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Historic Hackney theatre demolition approved

Hackney Council has approved the demolition of a historic theatre in the Dalston area of the London borough.

The planning authority has given the green light for a group of Georgian and Victorian buildings on Dalston Lane to be knocked down, despite vociferous opposition from local groups and conservationists.

The site includes the historic - but severely run-down - Dalston Theatre, which in believed to be the oldest circus theatre still standing in the UK ( a drawing of its entrance from the late 19th century is pictured).

The demolition order also includes a terrace of grand council-owned Georgian buildings that have fallen into disrepair in recent years.

The council has sanctioned the site for redevelopment because of its proximity to the proposed Dalston station on the East London Line tube extension. Officials insist that they expect a planning application for a mixed-use scheme imminently.

The council argued that these plans are essential for the on-going regeneration of the neglected area. And English Heritage has backed this assessment, refusing demands to list the buildings.

But SAVE Britain's Heritage's Adam Wilkinson, who has long aided locals opposed to the demolition, disagreed. 'This group of buildings- is of great interest, encapsulating the development of the area in one small group,' he said.

'[They] are eminently capable of economically viable reuse; their potential is obvious and there is no need whatsoever to tear them down. The alternatives to the demolition of these buildings have not been adequately considered.'

And he also recruited the support of the Theatres Trust, which in a statement said it was very disappointed. '[We object to the proposals on the grounds that] we would need to be satisfied that the building is surplus to regeneration, cultural and community requirements before we could support an opportunity for demolition,' the trust said.

'We believe that the 1886 entrance is the earliest surviving circus entrance in the country,' it added.

by Ed Dorrell

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