Published: 09:36, 25 August 2018
| Updated: 09:33, 28 August 2018
Plans have emerged to demolish the former Mecca Bingo hall in Ashford to make way for homes, a pedestrian route and bars and restaurants.
Nearly 3,000 people have signed a petition set up last month, calling on the council to turn the former bingo hall and cinema into a theatre.
But documents show Ashford Borough Council (ABC) is looking to flatten the site and replace it with a 'predominately residential development'.
Plans also include a pedestrian route, which will make heritage sites more visible and connect the area to the Commercial Quarter and train station, as part of a scheme to revamp the Lower High Street.
In June, the council begun the process of selecting a design team to draw up ideas to regenerate the site of the old bingo hall, the Vicarage Lane car park and the Lower High Street.
ABC short-listed four architect companies, including Ash Sakula Architects, Guy Holloway, Fluid and Stephen Taylor Architects.
In a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request to the council by resident Diccon Spain, documents reveal how the council has been asking architects for their vision to overhaul the area of the Lower High Street.
The 52-year-old from Charing said: "Over the last couple of months a number of us have got together, to push for a large land-mark theatre/arts/cultural venue in Ashford town centre.
"At the same time, many other people had been writing, campaigning and petitioning ABC to support a major venue in the heart of Ashford.
"I was deeply saddened to discover that despite huge public demand, the ABC leadership already seems to have set the direction for one of the final remaining development sites in the heart of the town for more residential development."
Council leader, Cllr Gerry Clarkson said the authority is currently taking a range of expert advice to help it consider the possible future uses for the site.
Cllr Clarkson said: "I would encourage everyone to get involved in the the public consultation and let us have your views on the former bingo club site and the wider town centre.
"We need people’s ideas on how entertainment and cultural activity can be showcased and delivered in a realistic and sustainable way.
"We are well aware that there is a good deal of public support for a theatre in the town and we are quite open to that suggestion, but we do need to consider it very carefully.
“I am of the opinion that with Ashford and surrounding areas growing, our catchment may be becoming large enough to sustain a theatre.
“At the same time a strong case could also be made for investing in a flexible outdoor performance space that could be used for anything from markets, performances, live music and screening sporting events.
"Once we have the results of the community consultation and the advice of specialists on what is feasible, we will be able to take a clear view on the way forward."