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Kent councillors reject petition to turn former Odeon into theatre

Aerial view of Ashford in Kent. Photo: Shutterstock
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Councillors have rejected a petition with more than 3,000 signatures to turn a former Odeon cinema in Ashford into a theatre.

However, the leader of the council said a theatre could be built elsewhere in the Kent town within the next five years.

The petition from residents on Change.org called on the council to “rescue part of Ashford’s history, and to give the people of Ashford something they really want” by reopening the former cinema as a theatre. It was most recently used as a Mecca bingo hall.

It stated: “As it stands, Ashford has nothing unique that sets it apart. Every major shop we have can be found in every town in the country.

“A new cinema is still just a cinema, and we already have one of those. A theatre provides unique performances every evening, from staged plays to stand-up performances, something already available in nearly every other town in Kent apart from Ashford.”

The petition was debated at a council meeting and rejected, with five votes backing it and 29 against.

Opposing councillors argued that renovating the old cinema would be too expensive.

However, according to minutes from the meeting, council leader Gerry Clarkson said viability for a theatre in the town was growing and “while a theatre in Ashford would not come tomorrow, it would come in the next four or five years”.

Clarkson also said that while a recent consultation by consultancy firm Fourth Street had discussed the possibility of a 350-400 seat venue, he wished to see “a minimum of a 750-seat facility for Ashford’s growing international town – a modern complex incorporating theatre, conferences, a gallery and a museum.”

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