A DECADE-long effort to renovate the Globe Theatre is on track to be completed in late April – but chiefs say the pandemic will play a key part in its early months.

Work on the £28m scheme on Stockton High Street scheme has been continuing through the pandemic with a raft of acts confirmed this summer. 

Councillors have been told the delayed project is on track to be handed over to the Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) when it’s finished in late April. 

But council director Richard McGuckin told Monday’s place select committee leaders had their “fingers crossed” about the pandemic and the role it will play. 

He said: “As we exit lockdown, the pandemic and restrictions will play a part in what the early months of the Globe look like.

“Currently, the theatre is programmed from the third week of June onwards.

“We will just have to wait and see how we emerge from lockdown and what that allows live entertainment spaces to be able to do.

“The mood music in the industry is they expect a V-shaped recovery – and that means there will be a very quick bounce-back as everybody is keen to get out of their doors, see live music and live performances, and socialise in a post-covid world.

“Let’s keep our fingers crossed that remains the case.”

A Strictly Come Dancing tour, Adam Kay and Ronan Keating are on the bill to come to the Globe in June and July. 

Mr McGuckin said ticket sales at the venue had shown the “pent up demand” they expected to see at the Grade II-listed 3,000 seater site. 

Problems, delays and rising costs have hit the renovation effort in recent years. 

Developers Jomast started work on a £4m restoration in 2011 with the council allocating £1m.

However, the scheme stalled and the local authority took over in 2016. 

Costs rose after troubles with the roof, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lifts, plumbing, toilet layout and drainage were all uncovered during works. 

Covid impacts saw on extra £1.2m added to the bill last year. 

Chiefs are banking on the theatre bringing an extra 200,000 visitors to Stockton town centre every year to offer an £18m boost to the borough’s economy. 

But the figures have been questioned by councillors in the past. 

With Heritage Lottery funding included, the renovation scheme has risen to cost £27.9m.

Council reports have forecasted the cost will come to more than £31m over the coming decades when rental costs are taken into account. 

What about the surroundings?

Thornaby independent Cllr Luke Frost asked what was being done to help businesses on the northern end of the High Street around the Globe theatre.

He added: “Are there plans to create more of an evening scene with those empty properties?

“If that’s not looked at, the Globe could be a great thing in the middle of nowhere.”

Mr McGuckin said cash from a Heritage Lottery Fund for townscape heritage was offering building owners a chance to get money to improve their facades. 

The director added: “What we have seen in the last three or four months, is a number of property owners or prospective businesses who want to own businesses in that area come to us to help and bring premises back into use. 

“We always knew the Globe would be a catalyst for the market changing things in that end of town.

“And there are plenty of savvy business owners out there who understand 10,000 people a week in the town due to the Globe is a business opportunity.

“Yes, we will probably see a lag in activity coming live – partly because of the pandemic, and partly because people need to see and believe it’s really happening. 

“But I remain confident the market will respond in the right way – and we’re very much ready to help and support those businesses.”

Stockton Mayor Cllr Mohammed Javed believed people would be willing to come to the venue after the pandemic. 

“They’ve been locked down for so long,” he added.

Veteran councillor Bill Woodhead told the committee he wouldn’t have supported the project in the past if he didn’t think it had a future.

The Fairfield independent added: “We have every confidence in the Globe getting off to a good start seeing the number of artists already booked and the number of tickets sold.”