12.1  The strong arts and culture community in Saffron Walden is an asset to the town and continuing support for it meets the objectives of the SWNP.

12.2  On an economic note, public art and cultural events can and do boost and build upon the town’s aesthetic appeal, increasing local and visitor footfall and providing commercial opportunities for local businesses. This helps the town to remain economically active and self-sustaining.

12.3  Public art and cultural events contribute to helping people live healthy lives. An Inquiry Report published in June 2017 by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing delivered three key messages:

1) “The arts can help keep us well, aid our recovery and support longer lives better lived.”

2) “The arts can help meet major challenges facing health and social care: ageing, long-term conditions, loneliness and mental health.”

3) “The arts can help save money in the health service and social care”.

12.4  This finding is endorsed by Government planning policy

NPPF Paragraph 93:” To provide the social, recreational and cultural facilities and services the community needs, planning policies and decisions should:

  1. a) plan positively for the provision and use of shared spaces, community facilities (such as local shops, meeting places, sports venues, open space, cultural buildings, public houses and places of worship) and other local services to enhance the sustainability of communities and residential environments;
  2. b) take into account and support the delivery of local strategies to improve health, social and cultural well-being for all sections of the community;”

12.5  Publicly accessible art and cultural events help to sustain the market town feel of Saffron Walden, which is enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. Proposals for cultural events will be supported, especially those that can be accessed by individuals and families on low incomes.

12.6  The town benefits from a strong and varied diary of community events, all free to attend, including: a tri-annual 8-day carnival, a tri-annual Maze Festival, and the tri-annual Fete de la Musique. The market square hosts an annual Dance in the Square, Cinema in the Square and Christmas Lights events. The annual firework display is held on The Common

12.7  The town also has the Fry Art Gallery, Saffron Walden Castle and the Museum, Bridge End Gardens, Saffron Hall (a globally recognised concert hall) and a local community cinema, Saffron Screen. An English Heritage site, Audley End House, lies just outside the town. Local amateur theatre groups stage performances at the Town Hall.

12.8  Most of the events and organisations are staffed wholly or in great part by volunteer groups including Saffron Arts Trust, Saffron Walden Initiative, Saffron Walden Round Table, Saffron Hall Trust and Saffron Walden Community Cinema Ltd, and numerous other arts groups.

12.9  The arts and culture groups have identified gaps in infrastructure which, if filled, would enable them to further broaden their offer. These gaps include more space for studio bookings, art and cultural exhibitions, stage shows and concerts, and more capacity for film screenings.

12.10  Saffron Walden Museum is the district museum service for Uttlesford, operated by Uttlesford District Council under a management agreement with Saffron Walden Museum Society Ltd (a registered charity). The grounds of the Museum, a grade II listed building, built in 1834, sit in the bailey of Walden Castle, and the whole site is a Scheduled Monument. Historic England has carried out a major conservation project to enable the Castle keep to be opened to the public. The Museum has long-term plans for upgrading and expanding its offer and has already been granted Resilient Heritage lottery funding. This funding will enable the Museum to explore ways to develop and improve the Museum building (sympathetically to and within the restrictions of its site), and to develop and improve its service and activities, with the aim of increasing visitors, community engagement, income and sustainability, and ultimately to solidify its position as the ‘heritage hub’ of the town and the district. The SWNP fully supports this project.

12.11  Saffron Screen is a 200-seat single screen community cinema based at County High School. The service it provides is constrained by the fact that it shares a hall with the High School; for example, it cannot get new films because they must be shown for 7 consecutive days and the hall does not have the bookings capacity to offer this. Ideally, in order to achieve economies of scale for management, and provide the fullest programme, it seeks a site whereby it can have 3 screens of approximately 160, 120 and 80 seats. With retractable seating the spaces could be used for other events. A café/bar area would be essential for revenue and to enhance the visitor experience. The current location at the High School is on the edge of the town, so visitors tend to drive to it and then return straight home after the screening. A new site within the town would encourage people to walk or use the town centre public car parks and this would boost the evening economy in the town centre.

12.12  Fairycroft House is an arts and media centre within the town. A 19th Century building, formerly a large home, since the 1950s it has hosted youth activities and in 2016 was sold by Essex County Council to a Community Interest Company (CIC). It serves all age groups and offers a range of arts and media activities including music, singing, dance and drama, as well as youth counselling services. It has soundproofed rooms for bands to practise, a professional-level recording studio, and larger multi-use rooms. The CIC has plans for expansion over the next two years (from 2019) and has identified a number of changes that can be made to the building which will increase capacity and extend the possibilities for usage for various events and classes.

12.13   The Tourist Information Centre (TIC), run by the Town Council, provides a huge service to visitors and residents, with ticket sales and other services for residents complementing the services for visitors. Some 118,000 people visit the TIC each year. The space currently available to the TIC is limiting expansion of services.

12.14  Current planning policies seek to transform town centres away from being ‘retail-only’ spaces and more towards being ‘community gathering’ spaces. These community gathering spaces will include retail, work, leisure and living units, and can return town centres to the vibrant locations they were before large out-of-town sites became dominant.

12.15  As a way of filling the gaps in the cultural infrastructure as identified by the arts groups, and to meet with current planning policy thought, the SWNP would welcome the construction of additional multi-purpose arts centre space in Saffron Walden. A town centre location for this would be essential to encourage cross-usage with other arts venues and local businesses and to ensure that the town centre as a whole can gain a maximum benefit from the project.

12.16  Fairycroft House successfully provides arts groups with space for classes, rehearsals and performances. For the purpose of policies on arts facilities, the footprint of the Fairycroft site is considered to be ‘town centre’.


1.  Proposals for new public art will generally be supported, subject to any site-specific considerations.

2.  A community cinema and/or an arts centre would be supported, subject to it being in a town centre location or at or next to the Fairycroft site

3.  Contributions from development will be sought towards arts and arts facilities.

This policy supports the Neighbourhood Plan Objectives 1,2,4,5


Please use the relevant section numbers as reference markers when writing your comments.

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Neighbourhood Plan Objectives

Objective 1

Saffron Walden will be an economically active and self-sustaining town, offering equal opportunities to all.

Objective 2

Saffron Walden’s residents will be able to live as healthily as possible.

Objective 3

Saffron Walden will be an environmentally sustainable town.

Objective 4

Saffron Walden’s heritage assets, high quality landscape and conservation areas will be protected or enhanced.

Objective 5

Saffron Walden will retain its market-town feel and community spirit.


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