Campaigners battling to save Scarborough’s Futurist Theatre say they are “mystified” over a government decision to not to list the historic building.
The Futurist Task Group lodged an appeal last summer after English Heritage refused to give the theatre listed status.
Yesterday they were dealt a new blow when the Department of Culture announced it would be upholding the original decision.
Patricia David, who has been fighting to save the Futurist for many years, said: “We are mystified by the decision as we consider we more than matched the architectural and historic criteria required by the application procedure.”
It comes just a week after “ugly” panels covering the theatre were pulled off for the first time in over 40 years in a bid to determine the condition of the building’s original frontage.
An expert in revamping historical buildings travelled to the town last Thursday to offer his views on whether the theatre can be restored to its former glory.
His initial inspection, which saw several panels removed, revealed the hidden ceramic facade was in “reasonable condition” for its age and there was no reason why it couldn’t be salvaged.
Ms David said: “Fresh important evidence was uncovered, hitherto unknown to anybody, as a result of the intensive inspection of July 12 when some exterior cladding was removed. The appeal process allows for new evidence to be presented at any time during the adjudication process. We sent this evidence as soon as it was processed, but ironically it arrived just 24 hours after the decision had been made and the case closed.”
Earlier this month heritage experts revealed the theatre is among 49 venues across the UK that are at risk of being lost forever.
The Theatres Trust warned that the Futurist could fall into dereliction and be demolished, unless the owners “recognise they are responsible for community assets and work with trusts and local communities to secure their future”.
The theatre which dates back to 1903, is still open for business and is welcoming shows this year from performers including Ken Dodd, the Chuckle Brothers and Cannon and Ball.
However, its long-term future is in grave doubt after consultants claimed it would be “commercial suicide” to keep the theatre, which is on a site that could be used for redevelopment.
In an attempt to prevent the theatre from being demolished, the task group applied in 2010 for the Futurist to be classed as a listed building but it was turned down in June last year, sparking an appeal.
Despite being disappointed by this week’s decision, the group has pledged to continue the fight.
Ms David said: “The importance of the Futurist to the economic prosperity of the town remains unchanged by this news and the power and strength of feeling of the people in the area for retention of the theatre remains undiminished.”
The campaigners are currently awaiting an estimated cost into removing the panelling from historical building experts Shaws of Darwen, which refurbished The Royal Albert Hall and the Savoy hotel in London.