A Stevenage theatre which is “probably the best designed civic entertainment centre” in the country won’t be knocked down yet, a council leader has confirmed.

The Stevenage Arts and Leisure Centre, which includes the Gordon Craig Theatre, was earmarked for demolition in the borough’s Local Plan, adopted in 2019.

But discussing plans for a Station Gateway regeneration in the town, Cllr Richard Henry (Lab, St Nicholas) said a new theatre must be built before the existing one is removed.

“We are committed to having a theatre in Stevenage,” Cllr Henry told his cabinet colleagues at a meeting on Tuesday, July 18.

“We would really like a brand new theatre, but there’s no way we would allow the current theatre to be knocked down before we get a new one.”

The Comet: Gordon Craig Theatre at Stevenage Arts and Leisure Centre. Credit: Will Durrant/LDRS

The authority’s long-term plan is to create a “large public square, future-proofed for a new railway station or enhanced station entrance”, according to a borough council report.

Reducing the width of Lytton Way – between the theatre and station – could free up space for a new mixed-use development.

An east-west boulevard could connect the station, new square and the town centre.

“The area around Stevenage station is compromised by poor access and linkages for pedestrians and over-dominant car infrastructure, few uses and activities beyond the station and associated car parking [and] unattractive public realm and landscaping, giving little comfort and a poor image,” a Station Gateway report reads.

The Comet: Stevenage Borough Council. Credit: Will Durrant/LDRS

The current Local Plan, which is due for review in 2024, sets out demolition of the Stevenage Arts and Leisure Centre would “facilitate better east-west integration and create new development sites in the environs of the train station”.

According to a policy, planning applications in the Station Gateway area would need to provide “replacement sports and theatre facilities elsewhere within Stevenage Central”.

The Gordon Craig Theatre first opened in 1975 and is “probably the best-designed civic entertainment centre of its type in the country”, according to Theatres Trust.