Witney may finally get the night-time venue many say is needed if a planning application is approved.
Green Room Studios, a rehearsal and recording space on Avenue Three, Station Lane, has applied to West Oxfordshire District Council for a change of use from warehouse to a live music and entertainment venue.
Proposals include a bar serving alcohol, hot and cold food, and a single-storey extension at the front for new ladies toilets and disabled toilets.
The front of the T Robins Building would be altered to create the venue entrance with a window for the box-office.
Applicant Gavin Hyatt, co-founder of GreenRoomStudios, said in planning documents: “The opportunity has arisen for us to take on additional space in Unit 4 and 5 to provide a dedicated entrance to a bar area, a backstage area with ramped access on and off stage.
“This will allow us to accept larger touring acts for pre-tour rehearsals whom we have previously been unable to assist due to stage access.”
Mr Hyatt proposes to open the bar every evening and provide live and pre-recorded music events on a regular basis.
The application states the building is well insulated and has no domestic neighbors.
“We have never had a noise complaint nor any issues with people leaving our events, some of which have been licensed until 4 or 5am,” it states.
Mr Hyatt told the Witney Gazette: “We set up a temporary stage, a PA system, put parachutes in the ceiling, put some lights up and ran our own four-day music festival in 2019 and did a total of 21 nights of mostly live music that year.
“At the start of 2020, we decided we would formally take over the space and remove all of the temporary install in the warehouse.
“Lockdown was very difficult as we were forced to close, I was then working full time in the ambulance service responding to 999 calls. In the meantime, we built a whole new stage, fitted air-conditioning, upgraded the PA, lights and other facilities. It just keeps growing. ”
Many bands use the studios for pre-tour rehearsals and it has had inquiries from The Darkness and Supergrass but could not fit them in.
Mr Hyatt said: “There was previously a nightclub, The Sidings, on the next avenue in the 1980s which I have very distant memories of – I think my seventh birthday party on a Saturday afternoon – and football awards evenings so this really isn’t something new.
“We’re looking at providing live music of all genres – discos, karaoke, cabaret – but we want to work with the other venues in town to provide variety.
“If Fat Lil’s have a rock band and Langdale or Rush have a club night, we’ll do a jazz night! The music business isn’t really a competition in Witney. It’s a rich hub of musical talent and growth. Its a bit like coffee shops, every time we get a new one, people seem to drink more coffee and then another one pops up! ”
He added: “Witney nightlife, and even Oxford, has been struggling for some time for a variety of reasons and we really need a collaborative effort to stop the decay and start building things back up.
“When I was 18, there would be four or five live bands playing in town and three or four places open until 2am with discos and night clubs.”
Local residents were clearly excited about the project.
Steve Simms commented on the WODC planning portal: “I think this proposal is a great opportunity for Witney. Local bands already use their studios to record albums and rehearse. How great it would be for them to perform to the public there too!
“It could also benefit the local hotels as family and friends come from all around to watch and support them.
“As a local resident, I’d also like there to be a venue like this nearby, rather than having to travel to places like Oxford for a night out like this.”
Another keen supporter is Jon Berry, chair of 7 C’s, which runs MuzoAkademy, which teaches music to dozens of people from across West Oxfordshire.
He wrote: “Witney has a well-established music scene which adds to the interest, economy and appeal of the town. Green Room Studios is a fundamental part of this and continues to offer spaces and opportunities for local artists to shape their craft.
“The events which have been held over the years on temporary licenses have demonstrated that Green Rooms can run events successfully and safely and that there is an appetite for more from the community.
“As the chair of a local music and arts charity, I wholeheartedly support this application and the vision of Green Room Studios.”
Darren Smith said it was “a fantastic idea and will improve the quality of entertainment for both the artist and the punter.”
And Daniel Prince wrote: “Witney has a growing vibrant music scene, but a shortage of performance venues. This will provide a useful space away from the town center in a commercial area where noise and people leaving will not cause any inconvenience as there are no residents.
“It means the venue can extend the opportunity for acts to rehearse, by giving the chance to go on and perform as they improve, which would be a useful and potentially inspirational community service.
“I hope the application is viewed positively.”