Theatre wins late extension

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COUNCILLORS have approved plans to extend performance times at the Open Air Theatre to 11pm, despite objections from neighbouring residents.

The new finishing time will be allowed for a maximum of 12 acts this season and noise levels will be monitored by environmental health officers as well as the operators, Apollo Leisure.

Members of Scarborough Council’s planning and development committee, which met on Thursday, heard the theatre was originally granted a licence for the amplification of music until 10pm, but this was extended on a temporary basis to 10.30pm - to the irritation of some.

Objector Barry Swain, of Weydale Avenue, said: “Democratic rule in Scarborough continues to be a nonsense as the borough council panders to outside interests and residents’ interests are treated as a joke.”

However, head of tourism and culture Brian Bennett said: “I don’t consider the requested extension to be unreasonable given the limited number of events it will apply to. It will enable greater flexibility in the programme of events which contribute to the tourism economy.”

Making his case for the extension, Apollo spokesman Michael Nuttall said continuing with the status quo would place some of the acts already booked for 2011 in jeopardy, as well as jeopardising future bookings and even the future of the venue itself.

He said: “Some residents have raised concerns but have been unable to provide details of decibel levels to enable us to assess their claims. We’re bound by the original code of practice, and this will ensure noise levels can be appropriately monitored. There are already very stringent conditions in place with regard to noise.”

Newby ward councillor Cec Ridley questioned whether Mr Bennett would take the view that he did if he lived in Burniston Road. “The theatre is only a matter of 100 yards from a densely populated area with young families who have already had this cross to bear with the 10pm finishing time,” he said.

The only other committee member to vote against the extension, Cllr Phil McDonald said Apollo should be made to stick to the original conditions agreed, which he noted had been breached “on a couple of occasions” already.

He said if there was a question of the venue not being viable without the option of an 11pm finish time, the issue should have been resolved before it was up and running. “This extension will have a massive impact on the local community,” he said.

However, Cllr David Jeffels, a former portfolio holder for tourism, said the open air theatre had been where it was for about 75 years without such problems in the past. He added: “A great deal of money has been spent on developing and restoring one of Scarborough’s old treasures and we have seen what a success it can be. I’d be very concerned if we refused this, because it could lead to Scarborough not being able to host some of the big-name stars we look forward to having - people like Elton John.”

Planning manager Jill Low said when permission was originally granted, members had taken a “cautious approach” to setting the finishing time, and thought it unlikely it would ever go beyond 11pm. She added that any future decisions about finish times should be built on “very good evidence”.