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Regent developers miss plans deadline but dream for Deal cinema is still alive

By Eleanor Perkins

Regent developers have failed to meet the district council’s deadline for the submission of plans but that doesn’t mean they’re giving up on a cinema for Deal.

Owners Mark Digweed and James Walllace were told by Dover District Council in September that they should submit draft plans within three months and full plans by April, in order to avoid enforcement action.

The stipulation came after recommendations by the scrutiny committee and a lengthy fight by Reopen the Regent campaigners who are keen to see the former bingo hall reopen as a cinema and community venue.

Developer James Wallace
Developer James Wallace

Aware that they had missed the deadline which was last Monday, co-owner James Wallace told KentOnline: “We’re still continuing with it and we’re looking forward to sitting down to discuss our current plans with DDC on Monday.”

Their latest proposal is for a four-screen cinema with no residential component but dependant on the land ownership of the rear of the building.

Mr Wallace said: “It includes a cafe at the front that would serve the cinema and be open to the general public to make it a community cinema that we’ve always tried to provide.

“We also plan to maintain the original facade of the building and expose some of the existing structure such as steel beams.”

They say they have been working on another scheme in parallel but this is their preferred choice. They say a single screen cinema would not be viable.

Campaigners say they are disappointed with the lack of progress.

They met with Roger Walton, director of environment and corporate assets, and councillor Paul Watkins, leader of DDC, last Monday to discuss next steps.

They say Cllr Watkins again questioned whether there was a real desire for a cinema in Deal.

Reopen the Regent campaign group outside the building in Beach Street
Reopen the Regent campaign group outside the building in Beach Street

Kathryn Reilly of Reopen the Regent said: “Sadly, he believes our petition with more than 2,000 signatures doesn’t represent the town’s feeling because non-residents had signed it.

“He suggested that the campaign group request that Deal Town Council hold a referendum on the matter, which we think would be a pointless waste of money.

"Once again, we’re at a standstill and the council has no useful way of moving things forward, despite them being clear that they want the matter resolved.

“We just hope that the covenant won’t be sold.

“That would mean that the building no longer has to serve a leisure purpose and can be developed into whatever the owners wish.

“We still maintain that this building has always been a community asset and should remain so.”

They say the most positive suggestion made to the group was that they should make sure that the need for a cinema is included in the Deal Town Plan.

A DDC spokesman said: “We can confirm that we have met with the Reopen The Regent campaigners.

“We can also confirm that no new planning application has been received from the owners of the Regent regarding the property, and we are arranging a meeting with them.

“The council’s planning enforcement team has also ensured that external works have been undertaken to the property.

“We continue to look into this matter, and a further report is to be made to scrutiny on April 18.”

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