One of the town’s first cinemas labelled “the ugliest building in the town centre” by a councillor will be demolished to make way for new homes, a gym, shop and offices.
The building, on the corner of New Road and Garrick Street, was once the Regal Cinema and then the Gala Bingo hall. It is now home to NRG Gym.
A proposal was approved, subject to conditions, by councillors on Wednesday and will see the building replaced by a six-storey block with homes, a gym, shop, office space and communal roof garden built on the first floor.
The scheme will also include an area for public space on the corner between Garrick Street and Barrack Row.
Outline planning permission for the development, which will create 30 full-time jobs, was given the green light at a Gravesham council planning meeting.
Among the issues discussed by councillors was the impact it could have on the surrounding area and its social housing provision.
Speaking to the chamber Cllr Lee Croxton (Lab) said: “I think this is one of the ugliest, if not the ugliest building in the town centre. Anything would be an improvement.”
On the application, he said: “I think there are some very positive benefits. I wasn’t too clear about the open space that’s been created and I think we have to be very careful in what we want to do with there.”
According to council documents, developer DaVinci Properties wants to transform the site and create 20 homes – 10 one-bedroom and 10 two-bedroom with six set aside for social housing.
The council’s social housing requirement for developments is usually 30% but can often fluctuate depending on how quickly the borough needs new housing.
The building has had a varied past. It first opened as the Gem Picture Theatre in 1914 and was renamed the Regal in 1934. Its capacity grew to 1,260 before closing. It closed in 1968 to become a bingo hall and NRG opened in 2013.
David Marks from DaVinci said the new and gym would provide a better service to the community, but the work on the development would leave NRG closed for some time.
He said: “We believe it will be 12-18months until it will be opened up. It will have to go away but they [NRG] are aware of that and are quite happy with that. They will get a much better purpose designed area.
“This is not a situation with us a removing a valuable business.”
There was no word on where NRG members and customers will go in the mean-time.