Plans unveiled for conversion of historic Spencer Mill, Soham, to community arts hub for Viva

A design and access statement has been prepared to accompany a planningapplication by Viva for refur

A design and access statement has been prepared to accompany a planningapplication by Viva for refurbishment and extensions to Spencer Mill, Soham. It could become a major new arts centre for East Cambs - Credit: Archant

Refurbishment of historic Spencer Mill, Soham, to become a community arts centre for Viva could become a reality if funding is found and planning consent is given.

East Cambridgeshire councillors will get the first chance to air their views on the proposed changes to the mill following submission of a formal planning application.

The three storey mill – built in 1926 for Clarke and Butcher to produce animal feed and in operation until the 1980s – is set for a completely different future.

“The project will have a significant positive social impact on Soham” says a design statement put forward to the council.

“It will provide the only large self funding hub for community and cultural activity in the town”

An on line public consultation, says arts group Viva who are behind the project, attracted 2,300 positive comments.

That, says Viva, is equivalent to two in every 10 residents or one in every two households voting to support their initiative.

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Viva says all five district councillors for the town support the Mill and it has won support too from the town council.

“The new facility will bring visitors and therefore investment into Soham” says Viva.

In 2011 the Mill won consent for conversion into offices but that never materialised; Viva is confident their plans can move forward.

The Mill will provide a permanent home for Viva Arts but also create space for other groups locally that “are struggling with the high costs of accommodation.

“Viva is a local charity group with a highly regarded reputation for producing top class amateur productions. It is also committed to providing training and development opportunities for young people in the area.”

Viva hope to maintain the same layout of the existing structure – the mill will form the auditorium for the new performance space as well as access levels to a new gallery level on the first floor and a community area on the second floor.

A two storey extension will be added to the south elevation to provide toilets and a kitchen. The north end will be extended to create a stage area and green room for the production cast.

East Cambridgeshire District Council have offered their support for the project with council leader Charles Roberts saying earlier this year describing it an “exciting endeavour”.

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