DARLINGTON Borough Council has applied again for £5m Lottery funding to renovate and restore the town’s ageing civic theatre.

The council has already made two unsuccessful Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) applications, but is hopeful its third bid will succeed and enable phase one of an £8.2m restoration project to begin.

The restoration would add 71 seats to the theatre’s capacity, which could boost tickets sales by £80,000 annually, along with other improvements such as a lift, an education centre and better disabled facilities.

The funding decision will be announced on September 30, and Councillor Nick Wallis, the council’s portfolio holder for leisure and local environment, said: “We are still very hopeful that the HLF money will come through, but clearly there will be a gap which the local authority will have to fill as well.”

The council must raise £1.6m to put towards the project and cabinet members agreed this week to underwrite that amount.

They also agreed to appoint a development and fundraising manager at the Civic – on a salary of between £30,000 and £35,000 - to assist the chief executive in raising the extra needed.

One fundraising element began last July with the introduction of a £1 restoration levy on each theatre ticket bought and this is on track to raise £125,000 annually.

Cllr Heather Scott, Conservative group leader, said she hoped that the council’s HLF application would be “put to the top of the pile” and willed the public to support the project.

She said: “I think it is a very good idea to get the public involved and hopefully some entrepreneurs and some our quality acts that come from Darlington can help.”

Cllr Scott also praised all involved in Theatre Hullabaloo’s successful Arts Council funding award which will see a £1.5m children’s theatre built at the rear of the Civic.

The Arts Council funding is independent of the Civic Theatre and will be used solely for creation of The Hullaballoon theatre, but Lynda Winstanley, director of Darlington Civic Theatre, said the success of one could support the other.

She added: “Our bid to HLF, as with any other bid for funding, is based on engagement with the public as much as heritage – the HLF are very, very enthusiastic about opportunities for young people so the children’s theatre would very much complement that element.”

If the council is successful in winning HLF funding for both stages of the restoration plan, work could start in June 2016.