A group of South London councillors have blasted the local council’s plans to update a “rotting” theatre.

The Bromley Lib Dem Group has criticised the authority’s plans to redevelop the Churchill Theatre, labelling the council’s lack of maintenance for the building a “disgrace”.

The plans to update the building were revealed last month, with Bromley Council documents saying the building, dating back to the 1970s, was at the end of its natural life.

The project aims to move the freehold of the building to the Trafalgar Group, which has been managing the theatre since 2017, while also paying a reverse premium to the group to transfer any responsibility for maintaining the structure.

Council documents said: “Buildings of this nature were typically intended to have a lifespan of around 50 years and as such, many elements of the building and building fabric are considered end of life and beyond economic repair.”

Bromley Lib Dems started a petition to ensure the site is still used as a theatre following redevelopment, which has since gained 5,600 signatures.

Councillor Julie Ireland, leader of the group, said she has been receiving many emails from residents about their experiences going to the theatre as children and the space being the start for many actors’ theatrical careers.

Cllr Ireland told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “It’s a disgrace. They constantly say it’s beyond life at 50 years old… Bromley Council would be paying a reverse premium to Trafalgar, which will be many, many millions, which removes Bromley Council’s legal requirement to do the repairs and maintenance that they failed to do over the many years that they have left the building to rot.”

The Lib Dem leader said the group would ideally like to see the council retain the building’s freehold.

However, she added that the Trafalgar Group have a fantastic reputation in the theatre world and would love to see the group redevelop the site into a “fabulous” new theatre.

Bromley Council claimed that the repairs required by the building cannot be prevented by regular repairs and maintenance, and that buildings of such nature were not designed to last hundreds of years.

Council documents from November 2022 said the cost of refurbishing the Churchill Theatre building could be over £28million.

The topic was discussed at an executive meeting for Bromley Council on October 18.

Council officers claimed the lease for the building would be marketed to private developers if the Trafalgar Group was not interested in redeveloping the site.

Conservative Councillor Yvonne Bear, portfolio holder for renewal, recreation and housing, said at the meeting: “We are in live discussions with the Trafalgar Theatre Group.

"They are keen to continue with Bromley to find a way to make this work if it is at all possible and we will do our utmost between us to see what we can achieve.”

Conservative Councillor Colin Smith, leader of Bromley Council, told the LDRS: “I would politely remind the Liberal Democrat Group at Bromley Council that, as they are very well aware, the council has been in confidential negotiations with the Trafalgar Group for many months now and that extremely sensitive negotiations are and will continue to take place behind closed doors.”

The council leader said that the authority was proud to be upgrading a series of council resources including its libraries, leisure centres and civic centre. He said the Churchill Theatre was valued equally among other council assets.

He added: “The local Conservatives remain absolutely focussed on regenerating infrastructure to ensure it remains fit to serve both our current and future generations of Bromley residents deep into the 21st century, and will not be blown off course by opportunistic opposition politicians at election time from achieving that vital goal.”