Councillors to consider revised proposal for arts venue in heart of Worcester

Close up of the Scala building in Angel Street, Worcester

Worcester city councillors are to be asked to consider a revised plan for creating a new arts venue in the city centre, in response to spiralling costs.

The Policy and Resources Committee will next week be asked to agree to scale back the plans for the Scala in Angel Street, reducing its seating capacity from 500 to 300.

The move comes in response to a dramatic increase in construction costs caused by a number of factors, including the current high rate of inflation, which has left the Council with a funding gap of around £3.5 million for its original plans for the building.

Now the committee is to be asked to support a new option that will reduce costs but still enable the venue to open as a new centre for live entertainment, music, comedy and more.

David Blake, Worcester City Council Managing Director, said: "Rising costs are having an impact on every aspect of our lives and unfortunately the Council's ambitions for the Scala are no exception.

"We have had to reconsider our plans and work out how we can still provide Worcester with a popular and attractive new arts venue, one that will become a popular hub for live entertainment and the arts in the very heart of our city.

"There are still many issues to be addressed, including the development of a viable business plan for the venue and agreeing construction timescales with the Government. But I hope that with these new proposals we can make the revamped Scala a reality and that the Policy and Resources Committee will support this recommendation."

The Scala in Angel Street is to be renovated and reopened, supported by a share of the £17.93 million that the City Council secured from the Government's Future High Streets Fund.

If the new plan is backed by the committee, the Council will engage with Worcester's arts communities to get their input into the detailed revised plans for the new Scala arts venue.

While that happens, the current planning application for the venue will be paused and the Council will discuss its revised scheme with the Department for Levelling-Up, Housing and Communities, to get permission to extend the timescale for spending the Future High Streets Fund cash. The current deadline is March 2024.

The new proposals are to create an auditorium that can be used in multiple ways for different types of events. The 300 seats will be removable, and the venue will be able to host music, live stage shows, comedy, film screenings, exhibitions and more. Food and drinks will be served in the daytime and evenings in the adjoining Cornmarket building.

The Council is already in negotiations with a contractor to carry out the renovation work at the Scala and the Cornmarket.

The Policy and Resources Committee will consider the revised proposals at its meeting on Tuesday 25 July. 

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