Final curtain for former Burnley theatre Empire?

LANDMARK: The former Empire Theatre in Burnley
LANDMARK: The former Empire Theatre in Burnley

The future of one of Burnley’s most historic theatres is under threat after falling into a “dangerous” state.

The former Empire Theatre in St James’s Street needs urgent repair work carrying out on the crumbling Victorian structure.

Council officials have erected safety fencing around the Grade II listed building which has been named in the Theatre Trust’s top 10 at risk theatres in Britain since 2006.

The “unknown” owners have been issued with a court summons over the condition of the property which officials papers said was “dangerous and requiring part demolition and works to ensure safety.”

Fears are the deteriorating state of the Empire could sadly mean the final curtain for the 120-year-old building which was once the pinnacle of Burnley’s entertainment scene.

Coun. Roger Frost, chairman of the Burnley Civic Trust, fears for the future of the Theatre which has stood empty for nearly 20 years.

“It has been an absolutely splendid building – when it was in its prime it was better than the Grand at Blackpool.

“But it has been on its last legs for a long time. I looked around the building about 20 years ago and it was in a poor condition then. It has just been left to rot ever since. I am surprised it is still standing.

“If it is in a dangerous state then something has to be done – but who is it that does it?”

Mark Price, planning and heritage adviser for the Theatre’s Trust, said the organisation is concerned the former Empire Theatre has deteriorated to the point that a notice has been served on the owners.

He said: The theatre has been on our annual Buildings At Risk Register since 2006 and we hope the notice will force the owners into immediate action to repair and restore the building for the benefit of the local community. We would not wish to see it having to be demolished as a result of the neglect of the owner.”

A Burnley Council spokesman said: “We are trying to locate the building’s owner so that the appropriate remedial works can be carried out in the interests of public safety.

“The council has erected fencing to provide appropriate levels of safety to the passing public due to concerns about the condition of the external render. The legal notice posted on the building is part of the process of trying to obtain an order via the magistrates court requiring the owner to carry out the appropriate safety work.”

The case will be heard at Reedley Magistrates’ Court later this week.