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PLANS to extend and develop the Eastgate Theatre in Peebles have taken a major step forward this week.

It was announced yesterday that the Big Lottery Fund has agreed to meet the cost of the initial phase of work leading towards the theatre being extended and reconfigured.

The Big Lottery Fund’s development grant of £45,000 will cover the appointment of a design team to appraise options for the building, agree a preferred solution, develop architect plans to RIBA stage 2, and create a cost plan.

It will also fund extensive community consultation, as well as preliminary discussions with planning.

Sir David Younger, chair of the Eastgate’s board of directors, told us: "We are delighted that the Big Lottery Fund has endorsed the importance of the theatre’s significant contribution both to the people of Peebles and Tweeddale as well as reaching out to communities further afield.

"The considerable, and increasing, demands on Big Lottery Fund funding make the process of applying very competitive and so this is a significant achievement.

"There is a clear and growing demand for the services and activities already being delivered by the theatre and we look forward to the development of exciting and imaginative plans to see how we can become a bigger and more flexible resource for the people of Tweeddale and the surrounding area.”

The major plans for the Eastgate will include extending the footprint of the building and an internal reconfiguration to develop the infrastructure.

All members of the design team have now been appointed following public procurement processes which began in May.

Andy Davey of Simpson & Brown Architects has been selected to head the design team, and will act as lead consultant to the Eastgate’s project group.

Mr Davey joined the Edinburgh-based practice of Simpson & Brown in 1981, and became a partner in 1998.

He has been the architect for a wide variety of projects, ranging from the restoration of important public buildings and country houses to the conversion of historic buildings.

As a long-term resident of Peebles, he has a particular interest in the Eastgate.

Andy said: “We very much look forward to working with the Eastgate team on this exciting and challenging project."

The initial phase of design, costings and consultation is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

An application for capital funding to the Big Lottery Fund and other sources will be made at around the same time as the completion.

Theatre bosses hope that construction work will begin next year and be completed by 2019.