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Detailed design work starts on new theatre

Archived press release

Date Published: 01/02/06

AVDC has commissioned internationally renowned theatre architects, RHWL Architects, to start work on the detailed designs of the new theatre in Aylesbury. The appointment is part of the new approach being taken by the council to ensure that the W...

AVDC has commissioned internationally renowned theatre architects, RHWL Architects, to start work on the detailed designs of the new theatre in Aylesbury.

The appointment is part of the new approach being taken by the council to ensure that the Waterside development moves forward as quickly as possible whilst securing the best possible scheme for the town.

John Cartwright, Leader of the Council, explained, “We are not changing the overall scheme. There will still be a new shopping area on the northern side of Exchange Street which includes a department and food store; a first class theatre and multi-entertainment centre on the southern side; and housing developments alongside the canal and at Circus Field. However, instead of the scheme being treated as one large project with one development partner, we have decided to separate the scheme into three parts – retail, theatre and housing. This will make the redevelopment simpler to manage.”

AVDC’s decision to take the lead on the scheme has been welcomed by a range of potential new partners, including the owners of Hale Leys Shopping Centre who are keen that the new shopping centre is more integrated with the existing centre. And a major department store has reaffirmed its commitment to opening a store in Aylesbury as part of the development, taking the largest space that can be offered to them.

The council is also looking to extend the shopping area by including in the scheme, its own offices at the bottom of the High Street together with the adjoining land. Norman Skedge, Director of Environment and Planning, explained, “The retail market is very confident about the future of Aylesbury and a number of well known stores, new to Aylesbury, have expressed their interest in coming to the town. We clearly want to do all that we can to make sure that we provide within the retail area, the size and type of space needed to meet their requirements, whilst making sure that the design of the shopping area is high quality and in keeping with its surroundings.
 “We need to relocate our High Street offices to make way for the retail development and, given that we already plan to move from our Exchange Street offices for the new theatre, this is an ideal opportunity for the council to consider how we can rationalise our offices and make our services more efficient.  However, whatever the final decision on relocation, the Customer Service Centre will be replaced within the town centre as this provides a very important facility for the local community.”

The detail of the extended retail scheme has not yet been commissioned and the overall concept is likely to remain the same. However, it may not include a hotel as originally suggested, as market trends indicate that including a hotel in the retail scheme would not be the best location.

The retail development is expected to begin in autumn 2007, with public consultation likely to take place later this year.

Work on site for the theatre is expected to start in summer 2007. RHWL Architects have designed theatres worldwide – from Dubai to Sadlers Wells and produced the artists’ impressions of the theatre included in the first public consultation in 2003. The innovative design captured the imagination and enthusiasm of local people which AVDC remains committed to delivering.

However, theatres are complex to design and build and as part of the council’s new approach, it will be using some of its capital funds to forward fund the theatre development. John Cartwright commented, “The theatre is a vital part of the scheme and we must get it right both in terms of its location and the quality of the design. The southern side of Exchange Street, a main gateway to the town, is perfect. It will give a very positive impression of the town and will be highly visible from many approaches. We have appointed RHWL Architects because of their experience, track record and initial designs which showed a great empathy and understanding of the surrounding environment.”

Norman Bragg, Principal Director of RHWL Architects, added, “I am delighted with the council’s decision which will enrich the lives of Aylesbury’s community and their heritage.”
The council’s decision to forward fund the new theatre will not affect council tax which funds day to day services.

AVDC already owns substantial parts of land in Exchange Street needed for the theatre and housing developments. In addition to its own offices and the car parks, it has recently purchased the former Bucks Herald site and Wilkins Solicitors. Some of this land will be used for temporary car parking to replace the Walton Street car park, whilst the new 525 space multi-storey car park and over 200 homes are built.

Plans for the existing Civic Centre will remain broadly the same as the original scheme – it will stay open until at least the summer of 2007 but if work to build the new theatre starts later than currently anticipated, the closure date of the Civic Centre will also be later so that the gap between the Civic closing and the new theatre opening is minimised.  Under the original scheme, this is forecast to be no more than 103 weeks.

However, by forward funding the design of the new theatre and potentially widening the range of partners involved, and separating the scheme into three elements, so that each one is not so dependent on the other, it may be possible to reduce this.

The Civic Centre will continue to host a full programme of events, performances and conference facilities.

The opening up of the canal basin for housing development and the use of Circus Field for housing and employment development is the third element of the scheme. However,
AVDC has decided that as this development is now separate from the theatre and retail elements, new tenders should be invited to get best possible value. Crest Nicholson, the council’s development partner on the original scheme, are expected to make a strong bid.

Paul Callcutt,  Land Director of Crest Nicholson PLC, commented, “The Waterside redevelopment is an exciting and prestigious scheme that Crest Nicholson still very much wants to be part of. Crest is one of the country’s leading developers with an excellent track record in regeneration projects, but it is not unusual in schemes of this size and complexity for a different approach to be taken as detailed negotiations progress. Aylesbury has an exciting future ahead and we will be bidding for the various development packages when they are released. We are also looking forward to starting the build of over 200 extra homes and new multi-storey car park planned for Walton Street, which has already been contracted with the council, and we are hoping to be on site in the summer.”

Contact information


01296 585099