BURNLEY's new state-of-the-art youth theatre could be left without vital backstage equipment because of spiralling building costs.

Theatre groups now fear they might have to take to the stage without proper lighting and sound gear when Burnley Youth Theatre opens its doors in the winter.

Though the bulk of the £1.4m needed to build the 135-seat arts centre has been set aside, the theatre has admitted that due to rising costs caused by a delay to the start of the building work, it now faces a funding shortfall of around £126,000.

Total funding of £1,162,100 was raised through the Development Agency, Arts Lottery, Lancashire Environmental Fund, SRB6, Lancashire Council Council, Burnley Council, Burnley Youth Theatre and the Thursby Trust, a Burnley-based charity set up in 1963 to support local under-privileged children.

Nelson-based Barnfield Construction started building work on the new headquarters in March - including a large studio for workshops and performances, caf, meeting rooms and offices, dressing rooms and showers, enlarged backstage technical areas for training purposes, and an outdoor performance area.

The start of construction was delayed because of longer than expected consultation with funding partners.

The theatre will now need to do some rapid fundraising to ensure that the new building can open on schedule this winter - with the right equipment in place to make it a major North West arts landmark.

Theatre general manager Gareth Davies said: "Much of the funding was put into place two years ago, when the idea of the new theatre really took root, but since then costs have risen alarmingly.

"There are a lot of important internal fixtures and items of equipment we need that at present we can't afford.

"After saying that, we are already seeing local firms, funding bodies and individuals coming to our rescue. It is certainly true that every little helps."

Items which the theatre cannot afford at the moment include office furniture and specialist backstage equipment like new lighting and sound gear. Shows are not under threat.

Terry Hephrun, director of the Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale Council for Voluntary Service, said: "Burnley Youth Theatre plays an important role in East Lancashire. Not only does it offer hundreds of young people opportunities for fun and friendship, its syllabus ensures that they develop confidence, presentation skills and teamwork. Participants also gain a priceless appreciation of the performing arts.

"Outside of the spotlight, Burnley Youth Theatre works within some of our more challenging communities, engaging 'hard to reach' young people in projects that give them a voice and inspiration to join mainstream social and training activities."

He said: "It would be a great pity if Burnley Youth Theatre found itself struggling with a shortfall in funding just as the new theatre opens its doors to meet the massive demand for its activities."

The site at Heasandford Quarry, Queen's Park Road, which has been home to Burnley Youth Theatre since 1978 after moving from Towneley School, is surrounded by woodland and parks and looks set to be a flagship development for the North West.

The theatre was formed by a small group of young amateur dramatics enthusiasts in 1973. Around 350 young people are involved with the group.

The theatre is appealing for donations to raise the cash needed. Anyone who can help should call 01282 427767.