Wetherspoon “delighted” to buy old Bexhill cinema

Hopes to revive Bexhill’s last remaining cinema were destroyed this week with the announcement the property in Western Road has been sold to a pub chain.

J.D Wetherspoon has exchanged and completion is set for December 1.

It’s understood the company is buying the premises and also the building next door.

This is a huge disappointment to campaigners who fought hard to purchase the cinema this year and were hopeful when their offer of £390,000 was initially accepted by the owner, the Ormiston Trust, which is a children’s charity.

However when the price later went up, the Bexhill Community Playhouse group struggled to raise more funds, managing to get £500,000 in place, but was then unable to find enough to cover the VAT required.

The group also went past deadline for its Social Investment Business grant and blamed the Ormiston Trust for delays in negotiations - claims which the charity described as “absurd”.

Last week the Ormiston Trust admitted to the Observer it had entered into negotiations with a third party but there has been no definite announcement until this week that the building was being sold to Wetherspoon.

Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon told the Observer: “ We are delighted to have exchanged on the former cinema in Western Road.

We have been keen to have a pub in Bexhill-on-Sea for a number of years and are delighted that we are now a step closer to this happening.

Wetherspoon has developed a number of its pubs on the site of former cinemas.

We have an excellent reputation for the quality of our pubs and the manner in which they are run.

We believe that a Wetherspoon pub will add to the social scene in the town and hopefully act as a catalyst for other businesses to invest in the area.”

The pub will still need planning and licensing permission but the news has been greeted with some enthusiasm by Bexhill residents who are glad to think of the derelict building being used. It was opened in 1921 but has now been empty since March 2008.

Bexhill Community Playhouse’s David Royston-Lee expressed disappointment but said: “Hopefully this will not discourage other people from getting involved with community projects, if after three years of hard work it comes to this point. I would not want to think that would happen.”