Organisers estimate some 1,000-plus people turned out for a demonstration in support of Kent Film Foundation’s bid for the Granville Theatre in Ramsgate.
The demo, held yesterday (March 15) included a ‘wraparound’ of the builsing with those gathered surrounding its perimeter more than once over.
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.
Thanet council says the film foundation can still submit their bid through the Community Right to Bid process.
Kent Film Foundation founder, screenwriter and director Jan Dunn said: “It was an amazing turn out. We think around 1000 or even 1500 people – enough to go around the building again, not just one wraparound of people.
“We felt very humbled and don’t want to let the town down. There is so much to do. This was a part of Ramsgate’s history whatever happens to the building in the end but hopefully it will urge Thanet council to think again when we resubmit.”
County Councillor Karen Constantine, who helped organise the demo, said: “We all want to save The Granville. We saw a stunning turnout which clearly demonstrates how valuable local facilities are to people and the strength of feeling to keep them.
“We can’t keep selling off our valuable social assets. All too often buildings are sold raising a small amount of revenue for TDC, but all too often we then have to watch them rot. That isn’t good enough.
“I want to see TDC making much more effort to engage with and to positively facilitate community groups to ensure we can keep these buildings and return them to public use. TDC need to return to the status quo, they need to slow down the process, allowing enough time for a fresh application by KFF.
“It’s clear that we need proper and fair decision marking and scrutiny processes restoring. Decisions of this type always need to be considered by elected representatives – the councillors – and be solely officer decisions. We need proper and fair processes restoring.
“The fight will continue.”
Cllr Constantine says she has offered to convene a further public meeting on behalf of Kent Film Foundation.
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 almost 5,000 signatures.