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Ashford: Petition to turn former Mecca Bingo into theatre to be debated by council tomorrow

By Georgia Woolf

A petition calling on council bosses to turn Mecca Bingo into a theatre will be debated at a full council meeting tomorrow.

More than 3,000 residents backed the campaign earlier this year to transform the prominent Lower High Street spot.

In August, Ashford Borough Council (ABC) documents revealed the authority is looking to flatten the site to make way for homes, a pedestrian route and bars and restaurants.

Mecca Bingo in Ashford (3721886)
Mecca Bingo in Ashford (3721886)

But the petition set up by Aldington resident Peter Morris-Kelso gained thousands of signatures and will now be debated by council chiefs tomorrow.

Mr Morris-Kelso will have 10 minutes to speak about his petition at the meeting, which starts at 7pm.

He said: "I will be doing what I can in the 10 minutes I've got to change their minds.

Ashford.High street Old Mecca Bingo building.Campaigner Peter Morris-Kelso wants the building saved.Picture: Paul Amos. (3059421)
Ashford.High street Old Mecca Bingo building.Campaigner Peter Morris-Kelso wants the building saved.Picture: Paul Amos. (3059421)

"I didn't realise how far it would go, but here I am and after that it will probably be it for me.

"I am just the bloke who wrote the petition that a lot of people agreed with."

A report published by the council prior to the meeting says that the decision to purchase the building was based on the 'marriage value' of linking it with the council-owned Vicarage Lane car park, which provides a more substantial redevelopment opportunity.

The rear of Mecca Bingo in Ashford (3890574)
The rear of Mecca Bingo in Ashford (3890574)

It also details how a condition survey carried out prior to purchase of the site concluded that a change of use and costs of refurbishments would be too high.

Ash Sakula Architects was appointed to draw up a design concept for the Lower High Street spot, which includes a new outdoor performance area, a route linking Ashford International to town centre and homes and studio workspace.

The Cinema Theatre Association (CTA) is supporting calls for the building to be transformed into a performance space.

The group's Peter Wylde wrote a letter to the council in June, urging it to consider transforming the building into a performance space or theatre.

He said: “£1.8m is probably the standard price for the cinema, but we strongly believe that they should look to convert it for a performance space for public use.

“We understand the council has been looking seriously at costings and theatre use conversion and we are waiting for the report.

“It is ridiculous to just knock it down, the town would be losing a fine heritage asset."

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