Published: 07:52, 15 February 2019
| Updated: 08:02, 15 February 2019
Bold plans to turn a former Mecca Bingo building and town centre car park into a multi-million pound leisure complex have been revealed.
Ashford Borough Council hopes to partially demolish the ex-Odeon, flattening the rear of the property and knocking through the former entrance in the Lower High Street to make a pedestrian route leading to a new public square on the car park.
The space - nicknamed Odeon Square - is set to feature a large outdoor cinema screen surrounded by cafes and bars.
Plans for Ashford town centre redevelopment revealed
A micro brewery and pizzeria are planned alongside a taco bar and delicatessen, as well as new studios.
Bosses say bulldozing the rear of the landmark 1930s building will open up views of St Mary's Church.
Despite looking to knock through the former cinema entrance, chiefs plan to retain most of the frontage, creating an indoor performance space in the former ballroom on the first floor above the former foyer.
A residential development also forms part of the scheme, with houses and flats proposed for the rest of the Vicarage Lane car park.
In the council's 'emerging plan', 61 homes are proposed with 40 car parking spaces.
Workshops are also proposed in the scheme, which will also see a new footpath put in across the Vicarage Field open space.
Bosses say the loss of parking spaces in Vicarage Lane car park will be offset by plans to build a multi-storey car park behind the bowling alley in Station Road.
Council leader Gerry Clarkson says the council is aware of calls for a theatre, but the conversion proposal is too costly.
The authority paid £1.8m for Mecca Bingo when it bought the site.
Cllr Clarkson said: "The former Mecca/Odeon site and the adjacent Vicarage Lane car park presents a unique opportunity to drive forward our objectives for the town centre, which could bring more people into the high street and provide better facilities for residents.
"The council is aware of the interest many local people have expressed in having a theatre, however the potential cost of converting this building added to the fact that former cinemas do not tend to make good theatres, has led us to look at other potential uses for this space.
"The council believes the proposed development could help to rejuvenate the town centre, enhance our cultural offer, create employment opportunities and attract inward investment for the benefit of residents.”
The plan - drawn up by Ash Sakula Architects - is set to be discussed at the council's cabinet meeting next month.
A planning application is yet to be submitted, but the authority is hosting an exhibition in the Ashford Gateway building in Church Road until Friday, March 1.
For more information, visit www.ashford.gov.uk/mecca