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

Campaigners say they are delighted after an application calling for Ashford's former Mecca Bingo building to be given Grade II-listed status passed through the first stage.

The prominent Lower High Street spot will now be visited by inspectors after officials at Historic England met to discuss whether they would formally consider the proposal.

They will conduct an on-site assessment and consultation with interested parties including Ashford Borough Council (ABC) before submitting their recommendation to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which will have the final say on whether to award the listing.

The former Odeon cinema in Ashford High Street that later become Mecca Bingo. Picture: Steve Salter
The former Odeon cinema in Ashford High Street that later become Mecca Bingo. Picture: Steve Salter

Historic England's advice will remain confidential until the Heritage Minister has made the final decision, with bosses saying it is unclear how long the process will take.

It comes after the Cinema Theatre Association (CTA) - which campaigns nationally to protect traditional cinema buildings - wrote to Historic England in April calling for the landmark site to be recognised.

Mecca Bingo in Ashford was snapped up by the council for £1.8m
Mecca Bingo in Ashford was snapped up by the council for £1.8m

London-based Richard Gray, chairman of case work at the CTA, says he is delighted the application has got through to the next stage.

"I am very pleased as I wasn't confident," he said.

"They seemed to think at one time that these buildings were very common, but they are not.

The rear of Mecca Bingo in Ashford
The rear of Mecca Bingo in Ashford

"We pointed out in our application how rare the building is.

"Along with The Royal Cinema in Faversham, it is the best-surviving example of architect Andrew Mather's work.

"If they turned it down at the sifting process, we wouldn't have got anywhere.

"It is very good news."

The former Mecca Bingo. Picture: Barry Goodwin
The former Mecca Bingo. Picture: Barry Goodwin

The 1930s building was bought by ABC for £1.8m last year and faces being partly knocked down under the authority's plan for the site.

But if given Grade II-listed status, the ex-Odeon would enjoy a higher level of protection than it does currently, with ABC bosses having to gain listed building consent as well as planning permission before partially demolishing it.

An ABC spokesman confirmed it is in discussions with Historic England about its assessment of the building.

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