The iconic Courtyard theatre in Hereford is locked in a battle for its survival as urgent structural repairs, estimated to cost over £600,000, threaten to close its doors for good. The theatre alleges that Herefordshire Council, the building's owner, has distanced itself from the issue, creating a standoff between the two parties.
A recent survey uncovered that the glazed external walls of the theatre, situated just off the bustling A49 Edgar Street, have reached the end of their 25-year lifespan and must be replaced. However, the Courtyard claims it lacks the funds to cover the staggering repair costs.
The theatre, which first opened its doors in 1998, asserts that the responsibility for the repairs lies with Herefordshire Council, citing "fundamental defects in its design and construction." Despite legal advice supporting the Courtyard's position, the council has refused to negotiate, resulting in a stalemate.
In the meantime, the theatre has been forced to dip into its scarce reserves to fund emergency interim repairs, which began in January and are expected to cost around £150,000. Bruce Freeman, chair of the Courtyard's governing board, said, "We hope this will extend the life of this part of the building by at least 10 years until the curtain walling can ultimately be replaced."
Freeman expressed deep disappointment with the council's refusal to help, considering the theatre's status as a vital cultural hub for Herefordshire that generates approximately £15 million per year for the local economy.
The council, however, insists that they have "spent considerable time and effort negotiating with the Courtyard to find a solution." A spokesperson explained that the Courtyard, as a tenant of a brand-new building, should have planned for such end-of-life scenarios, and that any upgrades or replacements remain their responsibility.
Jesse Norman, Hereford and South Herefordshire MP, described the theatre as "an essential asset both for the city and the county of Herefordshire," adding that the curtain walls' footings were improperly installed from the beginning.
The Courtyard theatre's building, which received partial funding from the National Lottery and Hereford City Council, was designed by Birmingham-based Glenn Howells Associates, who have yet to comment on the situation.