An ambitious project to restore and improve Tamworth Assembly Rooms took a step forward this week when Tamworth Borough Council’s planning committee gave the plans their unanimous approval.
The improvements – which were given the go-ahead at Tuesday night’s meeting – include the creation of a café bar and exhibition space, a multi-use area, studios, restoration and improvement of existing windows, a new box office and new glazed double doors at the front of the building to help open up the front façade.
There will also be the addition of a striking extension to the building – a large translucent glass box on the side currently occupied by the car park, which would act as a studio space and would be lit up at night.
The aim of the project is not only to restore and conserve the 125-year-old building but also to improve access to visitors and make Tamworth Assembly Rooms a top-class venue to attract bigger and better acts.
Tamworth Assembly Rooms currently welcomes more than 22,000 visitors a year and hosts more than 70 community and civic events, alongside music, dance, theatre and other cultural events.
It is hoped that the redevelopment project will allow the building to be used to its full potential – with a café area open throughout the day and a studio space providing a more flexible space to complement the existing auditorium.
The windows – which have been covered over for a number of years – will be opened up to allow natural light into the auditorium, and the front doors will be replaced with glass to open up the front of the building and make it more welcoming.
The plans have received the endorsement of English Heritage, which said it would not raise any objections.
Cllr Steve Claymore, vice-chairman of the planning committee, said: “Tamworth Assembly Rooms is a fabulous facility, but in order for it to be able to welcome and serve the people of Tamworth for years to come, it needs to change and develop.
“The worse thing that could happen to the Assembly Rooms is for us to do nothing and to let it get to the point when it cannot be used. This plan is a great way of saving the building and improving it for the future, and I am happy to support it.”
The redevelopment of Tamworth Assembly Rooms is part of a wider town centre regeneration project, which includes the development of a Creative Quarter. This aims to provide a busier and more vibrant town centre, while capitalising on Tamworth’s culture and heritage sites.
The Creative Quarter project suffered a setback last month, with the news that a bid for £3 million from the Single Local Growth Fund had been turned down.
But the project is still very much alive, with further potential sources of external funding identified. The approval of the development plans represents a step forward, as external funding is much easier to secure for projects which are ‘shovel-ready’.
Further sources of available funding for the Assembly Rooms redevelopment and Creative Quarter project are now being looked at and applications drawn up.
Cllr Claymore added: “The approval for the works to Tamworth Assembly Rooms will now open up the doors to attract funding and make it easier to secure. There is a range of funding opportunities available, which we are currently exploring. Funding is still a challenge, but the plans for the Creative Quarter are still very much alive – and the redevelopment of Tamworth Assembly Rooms is at the heart of that project.”