A Gofundme page has been set up by the Kent Film Foundation in its continued bid to take over the Granville Theatre in Ramsgate.
In October Thanet council invited expressions of interest from eligible community groups to become the new owners the 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 and expressions of interest from community groups were invited.
But the submission from Kent Film Foundation was rejected as not meeting the relevant criteria and the site is now due to be advertised on the open market – although Thanet council says the foundation has time to submit a right to bid proposal.
The foundation is now raising funds to allow it to bid for the building if it goes to public auction.
At a council meeting last Thursday (March 31) Cabinet Member for Economic Development Cllr Reece Pugh said: “The KFF submission did not provide adequate designs or costings for refurbishment of the building and lacked proof of funding and a realistic business plan.
“Commercial property agents will shortly be offering the building on the open market.”
He added that KFF would have the opportunity to bid alongside commercial organisations.
The film foundation hopes 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 Sandcastle.
Plans include workshop space to continue with youth film clubs and to create a new youth theatre and youth orchestra in partnership with Pie Factory music and the inclusion of 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.
Kent Film Foundation founder, screenwriter and director Jan Dunn said: “We will still be resubmitting our full business plan at the Community Right to Bid deadline of April 20 as we were invited to by TDC and we are looking for Angel investors.
“There is no legal reason why TDC cannot change their minds about the Community Asset Transfer application and we are still trying to find out how our amazing team and plans for the building with partner stakeholders like the other organisations involved, came to be scored so low by those reviewing our bid.
“It seems to come down to hard cash up front.
“We need a building through a Community Asset Transfer so that it opens up the ability to raise the funds once we have it. Any reserve funds that community groups have are obviously going to be restricted due to specific rules around that funding. I guess TDC know that and so I am not sure they are really looking for a community group to take on the building. But KFF are determined to do their best to raise as much as is possible in just a few weeks before the deadline.”
At the council meeting questions about the future of the Granville – as well as other venues including the West Cliff Hall, Theatre Royal and Winter Gardens – were put forward by councillors including Tricia Austin (Green) and Helen Crittenden (Lab).
Cllr Austin pointed out that the Granville Theatre features in the Ramsgate Future plan as an entertainment venue and asked for Cabinet members commitment that it would remain as a venue and not be put forward for development.
Cllr Pugh replied: “We as a Cabinet are committed to ensuring the best possible future for the Granville Theatre as a building.”
Cllr Crittenden, who has been working with KFF, asked for assurance that the site would not “end up as flats or a supermarket.”
Cllr Pugh said a stipulation that the site could not be used for residential purposes could be included within the sale. He lso revealed that a survey in 2017 had identified some £152,000 would be required for internal works and, in addition, another £250,000 would be needed for roof repairs.
The Kent Film Foundation will have representatives at the Granville site on Sunday, April 10 during the afternoon to explain the plans for the building to anyone who chooses to visit.
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. 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 has gained more than 5,000 signatures while some 1,500 people turned out for a public demonstration at the theatre site last month.