Exciting plans to redevelop Fairfield Halls and transform it into one of London’s leading arts venues as part of a new vibrant cultural and educational quarter for Croydon were last night given the green light by the council’s scrutiny committee.
The £30m overhaul of the ageing concert and theatre venue will now proceed to the planning stage after the original decision by cabinet in October was upheld.
This will see Fairfield Halls close for two years to allow a comprehensive redevelopment of the building, rather than a phased approach which would take longer and cost an additional £4.8m, as well as cause health and safety risks to the public due to the significant amount of construction work taking place.
Under the plans, the venue’s 1,800-seat concert hall will retain its acoustic integrity, but will be fully refurbished to include new seating and modernised backstage and servicing areas. The rest of the 1962 building, including the 755-seat Ashcroft Theatre, will be refurbished to contain flexible performance and arts spaces.
A new mezzanine-level restaurant is also planned, alongside bar and seating areas on the ground floor leading to outside areas on the transformed College Green public square.
The overall cost of refurbishing Fairfield is an estimated £30m, with a net cost to the council of £12m, following the wider College Green development which will pay back the remainder of the council’s investment.
The College Green scheme includes hundreds of new homes, shops and restaurants, a new state-of-the-art building for Croydon College, and a revitalised public space with improved connections from East Croydon and the rest of the town centre.
The project team working on the scheme includes Rick Mather Architects, a practice known for its work on the Royal Festival Hall in central London and the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith, and local consultants Mott MacDonald.
“The decision by scrutiny committee means our hugely exciting plans to transform Fairfield Halls into a premier arts venue and return it to its glory days can now move forward.
“Not doing anything would mean letting this iconic building fall further into disrepair, see reduced levels of funding and lose its ability to attract the right acts. We simply cannot let this happen.
“While closing Fairfield Halls was not a decision we took lightly, we believe a faster redevelopment programme and the £4.8m saving achieved represents the best deal for Croydon residents. In addition, the health and safety risks and the fact Fairfield would be a major building site for three years means a phased closure would be the wrong option.”
Councillor Alison Butler, deputy leader and cabinet member for homes, regeneration and planning
Francis Rossi, Status Quo frontman and Croydon resident, met council leader Tony Newman to discuss plans to revitalise Fairfield Halls.
As an artist who has regularly played the venue over many years, Mr Rossi was invited to give his input on council proposals to overhaul the ageing building.
He visited the backstage load-in area, dressing rooms, concert hall and Sun Lounge, and heard from the architects tasked with the £30m transformation
Councillor Newman said: “After hearing that Francis had expressed an interest in the future redevelopment of Fairfield, I invited him along to get his opinions, as an artist who has played the venue as his hometown gig on many occasions.
“It was really good to get his input on this massively important scheme. He was impressed with what we’re trying to do and thought the plans were great, both for artists and audiences.”