Historic South Shields cinema would join ranks of Customs House and Souter Lighthouse if campaigners get their way

An historic cinema could join the likes of Souter Lighthouse, the Customs House theatre and Jarrow Town Hall if a decision to call in the bulldozers can be reversed.
The former Mecca Bingo. Picture taken in 2016The former Mecca Bingo. Picture taken in 2016
The former Mecca Bingo. Picture taken in 2016

The three are among several heritage assets in South Tyneside which have been regenerated for public use in recent years.

And now campaigners hope the former Regent Cinema and Mecca Bingo Hall, in Dean Road, South Shields, could be the latest to join them – if it can secure protected status.

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“There’s good examples in the borough,” said Sean Wilson, a former pupil at St Wilfrid’s Roman Catholic College, who started a petition to save the building.

“If we had more of a heritage-led approach to development I think, with a bit of proactive marketing, the funding may well be there to attract interest.”

The original cinema opened in 1935 with a screening of Leslie Howard’s The Scarlet Pimpernel and survived bombing during WWII.

It was later closed and converted to a bingo hall in 1966.

The building was designed by Cecil Clavering, an architect born in Sunderland who specialised in cinemas.

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Planning chiefs approved plans for it to be converted into 37 flats with space for shops and a cafe three years ago, but work never started and permission for the work is due to lapse later this year.

In April, South Tyneside Council (STC) approved an application to flatten the site for ‘future re-development’.

A previous attempt by Wilson to secure the building’s future failed after it was refused listed status by Historic England.

But, after submitting a petition of more than 350 signatures to STC, he hopes it will be considered for inclusion on the ‘local list’ of significant sites and buildings.

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Wilson, a former planning officer at STC, accepts his campaign has divided opinions, with some happy to see the former cinema demolished

But he also hopes to avoid the fate of other notable sites, such as the former Congregational Church, in Ocean Road, which sat empty years after being demolished.

He added: “It’s not anti-development, it’s about making the best use of [the heritage] you’ve got and making something viable.”

The petition remains open for signatures – visit www.change.org/SaveTheRegent to find out more.

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