Council endorses theatre plan for prison

by Natalie Vincent Fri 31 August 2018, 1:42 pm

Reading Council has welcomed plans to turn a former prison site into a theatre.

View of Reading Prison next to Reading Abbey Ruins Chris Forsey

The council set out its position on Theatre and Arts Reading (TAR) proposal to turn the grade II-listed prison into a theatre and community, while considering uses for the former Ministry of Justice facility, which it aims to sell.

The prison closed in 2013 and sits on the former footprint of the Reading Abbey complex, a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

The proposal would form part of the ongoing regeneration of Reading's Abbey Quarter, including the restoration and reopening of the Abbey Gateway and Abbey Ruin.

Sarah Hacker, Reading's lead member for culture, heritage and recreation, said: "The prison site offers huge potential, including our long standing ambition to facilitate the build of a new theatre for Reading and cement the town’s reputation as an artistic and cultural centre in the region. Despite the severe budget constraints we face, TAR's vision offers an imaginative way of delivering and funding a new theatre and much more."

The MoJ has not set out a timeline to sell the site. But Hacker added: "In the meantime, we continue to urge the MoJ to break their silence on Reading Prison and tell us what progress – if any – has been made on a sale of the site.

"Reading Prison is far too important a building to the town to be left sitting empty and local people should have a say in its future."

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