfaction.

However, Councillor Eric Buckmaster, executive member for wellbeing, said this week: "We are really happy with the progress the project team have made with the designs so far and now we want to hear from residents and potential users of the arts centre so that we can make sure we deliver a valued hub in the town which can be enjoyed by many for years to come."

Architect Stephanie Fischer, who is renowned as an expert in the design of cinema and live performance venues, is one of those working on the project.

The task is to create an 80-seat cinema/multi-use auditorium, a 150-seat cinema with the facility for live acts on a raised stage, an 80-seat cinema and two 50-seat cinemas. One of the latter will be next to a gallery space so that they can be used together or separately for private hire. A cafe bar will have inside and outside tables and there will be dedicated "public realm" space outside for events such as outdoor theatre, music festivals and live sports screenings.

An Arts Centre Steering Group, which met for the first time last month, has also been set up by the council to refine the proposals.

The wider scheme to create a cultural hub called Old River Lane also includes the multi-storey car park under construction at Northgate End, set to deliver 546 spaces. The council's development partner Cityheart is also planning 137 new homes, 90 "senior living" apartments, shops, restaurants and offices on the council's Causeway car parks.

See information and illustrations for the new arts centre plans from Friday at www.eastherts.gov.uk/orl-consultation. The consultation ends on Friday, August 6 and is the first of a series of public engagements to inform further design work set to be revealed this autumn.

Artist's impression of bishop's Stortford's new arts centre (49160256)
Artist's impression of bishop's Stortford's new arts centre (49160256)

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