Hereford’s Courtyard theatre is fighting to remain open due to “urgent and costly” structural works, and has accused the building’s owner Herefordshire Council of washing its hands of the problem.

Recent surveys showed the glazed external walls of the theatre, off the city’s A49 Edgar Street, needed replacing at an estimated cost of more than £600,000, which the theatre says it doesn’t have.

When hung on the new building in 1998, the “curtain walling” was only designed to last 25 years, so is now due to be replaced, the theatre has discovered. It has since been told by Herefordshire Council that it is they, not the council, who are liable for the work.

But the Courtyard has been given legal advice that the council is liable for putting right what the theatre called “fundamental defects in its design and construction”.

Yet council officers “have refused to negotiate, and matters have reached an impasse”, it claimed.


Meanwhile, emergency interim repairs begun in January, are expected to cost around £150,000, paid for out of the theatre’s “scarce” reserves.

“We hope this will extend the life of this part of the building by at least 10 years, until the curtain walling can ultimately be replaced,” chair of the Courtyard’s governing board Bruce Freeman said.

“We remain deeply saddened that our local council, which signed off the original build, has shown so little sign of helping us preserve this valued cultural hub for Herefordshire that generates around £15 million a year for the local economy.”

A spokesperson for Herefordshire Council said it had “spent considerable time and effort negotiating with the Courtyard to find a solution”.


“The Courtyard took a full repairing lease of what was a brand-new building,” the spokesperson said. “We would expect any tenant to plan for end-of-life scenarios. Any upgrades or replacements remain firmly with the Courtyard in this instance.”

The council could not, in fairness to its other tenants, “go against legally binding agreements”, they added.

But the theatre said in response: “No leaseholder with a 99-year lease should expect to face the replacement of half the building, or prepare for end-of-life after only 25 years.”

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Hereford and South Herefordshire MP Jesse Norman called the theatre “an essential asset both for the city and the county of Herefordshire”.

“I am no expert in this area, but anyone can see that the footings of the curtain walls were never installed properly in the first place,” he said.

Part-funded by the National Lottery and Hereford City Council, the building was designed by Birmingham-based Glenn Howells Associates, which did not respond when asked to comment.

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