Some 1,600 have signed a petition in less than 24 hours urging Thanet council to reconsider its rejection of a bid by Ramsgate charity Kent Film Foundation to take on the Granville Cinema building.
The foundation had hoped to create a new centre with workshop space, cinema, theatre, a bee-friendly roof terrace, the town’s first organic restaurant – and a new name.
The foundation had 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 foundation’s plans included workshop space to continue with youth film clubs and to create a new youth theatre and youth orchestra in partnership with Pie Factory music.
There would also have been two cinema screens and new theatre space.
The plans for construction of the building were for a “Green Build” design, with a bee-friendly roof terrace opened up to the public and a small cinema kiosk/café.
In October Thanet council invited expressions of interest from eligible community groups to become the new owners of Ramsgate’s Granville Theatre.
The council owns the freehold of the Granville but the site has been closed since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020.
The property is an Asset of Community Value, which means any disposal of the building must be carried out in accordance with rules set out in the Localism Act 2011.
But the submission from Kent Film Foundation, understood to have been the only bid, has been rejected and the site may now be put on the open market.
Exasperated residents have signed a petition launched by Thanet artist Karen Vost urging the council to reverse the decision.
The submission has been backed by a number of local groups and individuals including town mayor Cllr Raushan Ara.
She said: “I was delighted to support Kent Film Foundations’ (KFF) application for the development of the Granville Theatre site. This should be held as a community asset, and the proposal that was submitted by KFF, was to create a community hub, as well as a cinema, which our community may use and enjoy.
“By putting it on the open market, outside investors may come and buy the property, and then either landbank it, or turn it into something that will be of no use to the community.
“I strongly urge TDC to look at the proposals again and reconsider their application. I would also propose an urgent investigation within the decision makers, as to why the application received such a low score.”
The call to reconsider the bid is also backed by Gemma Dempsey, Producer of The Festival of Sound and co-founder of Ramsgate Through the Senses.
She said: “As producers of the Ramsgate Festival of Sound we are constantly searching for venues for our performers and practitioners. As our festival has grown so have our needs and The Sandcastle would have allowed us to plan ahead for bigger shows with full facilities, bringing more local spend into the area and providing employment and commissions for locals and artists alike.
“This inexplicable rejection by TDC means that the people of Ramsgate are being deprived of a place for all age groups to be entertained as well as a place of education and inspiration. As one of the two people on the call with TDC months back (and there to support the Sandcastle proposal) I’m convinced that there have been little or no other bids for this property.
“How will Ramsgate ever prosper when opportunities that serve the community in so many positive ways are quashed without valid reason?”
Sylvie Bolioli, of Ramsgate International Film & TV Festival, added: “The Granville Cinema is the only remaining cinema in Ramsgate. The other three have all been destroyed, including a beautiful Art Deco building.
“Kent Film Foundation is a charity with years of experience in the film industry and in fund raising.
“Jan Dunn, at the helm of the Foundation, put a proposal forward including architectural conceptual designs of what the building could look like once fully refurbished, as well as a fully researched business plan. The project has the backing of the whole community as it includes necessary space for local organisations to carry out their community activities, as well as two screening rooms and a restaurant.
“Ramsgate Mayor and Councillors are backing it. No one else has a commercially viable plan as good the Kent Film Foundation.
“Thanet District Council had declared the Granville Cinema a Community Asset two years ago. However they now refuse to do an asset transfer because they rather make a quick buck by putting the building on the open market.
“As the Founder of the Ramsgate International Film & TV Festival, I’m adding my voice to assert the need for a cinema in Ramsgate. And the Kent Film Foundation’s proposal is the only organisation with the means to save it.”
Thanet council has said it provides feedback on each application and encourages Kent Film Foundation to re-apply. Applications are open until Wednesday, April 20,
A Thanet District Council spokesperson said: “We issued a Notice of Intention to Dispose of an Asset of Community Value for the Granville Theatre, Victoria Parade, Ramsgate, on 20 October 2021, as well as an invitation to submit a request for a Community Asset Transfer (CAT).
“We have now completed the Community Asset Transfer evaluation process of the business plan proposal and evidence submitted by the Kent Film Foundation and have confirmed that their current offer was not successful.
“Further offers can be made under the Community Right to Bid until the expiration of the full moratorium period on Wednesday 20 April 2022. We will now commence marketing the premises on the open market and any offers received will be assessed at the end of the moratorium period.”