WINCHESTER Theatre Royal has been formally granted the status of a 'community asset' by the city council.

The move, agreed last week, will give the venue added protection in the face of an uncertain future.

Deryck Newland, chief executive of Play to the Crowd, the charity who runs the theatre operation, said: "The Winchester Theatre Trust, our landlord, have registered the theatre as a Community Asset. This gives this wonderful building further protection as a heritage site and means that it is truly owned by the community we serve."

The city council maintains the list and if any of the assets on the register are put up for sale, the community is given six months to prepare a bid and can attempt to buy the asset themselves.

The council says the initiative enables local residents to form community enterprises and helps preserve the facilities that matter most to them.

The list mainly comprises village pubs such as The Milbury's at Beauworth, The English Partridge at Bighton and the Traveller's Rest at Soberton. It also includes South Pond in Bishop's Waltham and Cheriton Recreation Ground.