Historic Empire theatre looking doomed

The old Empire Theatre building in Burnley.'Photo Ben Parsons
The old Empire Theatre building in Burnley.'Photo Ben Parsons

A historic Burnley playhouse is among the most at-risk theatres in the country, a new report has warned.

The former Empire theatre has been named for the sixth consecutive time on the Theatre Buildings at Risk Register.

The Victorian era building, in Cow Lane, was put in the second highest category of risk by the Theatres Trust which has now published a “risk value” for each theatre.

Burnley Council had to carry out emergency safety work on the crumbling Grade II listed building over the summer which was branded “dangerous” to the public because of falling masonry.

But despite a court order demanding the unknown owners come forward and carry out repairs within eight weeks back in June, no long-term solution has been found for the 120-year-old building.

Mhora Samuel, Director of The Theatres Trust, believes more must be done to protect under-threat theatres like the Empire, saying: “We are at risk of losing really important and historic theatre buildings as a result of neglect, development and demolition.

“It’s so sad to see theatres treated in this way. Some have been left to rot and are being destroyed by water damage and rampant Buddleia; others are at the mercy of developers.

Our top theatres at risk include those with special heritage status, but this is not protecting them.

“They deserve to be treated better.”

A Burnley Council spokesman said: “Immediate safety work was carried out to prevent masonry falling off the building and making it safe for passers by.

“The council is now trying to find a long term solution to the issues.”