Cabinet to consider offering former theatre for sale to community

This image shows the Novello Theatre. Next steps for Novello Theatre building

The community would get the first option to buy Sunninghill’s former Novello theatre, under a proposal to be considered by the Royal Borough’s Cabinet next week. 

In the report, Cabinet is recommended to offer the building to purchase for community use for at least six months, before marketing the site for commercial redevelopment, giving campaigners a window to raise funds. 

If Cabinet agrees, the sale price for community use will be £300,000, in line with a recent independent valuation. This price is required to meet the council’s legal requirement to achieve best value from its assets. 

The empty building on Sunninghill High Street has been council-owned since 1966 and was last leased in 2003 for a 20-year period to an individual who had been required to maintain the property. Lease surrender was completed in summer 2023.

Due to the poor condition of the property upon surrender, sale is proposed as the way forward, because the council would incur significant costs to bring it up to modern leaseable standards, including removal of ageing asbestos, and meeting modern accessibility and energy requirements.  

Based on the level of feeling in the local community that the venue should remain as a community space, the recommendation – at least in the first instance – is the property is offered for sale to be refurbished as a community venue for the benefit of community groups in the Sunninghill and Ascot areas.

Councillor Adam Bermange, Cabinet member for planning, legal and asset management, said: “I am pleased to bring this recommendation to Cabinet. We have worked hard to ensure community groups are given a dedicated window for fundraising efforts to meet the fair asking price. This approach recognises the strength of feeling locally, that the Novello should be given a new lease of life for the benefit of residents, whilst confronting the reality that the council is not in a financial position to bring the building back into public use and is obliged to meet best value requirements.

“Although the Novello is not currently listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) under the Localism Act, an application to have it listed has been received which the council is working through. Regardless of whether or not it receives formal ACV status, the council is treating the Novello as if it were an ACV by giving the community a six-month window in which to raise funds to buy the building.”

Councillor Joshua Reynolds, Cabinet member for communities and leisure, added: “We know the community care about this building and we want to give campaigners the first option to purchase it for the community. I’m very excited to see what proposals community groups have for the space as the Novello has the potential to support a wide range of groups and activities in Sunninghill and Ascot.”