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Mecca Bingo building in Ashford could get Grade II-listed status

A decision on whether to list a former Odeon cinema is expected to be made soon after heritage bosses submitted their recommendation to the government.

The Cinema Theatre Association (CTA) wrote to Historic England in April calling for the landmark former Mecca Bingo in Ashford to become Grade II-listed.

Ashford Borough Council's plans for the former Mecca Bingo site

Yesterday, Historic England submitted its recommendation to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) on whether the 1930s building deserves listed status.

The DCMS, which usually agrees with Historic England's recommendation, is expected to make its decision soon.

If it is listed, the ruling would leave a huge question mark over Ashford Borough Council's plan to redevelop the site.

Council chiefs want to partially demolish the ex-Odeon as part of their plans for a public square and bars on the Vicarage Lane car park, but will have to rethink their scheme if the building is listed as it would become protected.

They hope to flatten the rear of the property and knock through the former entrance in the Lower High Street to make a pedestrian route leading to the public square on the car park.

The cinema seats remain inside the site, as this photo from September shows. Picture: Ian Grundy
The cinema seats remain inside the site, as this photo from September shows. Picture: Ian Grundy

The space - nicknamed Odeon Square - would feature a large outdoor cinema screen surrounded by cafes and bars.

Despite looking to knock through the entrance, chiefs plan to retain most of the frontage, creating an indoor performance space in the ballroom.

The building - which was bought by ABC for £1.8m last year - has attracted a lot of attention in recent months as campaigners want to see it turned into a theatre.

Last month, deputy council leader Cllr Paul Bartlett said the authority's plans are "in limbo" as it waits for the listed status decision.

"We can’t make any decision about what will happen until we know Historic England’s result - we are completely in limbo,” Cllr Bartlett said.

The building as it is today. Picture: Ian Grundy
The building as it is today. Picture: Ian Grundy
How the site would be laid out
How the site would be laid out

“The fact that we have a budget for the demolition and wider redevelopment of the site actually becomes irrelevant.

“If it is listed, then the whole plan and budget will have to be redone as you can’t demolish a listed building.”

ABC chiefs have already agreed a budget of £1.3m to demolish the building, as well as an overall figure of £21.3m for the whole scheme.

KentOnline has contacted ABC for comment as it waits to find out whether the site will be protected.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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