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Andrew Lloyd Webber theatre plan gets thumbs down from West End residents

Tory peer warned: Keep the noise down!

13 October, 2017 — By Richard Osley

The 42nd Street musical at the Theatre Royal 

ANDREW Lloyd Webber’s £35million plan to restore the historic Theatre Royal and add a restaurant next door is facing opposition from neighbours who fear planners have forgotten that people live in the West End.

Westminster Council has now been urged to think carefully before granting consent for the project by people who say they are set for more disturbance. The Conservative peer revealed the plans last week to much fanfare, pledging to return the theatre in Catherine Street, Covent Garden, to its former glory.

This will mean reducing the capacity slightly to improve sight-lines to the stage, currently home to the big-budget 42nd Street musical, and installing comfier seats. The bar will be renovated, but there are also plans to open a restaurant on the site, which has stoked frustration among some living nearby.

While the masterplan was headline news in several newspapers and theatre magazines, officials have already received messages of objections as its planning department review the proposals for what is one of London’s oldest and most prestigious theatres.

“There will be noise from the extra visitors likely to visit the building, and its busy period will no longer be largely confined to the performance times,” said one objector. “We have to trust that the low assessments of likely environmental noise are accurate; if they are not the chances of dealing with the persistent and ceaseless disturbance will be extremely slim after planning permission has been granted.”

Concerns about possible smells from a restaurant wafting up close to bedroom windows have also been raised with the council.

Another resident added in a direct appeal to planners: “In regard to the noise and visuals from the restaurant having a glazed roof we are concerned that this we will have light pollution to an area that is residential and currently is dark where bedrooms are situated. There are few pockets of residential areas in this part of Westminster, please preserve them.”

Lord Lloyd-Webber, the world famous composer of a portfolio of hit shows including Evita, Cats and The Phantom Of The Opera, said in his introduction to the proposals: “My love of architecture and art comes a close second to my love of musical theatre. These proposals are the result of a long, painstaking design and consultation process which has involved the interested heritage and theatre groups.”

His Really Useful Theatres Group owns the theatre and is looking at closing it for around 18 months to complete the work, although the renovation would not begin until 2019.

The design brief submitted to the council said the architects recognised that some restaurants and eating out spots “have an unacceptable impact” on the quality of life for residents.

But it added that it could be shown that the new restaurant “would not adversely impact on residential amenity, health and safety, local environmental quality and the character and function of the area”. Lord Lloyd-Webber’s team had taken advice from the council’s planning and conservation officers, Historic England, The Theatres Trust, The Georgian Group, The Victorian Society, the Twentieth Century Society and the Association of British Theatre Technicians before submitting the designs.

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