A 100-year-old theatre has been listed for sale to the local community after campaigners have rallied to stop the demolition of the beloved building.

The Novello Theatre, also known as the Old Picture House, is located on Sunninghill High Street and has a strong historical connection with the local community.

Following the surrender of the theatre’s lease in June 2023, the community has rallied together to instate it as an asset of community value.

After many months of discussions with the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, councillors have put forward a proposal that the local community group should be given six months to purchase the valued theatre at a price of £300K after a valuation.

The amount of time suggested is to give campaigners of ‘Save the Novello Theatre’ campaign an appropriate amount of time to raise funds.

This campaign has been backed by thousands of residents and businesses throughout Ascot and Sunninghill including Berkshire-raised actor and director Kenneth Branagh.

This proposal is to be considered by the Royal Borough’s Cabinet next week.

According to the Cabinet, the valuation is in line with a recent independent valuation and is required to meet the council’s legal requirement to achieve best value from its assets.

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.”

In the first instance, the council stated that the building was not in the condition to refurbish the theatre without incurring significant costs due to aging asbestos and other requirements needed for modern requirements.

However, the strength of the community support and their wish to turn the historical building into an asset of community value have spurred the council to make a pivot in order to back the local community.

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.” 

The Bracknell News approached Alan Everett, the instigator of the ‘Save the Novello’ campaigner for his view on the latest development.

He said: “We are pleased with the progress that has been made because of the support of the local community.

“That said, we are disappointed at the unrealistic valuation that the council has made for the theatre. We do not feel that it is an appropriate valuation.”