Restaurant plan in theatre building is off the menu

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PROPOSALS to transform the city’s former Theatre Workshop into an upmarket restaurant have been refused after city planners said the building was too important to the community be lost.

The B-listed Victorian tenement in Stockbridge was to be transformed into a 120-cover restaurant by developers after lying empty since the theatre operation moved out two years ago.

Council planning officials had recommended the move, but councillors went against their advice this week and sided with campaigners.

The Chris Stewart Group, which specialises in upmarket residential and hotel developments, had expected the bid for the building on Henderson Row to be approved and is currently considering its options.

A separate bid by the same firm to build six new flats adjacent to the workshop was approved by councillors.

The Save Stockbridge Theatre Building Group has campaigned against the restaurant and was backed by theatre directors Gerry Mulgrew and Andy Arnold, along with Catherine Lockerbie, former director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

The group has expressed an interest in raising funds to buy the building and transform it into a “vibrant thriving community arts centre for Stockbridge and the city”.

John Dean, who has been involved in the bid to revive the Theatre Workshop, said residents now hope that the building could be used for the ­community.

He said: “We have also been supported by a whole raft of councillors who are advising on arts funding, National Lottery grants and other sources of funding to ensure the theatre continues to be a community-based arts space.

“Far from being a done deal in favour of the developer, this looks like it could be a new beginning for the Theatre Workshop building.”

Earlier this month the Theatres Trust had taken the venue off its Theatres at Risk register after concluding there was ¨
little chance of saving it”.

However, it did raise a last- minute objection.

Sandy Howat, the city’s deputy planning leader who chaired the committee, said: “It was generally felt that the needs of the local community and their quality of life was the overriding issue when it came to the vote.”