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Mecca Bingo leaves former Odeon cinema in Ashford town centre

Speculation is mounting over the future of Ashford's former cinema after Mecca Bingo left the high street for good at the weekend.

About 40 people queued outside the prominent town centre spot on Sunday afternoon ahead of the last sessions.

Ashford Borough Council (ABC) bought the venue earlier this year, but bosses are remaining tight-lipped over what they plan to do with the historic building.

Mecca Bingo moved in during the 1990s. Picture: Steve Salter
Mecca Bingo moved in during the 1990s. Picture: Steve Salter

Kentish Express correspondent Steve Salter photographed the site before it closed on Sunday.

"There was a queue outside and I could hear people saying how sad they were about it," he said.

"The bingo hall has become part of people's lives, and so was the cinema before that.

The hall has been bought by ABC
The hall has been bought by ABC

"Inside, it has been modernised to become a bingo hall, but barely any of the cinema features have been removed; yhey are all still in situ which is nice to see.

"It is a shame the building could go, but it has happened to so many cinemas up and down the country."

Sunday's closure marked the end of Mecca Bingo's stay in Ashford after the firm moved into the former cinema in the 1990s.

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

Rumours suggest council bosses want to open the site up by demolishing the hall as they do not like the tight alleyway next to the building which runs through to the Vicarage Lane car park.

But when asked about its future last month, ABC leader Gerry Clarkson did not discuss options for the building, which was originally built as the Odeon cinema in 1936.

The Kentish Express asked shoppers for their views on the site's future.

Many original features remain inside. Picture: Steve Salter
Many original features remain inside. Picture: Steve Salter

Andrew Robinson, of Apsley Street, said: "I think it was good for the community as it brought everyone together.

It is sad because the lower end of town desperately needs some regeneration."

Chris Smith, from Kennington, said: "The town needs regeneration and the journey up from Ashford International needs to change if you're going to attract more people to the centre.

Crowds at Mecca Bingo on Sunday. Picture: Steve Salter
Crowds at Mecca Bingo on Sunday. Picture: Steve Salter

"An entertainment space or affordable housing site is needed most.

George Stevens, of The Limes, says he fears for the future of the spot.

He said: "It's just going to end up like the boarded-up shops next to it.

Inside Mecca Bingo (2816748)
Inside Mecca Bingo (2816748)

"A Primark would definitely be a benefit for Ashford because at the moment you have to travel quite far to go to one.

"Everyone wants one in Ashford, and I think that it would bring the town right up."

What would you like to see Mecca Bingo become? Comment below or email kentishexpress@thekmgroup.co.uk

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