Fundraising for the proposed community theatre on the outskirts of Oswestry has smashed through the £1 million barrier – and hopes are high that building work will begin by next spring.

The Advertizer earlier this year exclusively revealed plans for the 290-seat theatre on the Moreton Hall School site in Weston Rhyn.

The idea of building the new theatre was born when benefactors Bill and Julie Holroyd saw the positive benefits of drama through their own daughter’s education.

They pledged an initial £500,000 to get the ball rolling.

While detailed plans were drawn up and submitted to Shropshire Council, work was carrying on behind the scenes to access more grant aid.

Planning officers have visited the independent school to see for themselves how the theatre will complement existing facilities, and no objections are expected – Oswestry Town Council has already added its voice to supporters in backing the project.

The Garfield Weston Foundation – a family-founded charitable grant-making foundation which supports a wide range of causes across the UK – has pledged £150,000.

Katy Tanner, Moreton Hall’s foundation and development director, said: “We were thrilled and so grateful to hear of the grant – the trustees voted unanimously to support us as they were so impressed with our outreach education programme. This meant we now have £1.08m towards the total cost of the project, which is £1.45m.

“Everything has gone so well since the initial Advertizer story and we have received so much support.

“It will be a community asset. It may be on the Moreton Hall site, but it will be used extensively by the community and it will be for the community.

“We have already spoken to schools and groups which will be able to use the theatre. It will be run totally separately from the school – it will have its own staff and its own accounts – but the idea is it will be very cheap to hire so the whole community can benefit. That’s an integral part of the whole scheme.

“It will be designed so we can show films, but we don’t see that being a major use. Kinokulture already serves Oswestry and our plan is to work with them, not in competition with them.

“If everything goes to plan, construction work will begin in the spring or early summer and we will be open by July 2019.

“Having 290 seats is the perfect size – large enough to attract big names, yet it will be designed so things can be moved to make it a much more intimate arena.”

It is likely high-profile inspirational speakers will be invited to the theatre, as well as touring professional theatre companies – and, of course, local amateur and schools’ drama groups.

Students at Moreton Hall will be involved in front-of-house duties as well as working behind the scenes, alongside professional staff and a dedicated theatre manager.

Next on the agenda is to launch a community fundraising campaign for the final £300,000.

There will be a Friends of the Theatre scheme, as well as opportunities to be a founding patron and to sponsor a seat or a spotlight.

It will officially be called The Holroyd Community Theatre although, in time, it is likely to be known as ‘The Holroyd’.