Published: 06:00, 24 July 2019
| Updated: 07:41, 24 July 2019
Plans for a cinema for Deal have finally been approved but campaigners now fear there will be delays with its construction.
Eight years after purchasing the freehold of The Regent in Beach Street, James Wallace and Mark Digweed have been granted consent for a two-screen attraction and restaurant.
Decision makers, Dover District Council, have attached a number of conditions to the permission including that work must begin within three years.
But despite stating last December that they hoped to conduct a 12-month renovation programme opening in 2020, the pair have not responded to KentOnline's requests for more information about next steps.
Campaign group Reopen The Regent has since questioned why there is no time limit for its completion.
A spokesman said: "We are delighted to hear the news. However, we have to remain cautious as this doesn't actually mean we'll get a cinema any time soon.
"The owners now have three years in which to start work and there's no time limit on completion."
The group has fought to see the iconic seafront building opened and restored to its former use as a cinema after it closed its doors as a bingo hall in 2009.
A spokesman added: "DDC do have the right to serve a completion notice under the Town & Country Planning Act but it's highly unlikely they would do this.
"Having said all that, this is further than things have progressed in the nine years since the property was sold, so warrants some celebration."
The approved plan was the second design the owners put forward since purchasing the freehold of the building in 2011. They described it as the most “viable scheme”.
The first set included two options. Both had residential elements which proved unpopular with readers and ROTR members.
The drawings were put to Dover District Council but were withdrawn in 2014 before it could be discussed by planners.
It has no residential element and includes a 114 cover restaurant and bar plus a flexible third screen to be used for sports events.
Permission also includes the re-landscaping of the public space in front of the Timeball Tower.
Mr Wallace and Mr Digweed must now seek approval from DDC in terms of the materials used and submit both a construction management plan and management plan for the shared plaza.
Cllr Nick Tomaszewksi, who was Mayor of Deal at the time the planning application was submitted, said: "After all the wrangling over the past few years we have finally confirmation the planning application has been approved for the installation of a cinema at the Regent.
"This is great news following the Picture House at the Astor and now this.
"Deal deserves the Regent Cinema to enable a facility to prevent having to go to Westwood, Canterbury or Dover. Despite the nonsensical objections especially 'where to store the broom after sweeping up the popcorn' the owners can now go ahead with their plan and they are on record as stating that a cinema could be up and running within a year."
Read more: All the latest news from Deal