A public gathering will be held outside the Granville Theatre in Ramsgate on Tuesday (March 15) as a show of support for a community takeover bid by the Kent Film Foundation.
People are invited to join the show of support from 4.30pm.
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 was rejected as not meeting the relevant criteria and the site is now being advertised on the open market – although Thanet council says the foundation has time to resubmit a proposal.
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.
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.
However, Thanet council says the film foundation can still submit their bid through the Community Right to Bid process.
Cllr Ash Ashbee, Leader and Cllr Reece Pugh, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economic Development in a joint statement said: ”Firstly, we would like to thank the Kent Film Foundation for their submission as part of the council’s Community Asset Transfer process for the Granville Theatre building in Ramsgate. Following a thorough evaluation, despite the projected plans for the site, the bid was found not to meet the council’s required criteria as part of the Community Asset Transfer process.
“The council has a duty to all its residents to ensure that any community group looking to take on a public building can fully demonstrate that it can do so. This includes a full business case with confirmation of funds as well as the financial and skills capability to ensure that the project will succeed and have a long term future to benefit all of the wider community.
“These processes exist both to protect those looking to take on a building for the future with the associated maintenance and running costs. As a council we have a governance duty to ensure we achieve best value, both financial and social, for a public asset that would otherwise be sold.
“We recognise that the Granville Theatre is a location that holds fond memories for many local people. It is really encouraging to see the huge amount of positive local support for the project and for an asset that we all want to secure a positive future for.
“Although the submission for a Community Asset Transfer was unsuccessful, the Kent Film Foundation does still have the option to submit their interest in the building via our Community Right to Bid process, until Wednesday 20 April 2022.”
Eastcliff’s Labour ward councillors Steve Albon, Helen Crittenden and Corinna Huxley say they have attended a number of meetings this week to try to secure a positive future for Ramsgate’s Granville Theatre that reflects the wishes of the local and wider community.
These included a public meeting at the Churchill Tavern on Monday, organised by Ramsgate Labour county councillor Karen Constantine, a private meeting on Tuesday with bidders Kent Film Foundation to gather information and offer advice, and a meeting on Friday with council officers and cabinet member Cllr Reece Pugh.
The ward councillors asked Cabinet to review the process followed and provide a further opportunity for Kent Film Foundation to elaborate their case and for any decision to be made in an open and transparent way so that the public can understand the issues and hear both sides of the story.
Cllr Huxley said: “We made very clear to the cabinet member the extent of public concern about the future of the Granville Theatre.
“We hoped this would lead to a constructive dialogue and further consideration of the Kent Film Foundation proposal as a community asset transfer before any final decision was taken, so it is very disappointing that hours later the council appears to be saying that it will proceed to offer the building on the open market.
“Any decision on the disposal of the Granville Theatre needs to be taken by Cabinet at a meeting open to the public. We still hope that will be the case.”
Community Right to Bid
Further offers for the site can be made under the Community Right to Bid, until the end of the moratorium period on Wednesday 20 April. The premises are being advertised on the open market and any offers received will be assessed at the end of the moratorium period.
Interested parties can find out more about the Community Right To Bid process on the council website: www.thanet.gov.uk/community-right-to-challenge-and-bid
A petition set up by artist Karen Vost urging Thanet council to reconsider is gaining traction with more than 4,550 signatures.