The Culture Secretary has said a change in planning rules will stop buildings used as theatres and music venues being lost.

Oliver Dowden said the venues will be protected from demolition or having their function changed by developers.

He said in a statement that “our culture, heritage and arts are too precious to lose”.

Coronavirus – Wed Jul 8, 2020
The new measures were announced by Mr Dowden (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “The UK has a leading cultural industry that is the envy of the world.

“Our theatres, concert halls and live music performance venues are one of the reasons that the country has this reputation and they are essential to our national culture.

“That’s why we are protecting them for the enjoyment of future generations.”

He added that the new system ensures “the buildings that represent these institutions can’t be destroyed and are properly protected in the planning system”.

It has also been announced that outdoor performances of theatre, opera, dance and music will also be able to resume from Saturday, provided social distancing measures are in place.

The Government is set to pilot a number of small indoor performances with socially distanced audiences in an effort to work out the best way for live shows to resume inside venues.

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The London Palladium will take part in the pilot (Johnny Green/PA)

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has said it is working on the pilots with the the London Symphony Orchestra at St Luke’s, the London Palladium and Butlins.

The move sees the Government advance to the next stage of Mr Dowden’s previously announced five-stage plan for the return of the performing arts.

Under the plan, the next step will be for performances to take place inside with a limited, socially-distanced audience, before performances are permitted both indoors and outdoors with more spectators in attendance.

Adam Nichols, artistic director of the Maltings Theatre, which stages performances outdoors at the Roman Theatre of St Albans, said his venue welcomes the move to allow open air live shows.

He told the PA news agency: “It’s a vital first step to opening up theatres, opera houses and music venues in due course.

“The open air theatre sector cannot wait to get back to entertaining the nation and we are looking forward to presenting The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Henry V in St Albans next month.”

RSC cuts ties with BP
The RSC will explore whether the option of staging outdoor performances (RSC/PA)

The Royal Shakespeare Company is “exploring” the possibility of staging outdoor performances in Stratford-upon-Avon, according to its director for audiences and marketing.

“This activity would be small-scale and involve a small number of actors, possibly during the summer to support the town’s ongoing recovery,” he said in a statement to PA.

“We are waiting to hear more about the detail of the welcomed support package announced on Sunday, plus the next stages of the roadmap which allow us to plan the reopening of our theatres for full-scale indoor productions, and welcome audiences back.”

The Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre said in a statement that it is “incredibly sad that we have been unable to open our theatre this summer for the first time since 1961”.

“We welcome the Government’s announcement to allow outdoor performances to go ahead from July 11 and continue to explore ways in which we might be able to work with partners to find an economic way for us to be able to open for a shorter period later this summer,” it added.