Multi-million pound plans to redevelop Ashford town centre are being held up as the local council has been forced to wait for a decision on whether or not the former Mecca Bingo site is to be given Grade II-listed status.
Plans were revealed in August last year to demolish the ex-bingo hall and cinema in the Kent town to pave the way for homes, a pedestrian route as well as a number of bars and restaurants. At the time, around 3,000 signed a petition to turn the site, known locally as Odeon Square, into a theatre. However, in February this year after lengthy consultations with various architects plans to turn the former Mecca Bingo building and town centre car park into a multi-million pound leisure complex were revealed.
With a seeming compromise reached to retain the entrance to building dating back to the 1930s, a decision on the application is yet to be made, leaving a massive question mark over the redevelopment plans for Ashford Borough Council who paid £1.8m to Mecca Bingo when it bought the site after Rank Group Plc put the former cinema on the market at the end of 2017.
Should the art deco building be listed, it would become protected and the council will be forced to rethink the whole scheme. having now completed its site visit and three-week consultation, Historic England is yet to submit its recommendation to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), who normally agree with Historic England's recommendations, will give the verdict on whether to award the building Grade II-listed status.
Ashford Borough Council's deputy leader Councillor said:
“We can’t make any decision about what will happen until we know Historic England’s result – we are completely in limbo,” Cllr Bartlett said.
“The fact that we have a budget for the demolition and wider redevelopment of the site actually becomes irrelevant.
“If it is listed, then the whole plan and budget will have to be redone as you can’t demolish a listed building.”