Published: 00:01, 21 July 2018
More than 2,000 people have signed a petition calling on a council to turn a town's former cinema into a theatre.
Ashford Borough Council (ABC) bought the Lower High Street spot last year - and is considering knocking it down to make way for an outdoor performance space.
But scores of campaigners say the authority should keep the historic building by converting it into a theatre.
A petition set up just last week has already attracted hordes of signatures, with hundreds signing it within a matter of days.
Aldington resident Peter Morris-Kelso, who works as a customer sales assistant at Travis Perkins, started the campaign.
He said: "Having a theatre would bring revenue, footfall and tourism to the town.
"There is nothing unique about Ashford - every shop we have you can find in every other town and the lower high street is dead on its feet and on its way out.
"A theatre would show individual performances and people would come to see them - it would offer a completely different experience to a cinema."
The structure was originally built as the Odeon cinema in 1936.
Mecca moved into the site in the 1990s, but left the town for good earlier this month and the firm's signage has already been removed from the building.
Mr Morris-Kelso, 45, added: "A theatre provides unique performances every evening, from staged plays to stand-up performances, something already available in almost every other town in Kent apart from Ashford.
"Being a former cinema, half the work is already done at the Odeon, and renovating an existing building, one that has been part of Ashford's history for decades, must be a better option than razing it to the ground to make another 'shared space', in an area that has seen a steady decline in footfall over the years and more and more businesses close, leaving a swathe of empty shops in their wake.
"The building is already there, as is a handy car park.
"It really is the easiest and cheapest option, and the only one that will actually benefit the town as a whole, instead of just throwing something in that will be ignored and overlooked in a month's time."
ABC bought the site earlier this year, but has remained tight-lipped recently over its plans.
It is considering turning it into an 'outdoor performance space' as it thinks the theatre would not be financially viable, but no plan has been confirmed.
A council spokeswoman said: “The council has recently acquired this key town centre site and is currently looking at future options to turn it into a multi-purpose space which will aim to meet various community needs.
"It is unlikely that repurposing the existing building into a theatre will be a financially viable option.
“Architects have been commissioned to consider the possible future uses for this site which may include a flexible outdoor performance space that could be used for anything from markets, performances, live music and screening sporting events, but no decision has been made as yet.
“In addition the council is undertaking a town centre consultation which is considering various ideas for how cultural activity can be showcased and delivered in a realistic and sustainable way, maximising all the spaces that are already developing the offer and being created in the town.
“Once this work has been completed we will have a clearer view on the way forward.”
To sign the petition click on this link.