Future of Granville Theatre in Ramsgate due to be decided

Granville theatre and cinema Photo Frank Leppard

The future of Ramsgate’s Granville Theatre will be discussed by Thanet councillors next week with options to transfer the site as a community asset; get in a new operator on a new lease or sell it on the open market.

The council owns the freehold of the building, which is also used as a cinema but the site has been closed since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March last year.

The Granville is the town’s only multi-purpose entertainment venue. It takes its name from The Granville Hotel. The building was leased from Thanet District Council by Granville Theatre Ltd, made up of local shareholders who invested money to keep the venue going.

The group of more than 30 members, who raised some £135,000, was founded by residents including Ralph Hoult -who leads Starlite Entertainers – and Philip Shaw who was also the general manager.

The theatre’s patron is actress Brenda Blethyn. The building was listed as an asset of community value in 2019.

A report to Thanet council Cabinet members about the two screen cinema/theatre building, which was built circa 1947, was let in 1998 on a 20-year full repairing and insuring lease at a rent of £10,000 pa which expired in 2017.

Since then the tenant held over under the security of tenure provisions of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1954. The original rent was set on the basis that the tenants refurbished the building to create two auditoria at a cost of approximately £160K. The tenant also received grant aid from council, which covered rent for the first 5 years but other repairs to the building were left unfinished.

The lease was subsequently assigned to Granville Theatre Ltd (GTL).

Some £300k worth of repairs are currently needed on the building including a replacement roof  Thanet council took formal possession of the building in June.

The report to councillors says the property and land has been fully appraised and is considered suitable for disposal via freehold transfer or lease.

Cabinet members will be asked to approve either:

  •  A Community Asset Transfer with restrictive covenants to allow for public use in perpetuity retaining the main use as cinema/theatre and arts and cultural events. Community Groups applying will need to provide evidence of existing funds in excess of £300,000 to ensure the necessary works for the building are carried out. If a viable arts and cultural community bid is not received within 6 weeks, then a further marking period of 6 weeks will allow all other qualifying community groups to be considered. If the combined 12 weeks of marketing fail to deliver a viable bid, then the theatre will go up for sale on the open market.
  • Option 2 would be to secure a new lease and operator for the building although significant funding would be required to repair and refurbish the property to make it compliant.
  • Option 3 would be for an open market disposal. As the property is listed as an asset of community value the disposal will have to allow for a potential 6 months moratorium period.

Ramsgate charity Kent Film Foundation is hoping to take on the building and create a stunning new centre which will include workshop space, cinema, theatre, a bee-friendly roof terrace, the town’s first organic restaurant – and a new name.

The foundation has been in active pursuit of the building since registering interest in it as a Community Asset Transfer in spring 2017 after losing their bid for the old Ice House.

The Granville Theatre future will be discussed at the Cabinet members meeting on July 29.

Kent Film Foundation reveals ambitious ‘green’ proposals for Granville Theatre building