RIBA gheld a competition to expand and overhaul the existing theatre. Credit: the Maltings (Berwick) Trust

Northumberland reaffirms Maltings commitment

The county council has stressed that it intends to deliver a new Maltings theatre venue for Berwick, close to three years on from the project’s announcement.

A funding gap has grown since the project was trailed in March 2021, when £23m was allocated to the project as part of the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal.

With the existing Maltings venue declared no longer fit for purpose, a RIBA design competition was announced in December 2021.

The main elements of the brief were to create an enlarged and fully accessible venue, featuring a new auditorium with more seats and a larger stage that will enable the venue’s controlling trust to attract higher-profile acts.

The project is also to include two separate cinema spaces, a studio theatre, flexible spaces, a restaurant and bar.

In March 2023, MICA Architects was announced as the winner, beating off competition from AHMM, Burrell Foley Fischer, Carmody Groarke and Space Architects. Preparatory work on-site started in September.

The targeted opening date of 2026 has now been pushed back a year, with local reports suggesting the funding gap is £8m.

NCC has now issued a statement, declaring that “with over £23m in budget allocated, the new venue will be an iconic multi-purpose cultural and entertainment complex when its doors open in 2027 and deliver a major transformation and expansion of the current venue and its impact on the town and surrounding area”.

Cllr Glen Sanderson, leader of NCC, said: “We remain fully committed to this new multi-million pound investment, which will bring extra visitors and spending to the town and deliver a significant boost to the local economy.

“The project, which has already seen significant design and preparatory work, includes significant improvement works to the main theatre building at Eastern Lane as well as the Mob Store at Berwick Barracks, where construction of a temporary cinema is almost complete.”

Cllr Sanderson said that the Maltings project is one of a series of capital investments  in the town in recent years, including a new £23m leisure centre – designed by GT3 Architects and opened in 2022 – and a £4.2m cultural hub project at Berwick Barracks involving upgraded exhibition and gallery spaces.

He concluded: “We’re doing everything we can to support and invest in Berwick and both the County Council and the Maltings continue to work on options to deliver a transformational building that will provide real benefits to the town.”

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