A POP-UP Shakespearean theatre will come to Blenheim Palace this summer after councillors approved an application for the ambitious project.

Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre will bring four plays to life between July 8 and September 7 after West Oxfordshire District Council's Uplands Area Planning Committee today unanimously voted in favour of the temporary structure.

The 13-sided Elizabethan-style playhouse will hold 900 people and sit north east of the palace, but could return to the planning committee if Historic England propose 'root and branch' changes following a site visit today.

Despite backing the idea, councillors echoed planning officer Phil Shaw's belief that the theatre should have been located elsewhere in the grounds.

Mr Shaw said: "We would recommend it for refusal if it was a permanent structure.

"Because the scheme is a one-of we can justify it in this instance."

He added the key decision was balancing the 'heritage impact with the tourism benefit', while some councillors emphasised the theatre's educational impact.

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Merilyn Davies, of Freeland and Hanborough ward, said: "It's hideous to look at and needs to be somewhere completely different, but it's a wonderful idea.

"We spend a lot of time complaining about Blenheim but this really will contribute to the area."

Blenheim secured planning permission from May until September, which covers building and dismantling the theatre.

It will include 560 seats on three-tiered balconies around an open-roofed courtyard, plus standing room for 340 people, and will be located within an ‘authentic Shakespearean village’.

The four plays performed will be Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Richard III and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

In a report compiled for councillors ahead of today's meeting, council officers revealed Blenheim had already started marketing the theatre before realising they had to gain planning permission.

The report stated: "They had commenced marketing before they were informed that planning permission was in fact required.

"The site is of exceptional sensitivity and, as a result of the commencement of marketing in erroneous anticipation of planning permission not being required, the clock is ticking as regards making a decision seeking to balance heritage impacts against tourism benefits."

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Oxfordshire County Council objected to the lack of a traffic management plan, but Blenheim CEO Dominic Hare said concerns of congestion around Woodstock would not materialise.

He said: "This is a nine-week theatre but it will leave a permanent legacy.

"The visitor numbers will be significant but the traffic impact will be minimal."

Oxford Mail:

Blenheim during a cycling day last year. Pic: Ric Mellis

Joanna Lamb, from the Heart of Woodstock organisation, spoke out against the plans on behalf of more than 240 residents and traders in Woodstock and Bladon.

She argued parking charges in the palace grounds would mean visitors would leave their cars in the town centre, which would become 'choked by traffic and reduce the quality of life for residents and traders'.

But Mr Hare said tickets for the theatre shows would include car parking.

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The International Council on Monuments and Sites raised concerns about the theatre.

In its official response to the planning application, it commented: "Although we acknowledge that there is a tradition of temporary pavilions in landscapes gardens, the scale of what is being proposed appears to go far beyond a pavilion that might enhance the landscape.

"The scale of the theatrical events could bring unacceptable traffic congestion.

"[We] consider that the proposed theatre complex would have a detrimental visual impact on the environs of Blenheim Palace and its Capability Brown landscape."

Oxfordshire Gardens Trust did not object to the application but said in its comment: "The building proposal does not appear to be especially attractive and is very large.

"However, important views to the lakes and Brownian landscape are not seriously impacted.

"It is certainly not something that we would support on a year on year basis due to its visually intrusive location."

Information passed to councillors on behalf of Blenheim stated: "As well as blending in perfectly with its bustling, summer-time surroundings, the proposal will make a positive contribution to local character and distinctiveness, drawing specifically on the contribution made by the historical environment to local character, and maximising the wider social, cultural, economic and environmental benefits that appropriate development can bring.

"The provision of an attractive, distinctive and characterful traditional heritage theatre will add significantly to the vitality of the local economy."