After an outpouring of anger and shock from local residents, the Playhouse User Group, local councillors, and our local MP, Dominic Raab, the Liberal Democrat-run Elmbridge Borough Council has been forced to abandoned its plans to close the precious Cecil Hepworth Playhouse in Walton. A victory for common sense and our local heritage! The Playhouse is due to celebrate it's 100th anniversary soon.
This week, following pressure from Walton Conservatives and committed users of the playhouse, the council released a statement apologising and inviting playhouse users to submit a proposal to take a self-managed lease from April 2023. Importantly, the statement said:
“We understand [the playhouse] is much loved by its users […] it is clear there is strong local feeling about the facility, as well as maintaining the provision of local arts.”
This is a marked contrast from the council’s previous position that the playhouse would be closed entirely, and shows how important local community campaigning is.
There’s still work to do, but this is a very welcome step forward in the campaign to save this vital community asset.