HC Deb 18 April 1973 vol 855 cc481-2
16. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations have been made to him about the future of London and provincial theatres, in view of the threat of demolition; and what action he proposes to take thereon.

Mr. Channon

My right hon. and learned Friend met a deputation from the Theatres Advisory Council on 23rd February. A number of London theatres were added to the list of protected buildings last year, and my right hon. and learned Friend has agreed to consider the points the deputation put to him.

Mrs. Short

I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for that reply. Will the Minister bear in mind that every theatre closure means fewer opportunities for work for actors and theatre staff, and that we are in a crucial situation? Is he aware that the Shaftesbury Theatre is the latest to appear to be under threat, and that the company there is under notice for closure in September? Will the hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that he will work closely with local authorities, especially the new GLC, which is equally concerned about the preservation of theatres in London?

Mr. Channon

I agree with a great deal of what the hon. Lady says. My right hon. and learned Friend is always prepared to work closely with local authorities on this and many other matters. I agree with the hon. Lady about the great importance, not only to actors but to us all, of having a good number of live theatres in London.

Mr. Jeffrey Archer

For every 10 theatres that have been knocked down since the war, only one has been rebuilt. Will my hon. Friend ensure that a Conservative Government give every support to a local council when it wishes to build a new theatre for its community centre?

Mr. Channon

I shall certainly bear in mind what my hon. Friend says, which is true, but does not, luckily, apply to Greater London, where I think there are no fewer theatres now than there were at the end of the last war. Of the 57 theatres in the Greater London area 33 are listed, 19 of them as recently as in the last 12 months.

Mr. Strauss

I agree that a number of these theatres are listed but that is not a complete protection against demolition. When requests are made for their demolition, will the Minister bear in mind that most London theatres are outstanding examples of Victorian and Edwardian architecture and for the most part have an irreplaceable atmosphere of warmth and welcome? Will the Minister turn his back on any suggestion that they should be replaced by the building of some cold, modern theatre auditorium in a new office block?

Mr. Channon

The whole House has the greatest sympathy with what the right hon. Member says.