A “community jewel” in Wallingford fears for its future if a planning application for eight apartments next door is approved.
A.C Lester & Son Ltd, which has a storage firm based in the town, wants to build the homes with nine car parking spaces in the Lloyds Bank car park adjacent to the Corn Exchange.
Trustees, volunteers and cinema and theatre goers are fearing for the town landmark’s future just a month after a major refurbishment.
They are worried that, because the building would share a party wall with the proposed homes, noise complaints from new residents could lead to a final curtain call.
However, agents acting on behalf of the developer dismissed the concerns as “totally groundless”, saying the flats would be ‘suitably sound-proofed’ with acoustic barriers and triple-glazed windows.
Representatives from the Corn Exchange, which is yet to receive a noise complaint in its 40-year history, handed in a 719-strong petition to South Oxfordshire District Council planners this week.
Current legislation means noise-producing venues have to mitigate any complaints, implicating possible restrictions on the amount or timing of performances at the Corn Exchange.
Marketing director John Evans said: “This has the potential to impact the Corn Exchange financially or ultimately force us to curtail or even cease our performances.
“If a complaint from one new resident can silence the church bells, then we think this development has the potential to silence the Corn Exchange. And that would of course be really tragic for the town, having just completed a £700,000 project.”
Hundreds of formal letters of objections have been submitted in a plea to stop the plan in its tracks.
Graham Gilgrass from Brightwell described the Corn Exchange as “the main cultural centre to Wallingford and of considerable benefit to the town and its people”. As a result, any threat to its continued use “must be resisted at all levels by the community and local government”.
Dawn Bevan, of Clapcot Way, Wallingford, regularly attends events at the Corn Exchange and hailed it as a “community jewel” that should not be put at risk.
John Carroll, from agents Carroll Architects and Surveyors, which contributed to the refurbishment, said in response that the planning officer encouraged development at the site.
Mr Carroll, who has ‘personally enjoyed’ events at the Corn Exchange over the last 25 years, said the layout of the flats “has been carefully designed”.
The application has been deferred until May.