THESE are the first images of what Bicester’s proposed 400-seat theatre could look like.

Bicester Community College is taking the lead on the multi-million pound project, which it hopes will be a reality within five years.

The facility, for use by the community, could include a professional standard theatre with orchestra pit; a second smaller flexible performing space seating up to 80 people. If approved, there would also be a café, a gallery, rehearsal, music and recording rooms. The centre could potentially double up as a cinema and conference facility.

The college’s vice principal Tom Hollis is leading the project. He said: “Our project to establish a performing arts centre for Bicester took another step forward last week with our first view of some initial drawings.

“The images bring a sense of reality and possibility to the project, and serve to increase our determination and enthusiasm, if that is possible.

“They create a real sense of the future for our whole community.

“The recent coverage in the local press has motivated some potential partners to get in touch with us, and we remain keen to hear from any individuals or organisations who would like to engage with the project.

“We are very grateful to Andrew Banks and his team at Banks Design Architects for their work which has created an exciting vision.”

The college hopes to get achieve community and financial backing for the project.

The school has identified two pieces of land at its site where the theatre could be built – either on former playing fields behind the sports centre, or on land behind the Lower School Hall.

It has also teamed up with charity the Akeman Trust, made up of councillors and members of local amateur drama and operatic groups, which have been involved in a 20-year campaign to get a fully fledged theatre in Bicester.

Over the years the trust’s efforts centred on either drastically improving the lower school hall, at the college, or finding another location within the town. Potential sites included the former post office, now the Penny Black Pub, in Sheep Street, and Garth House.

Chairman Peter Barrington said groups had to put up with “unsuitable halls” to stage plays, musicals and operettas for years.

He said: “The principal location for drama and music has been the lower school hall at Bicester Community College, with its dodgy acoustics, flat floor and uncomfortable seating, limited stage lighting and a backstage that left much to be desired.

“There was no orchestral pit, creating difficult sightlines for those seated in front rows. Amenities for audiences were rudimentary and car parking was a nightmare.

“But this time instead of renovating and improving the lower school hall there would be a dedicated theatre.

“The Akeman Trust has already had preliminary talks with the college and has agreed to back the project.

“I am confident it will come to fruition.”