A CHESTER-BASED architecture firm has been chosen to work on the construction of a new state-of-the-art theatre at Whitby Hall in Ellesmere Port.

Architectural, planning and building surveying practice, Cassidy + Ashton, has been appointed as the architectural delivery partner for the multi-million pound project.

The new extension, designed by the Manchester studio of London-based architects Bennetts Associates – whose work includes the award-winning Chester Storyhouse, will provide performance space for Arts Council-funded Action Transport Theatre.

It is part of the extensive refurbishment and remodelling of Whitby Hall, a former Victorian stately home, to produce a creative centre specialising in high quality arts and culture for children, young people and their families.

The project, expected to be completed early next year, is funded through capital investment from Cheshire West and Chester Council and Arts Council England.

Action Transport Theatre was also awarded an £82,476 Capital Kickstart grant towards the new theatre, as part of the government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.

Chester and District Standard:

Whitby Hall, Ellesmere Port. (Google Street View)

In its role as delivery architects, Cassidy + Ashton is to ensure Bennetts Associates’ original architectural concepts are delivered on the detailed design to deliver the project through to completion.

Cassidy + Ashton director, Lawrence McBurney, is overseeing the works with senior chartered architectural technologist, Ian Riches, working alongside appointed contractor Engie in developing the construction stage.

Clad with large fibre cement panels punctuated by projecting vertical fins, the modern extension will boldly contrast the historic hall.

It will cater for a wide variety of uses including participation programmes, live performances, films and live streaming.

On completion the auditorium area will have the flexibility to house an audience capacity of 200 for concerts and 150 for seated events.

As a replacement to a mid-1960s extension that had fallen into disrepair and recently demolished, the new auditorium will also house a café, restrooms and ancillary spaces.

Construction of the new timber-framed extension has commenced and is expected to be completed by early 2022. This will be followed by a period of client-led technical fit-out.

Work also includes the refurbishment of Whitby Hall to upgrade facilities includes creating space for drama workshops and rehearsal areas plus a lobby, dressing rooms and administrative space.

The Cassidy + Ashton team is also involved in the co-ordination of the full mechanical and electrical refit of the Whitby Hall as part of its refurbishment project.

Ian said: “This project delivers cutting edge innovation in the principles of sustainable design and materials, passive technology and modern methods of construction. The existing extension was not fit for purpose as a theatre and the new design creates an adaptable performance space using sustainable materials and modern methods in insulation and ventilation.”

Cassidy + Ashton’s team is also working alongside theatrical production specialists, Stage Electrics, and Charcoalblue, which are advising on the theatre’s lighting and sound features with acousticians advising on the acoustic treatment of the theatre’s interior.

Ian added: "It is a complex building considering its size and shape and design approach. As a Chartered architectural technologist this is an exciting project to be involved in.

"Our role is to provide a technical interpretation of the architect’s initial design and to work closely alongside the contractors to see it through to completion.

"I look forward to seeing performances in action when the new theatre is in operation."

Nina Hajiyianni, artistic director of Action Transport Theatre, said: "We are delighted that our ambitious capital programme is finally underway.

"The new venue will bring a new lease of life to a much-loved historic building and create an incredible new cultural asset for the town.

"It will also allow us to build on our national reputation as a specialist theatre company for children and young people."