WORKS to relocate Andover's theatre, under major plans to regenerate the town centre, could start at the beginning of 2024. 

Test Valley Borough Council's cabinet has recommended that £3.74m from a section of its reserves should be put towards the once-in-a-lifetime project to be able to begin the scheme on time. 

At a meeting of the cabinet on Wednesday, December 20, councillors voted to use the money from the authority's Capital Receipts Reserve. 

Capital Receipts Reserve is the money a local authority has in reserve from the sale of capital assets which can be used to finance capital expenditure.

READ MORE: Government awards £18.3m for new theatre in Andover

Andover Advertiser: Computer generate image of how Andover could lookAs previously reported, council was awarded funding of £18.3m from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund (LUF) in November this year to deliver Andover masterplan.

The majority of this funding will be used to deliver the relocation of The Lights to the site of the former Tesco store (Unit 62 of the Chantry Centre) to create a new theatre and cultural hub based around a 400-seat theatre auditorium.

The council has a deadline of March 2026 to spend the money, and due to this time limit the authority said it needs to act quickly and decisively.

The next step in the delivery process is appointing a consortium of the full design team, including architects.

The council is planning to approach Charcoal Blue, a theatre development company, for the project.

Council leader Phil North told the cabinet that the money transfer recommendations would be put forward to a full council meeting on January 17 since it is a “significant amount of money”.

He said: “We need to complete the project before 2026. For that, we have broken down the project broadly into 12 months of design and planning applications, and 12 months for the construction.

“To meet that target we need money, so that we can get on with the work.”

Once the funding for project is removed, the cabinet is planning to transfer £1m to the reserve by increasing the investment income budget for the year. This is to reduce the risk of transferring money from the reserve for the masterplan scheme.

The council’s corporate financial monitoring report submitted on September 30 this year had identified an in-year variance of £1.5m, meaning the council has more money than expected. 

SEE ALSO: In Photos: Andover decorated with lights for Christmas

Around £742,000 of this was in respect of additional income from the council’s cash investment portfolio.

It is forecast that this variance will continue to increase over the rest of the financial year.

The council is anticipating that this additional income can be transferred to the reserve to reduce the impact of the net draw for the theatre project.

Finance portfolio holder Cllr Maurice Flood said: “Ultimately, I expect this [the transfer of funds from the reserve for the project] will be met by the LUF. However, we are yet to complete the onboarding process. So there is a small risk that it won’t be completed. So I am recommending we fund this amount from the reserve to enable the project to be sustainable.”