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Next steps for creating new multi-use arts centre in historic Worcester city centre buildings

The Scala building in Worcester

regeBacking has been given to proposals to develop a new arts venue in the heart of Worcester's city centre, with a raft of local arts organisations involved.

Worcester City Council's Policy and Resources Committee has authorised the continuation of design work for The Scala and Corn Exchange in Angel Place as a multi-use arts venue, as part of the redevelopment of the city centre's northern quarter, funded by £17.9 million from the Government's Future High Streets Fund.

This decision was informed by a wide-ranging independent consultation exercise that included a survey, public meetings, dozens of stakeholder interviews, and more than 30 tours of the properties with interested parties.

Independent expert Candice Pearson was appointed by the City Council to manage the engagement project, after plans to create a 500-seat theatre in the Grade II listed Scala and Corn Exchange were halted due to escalating costs.

The Council will now work with several local arts leaders and potential partners to develop a preferred operating model for the multi-use arts centre, with the aim of maximising the cultural experience and community engagement opportunities at the site. Revised architectural designs for The Scala and Corn Exchange will be further developed to deliver a flexible venue suitable for a range of uses.

David Blake, the City Council's Managing Director, said: "The new plans for the Scala and Corn Exchange site will be developed in line with the original aims of the Future High Streets Fund to transform the northern quarter of the city centre into a diverse leisure, cultural, and residential area. The aim is to bring an increase in footfall and a boost to the local and regional economy, as well as bringing these historic buildings back into use.

"I am grateful to everyone who shared their views and experience as part of this consultation. Budgets and timescales remain challenging, but there is clearly a shared ambition to make this project a triumph for the city. The City Council is committed to working with local partners and the Government to make this exciting project a success, ensuring it has a lasting impact for generations to come."

The independent consultation showed strong support for a multi-use arts centre, including a flexible space suitable for a range of activities for the community, including music, drama, film screenings, comedy, book clubs and workshop space.

The project's design team have now been instructed to work up new plans to allow the venue to host theatre, conferences, cinema screenings, live music, banquets and more.

The Policy and Resources Committee also received an update on the other Future High Streets Fund investments in the city centre northern quarter, including the on-going revamp of pavements and the surrounding public realm, and the use of more than £428,000 to refurbish shops and residential flats above them.

The Committee also approved the marketing for sale of 8 Angel Street, the former Co-op supermarket. The Council and the Government have previously approved removing the building from the Future High Streets Fund programme.

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