Published: 12:02, 12 February 2017
More than 100 supporters gathered at a fundraising cinema screening at the Astor Theatre in Deal to hear the latest news from the Reopen the Regent campaign.
Group spokeswoman, Caroline Kerr Smith, told members that the 2,000-strong petition presented to Dover District Council’s scrutiny committee in September was starting to have effect.
At the screening of I, Daniel Blake, she quoted from an email recently received from the director of environment and corporate assets, Roger Walton, who said: “Planning enforcement officers have… met recently with the owners who have agreed to do some work to the exterior of the building that will serve as a temporary solution to the visual appearance of the building while we are waiting for a planning application, which we are told will be submitted within three months.
“The council intends to serve a Section 215 notice on the owners of the building to ensure these works are carried out.”
A Section 215 notice allows a local planning authority to require the owner or occupier to deal with the poor state of a building where this is adversely affecting the area.
Ms Kerr Smith said: “However, this action is only responding to the short-term issues and we believe there is need to make plans for the future.
“We are now opening discussions with the community as to whether there are other options that need to be considered, such as whether the compulsory purchase process could be used to allow the building to be owned and operated by a community trust.”
Ms Kerr Smith added that if the council bought back the building, there would be a strong chance that an independent film companies would lease the space, as there has been interest from Kino Films and Picture House.
It might be possible to run the cinema as a community venture.
She added: “This town would benefit immeasurably from having a cinema and the will is here.
“We will now talk to the council about next steps and keep everyone updated on social media and on our website.”
The Regent owner developer Mark Digweed said: “We have been in consultation with DDC who have visited the site where we agreed remedial works to be undertaken, subsequent to this we have undertaken exterior works including clearing rubbish from fly tippers and drug users to the side of the building, jet washing, painting and general maintenance including repairs to drains and gutters.
"We will shortly be installing new gates to the driveway at the side of the building which will hopefully prevent future dumping of rubbish.
“With regard to a planning application we are 95% complete on our commercial viability review of the latest plans which incorporate the residential element.
"Whilst this is looking favourable we are still comparing its feasibility with regard to the opposition we may encounter over planning which will likely result in a protracted process.
"As such we are also concurrently working on a scheme which will see the entire existing structure retained coupled with a new structure to the rear of the building. We believe such a proposal will considerably reduce the timescales for planning and build/renovation as well as dispel any objection from the local community.”
The Reopen the Regent campaign can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and at reopentheregent.com.
Funds raised during the evening will go towards the website and printing of posters, flyers and leaflets.