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Fundraising to start for new Ringwood arts centre
A MULTI-MILLION pound plan for a vibrant new arts centre in Ringwood has taken a major step forward as project organisers are on the brink of launching a major fundraising campaign.
The project group, spearheaded by members of Ringwood and District Community Association (Greyfriars) and Ringwood Musical & Dramatic Society, is refining its strategy to raise £4.5 million to build the centre which, it is hoped, will put Ringwood firmly on the cultural map.
Civic chiefs have approved the application to build a raft of new facilities on the site of the dilapidated Greyfriars Activity Centre.
The new centre will include a bar and a 300-seat theatre which could also be used as a cinema.
Project spokesman Julian Peckham said: “Support from Ringwood Town Council and local district councillors was vital in helping New Forest planners recognise how important a community arts centre is to Ringwood.
“Support for the project also came from many community leaders and local groups, as well as hundreds of people in the town.
“However, gaining planning permission is only the first stage in seeing the project become reality. It has been the project group’s policy from the outset that construction work would never start until full funding is in place.
“The next stage will be to raise the money – a task likely to take most of the three years before planning consent expires.”
It is hoped that funding will come from several substantial grants from arts and sports trusts and fundraising by community groups.
Bosses at New Forest District Council went against the advice of planning officers and granted permission last Wednesday, the members of the committee voting 9-5 in favour of the project for a multi-use community hall with a 300-seat theatre and cinema with exhibition space and facilities for sports and other leisure activities.
Council officers had recommended that members reject the proposal, saying it would result in the loss of trees and car parking spaces and would also have a severe impact on two nearby homes.
Steve Clothier confirmed that the tallest part of the building would be three times higher than a neighbouring bungalow.
But Cllr Michael Thierry made an impassioned plea to fellow members of the committee saying that the town’s two drama groups were currently using “woefully inadequate” facilities.
He said: “We need to think what this scheme will mean for Ringwood and the wider community.
“It’s a building the whole district will be able to take pride in.
“We’re elected to make a difference – and today we can make a significant difference to the town of Ringwood.”
Chairman of the project Mike Osborne added that three years of fundraising would be followed by an 18-month construction period, which meant that the centre was still five years away.
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