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Old Regal may face bulldozer

PUBLISHED: 08:45 27 November 2008 | UPDATED: 14:36 30 January 2013

WYMONDHAM'S former Regal Cinema, where in recent years nostalgic film shows have attracted leading movie stars, may be demolished because it is reaching the end of its life.

WYMONDHAM'S former Regal Cinema, where in recent years nostalgic film shows have attracted leading movie stars, may be demolished because it is reaching the end of its life.

The town's Ex-Services Club, which now owns and operates the building, is faced with a real dilemma.

Surveys have shown that the premises, which dates from the late 1930s, are in need of major repairs. But the cost of refurbishment is estimated at between £600,000-£700,000, which is effectively ruled out because the club does not have that sort of cash - and as a commercial enterprise it would not be eligible for grants from the lottery or charitable funding bodies.

The other alternatives are to demolish the existing building at Friarscroft Lane and put up a replacement, which would still cost in excess of £500,000, or to look into the possibility of selling the site for redevelopment, and relocating - a proposal that club members have endorsed.

Wymondham Ex-Services Club treasurer, Peter Birch, said: “We don't want to move in reality, but what other option have we got? We are not a registered charity so we have no means to get money from the lottery.”

“What we have been told from survey reports is that the function room, which is the old cinema, and the club room are reaching the end of their life. The cinema was built in 1937 or '38 with a lifespan of around 25 years. It looks brilliant from the inside, but if you look at the structure it is a Dutch barn bricked around with a single-skin wall. The building doesn't meet modern standards and is beginning to deteriorate.

“It's not going to fall down tomorrow, but we ought to provide an exit strategy. You can't sit there and do nothing.”

The function room is still used for film shows by the Wymondham Regal Experience Group which has attracted top names in the industry including Virginia McKenna, June Whitfield, Rita Tushingham, Shirley Anne Field, and Fred Astaire's daughter Ava.

Mr Birch stressed that no firm decision has yet been made to sell the site or to relocate.

“It is not set in stone. There might be a fairy godfather or a developer come along and say 'We'll build you a nice little place at the front and we'll take the back',” he added.

He said the club has about 500 members and does not make a large profit. Taking out a commercial loan to refurbish the existing building, or pay for a replacement, was not a viable solution.

“No-one is going to lend those sort of sums on our turnover. We are stuck in the middle of a residential area, and don't really fit in, and the members support the committee decision to investigate the possibility of relocating. We have basically got to go ahead and do whatever is necessary.”

Money raised from a potential sale would be used to fund new premises.

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