Time is running out for campaign to save cinema

Delays in agreeing the future of Bexhill’s last remaining cinema are leaving local campaigners feeling increasing frustration over apparent lack of progress.

Weeks have passed since the members of Bexhill Community Playhouse met with representatives of the owner Ormiston Trust to look over the building in Western Road.

The Ormiston Trust told the Observer it received an offer of £390,000 from the supporters but also higher one from a third party; it proposed to give a £75,000 grant to Bexhill Community Playhouse as a potential way forward.

However the group is still waiting for the exact detail and chairman Tony Carr worries this hold-up could mean losing the £500,000 grant it is relying on to buy the building and carry out repair.

He said: “If for whatever reason we are not able to spend the grant-funding before the expiration of the current tax year the grant offer is to be deemed withdrawn, and the monies allocated for the purchase of the cinema will revert to Central Government.

“As time goes by with nothing actually happening, the prospects of us being able to save the cinema for the town will become increasingly remote, and that is a very sad prospect bearing in mind the time we have spent trying to persuade Ormiston Trust to sell its rapidly deteriorating derelict building to us.

I would just mention that Ormiston Trust did receive a copy of our architects’ plans for the revamped Playhouse, and are completely aware of what it and the community activities based there are capable of bringing to the town.

It would be nice to think that our dream can yet become reality. Indeed, our group has worked extremely hard over the last couple of years, in the course of which we have notched up: Rother’s first successful nomination of an asset of community value, the first successful such nomination of a cinema site anywhere in the country, and a successful application for grant-funding that ought to have been well sufficient for a successful right to bid under the Localism Act 2011.

On the path to whatever the outcome we have secured an incredible amount of support from Central Government, Rother District Council, Locality, the British Film Institute, The Theatres Trust and very many of the residents of Bexhill and surrounding areas. It will be an immense shame if all that effort and support counts for nothing in the final analysis.”