Plans to refurbish Horsham’s Capitol Theatre have been supported by the district council’s cabinet.
The aim of the work will be to not only spruce up some of the more dated fixtures and fittings, such as its seating, but to reduce the theatre’s carbon footprint.
A report to a meeting of the cabinet on Thursday (January 25) said the theatre emitted the equivalent of 286 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year – the highest of any building on the council’s books.
Members recommended that a capital budget of £10.7million be approved, spread between 2023/24 and 2026/27 – an investment which aims to reduce the carbon footprint by 100 tonnes per year.
The recommendation will be put to the next meeting of the full council for final approval.
Jon Olsen, cabinet member for leisure, culture & green spaces, described The Capitol as ‘the jewel in the crown’ of the district’s arts and cultural life.
He said: “This is a significant expenditure for the council but advancing these proposals will not only see The Capitol continue to be a thriving hub for arts and culture in our community but also deliver significant improvements for audiences, artists and staff and will create a more climate-friendly facility for future generations.”
Investing in local arts and leisure and fostering civic pride is one of the priorities included in Horsham’s four-year Council Plan.
Mr Olsen said: “While there are great environmental reasons to proceed with these new proposals for The Capitol – reducing the carbon emissions of the greatest carbon producer we are directly responsible for – ultimately this is an investment in local arts, our cultural portfolio and offerings.
“Besides upgrading energy performance, the seats are tired and are neither fit for purpose nor to the level many cinema and theatre-goers expect.
“The comfort break facilities are not what would be expected and do not currently meet the needs of all potential visitors with disabilities.
“The hospitality offering and set-up could use improvement to positively impact on running costs and revenue.
“And as a result of investment, we can expect an increase in the quality of productions attracted to our community.”
While cabinet members supported the proposals, Philip Circus (Con, West Chiltington, Thakeham & Ashington) wondered what residents would think of spending so much money during such difficult financial times on a theatre which ‘doesn’t look decrepit’ – especially as the council was under no legal obligation to do so.
He added: “I fear that the optics of this for many people in this district are not going to look very positive.”