Bid to list Kettering bingo hall as community asset

The former Kettering bingo hall before it closed. Picture by A Holland.
The former Kettering bingo hall before it closed. Picture by A Holland.

A Kettering bingo hall used to house cannabis worth almost £3m could be given a special community status.

The empty former Gala bingo venue in High Street put Kettering on the map for all the wrong reasons last month after police found a huge drug farm.

The scale of the cannabis factory in June. Picture by David Jackson.

The scale of the cannabis factory in June. Picture by David Jackson.

The venue closed in June last year and had been used as a cannabis factory as recently as February, with unsuspecting shoppers walking past every day.

But after last month's raid made national headlines Alison Holland, from the Kettering Town Centre Partnership, launched a petition to bring the venue back to its glory days and into community use.

She's now applied to list the building as an asset of community value (ACV) - a status which would grant the community the chance to match any potential bidders if it went up for sale.

Alison said: "I want to stress this does not mean we are buying it and it’s not for sale now anyway as far as we know.

The bingo hall when it was Granada in 1973.

The bingo hall when it was Granada in 1973.

"But it does mean that if a community owned organisation or social enterprise wanted to buy it in the next five years, they would have six months to raise the money before it could be sold to any non-community ownership buyer."

The original petition to safeguard the future of the historic building attracted more than 800 signatures.

There have been suggestions that it should be transformed into an independent cinema and multi-use venue.

Alison added: "We had lots of responses and comments on the petition I set up so we know many local people care about this special building.

Cannabis plants covered almost every inch of the bingo hall. Picture by David Jackson.

Cannabis plants covered almost every inch of the bingo hall. Picture by David Jackson.

"By doing all of this it also raises the profile of the building in a good way and shows that many people see the potential.

"It would have to be a viable community-owned business though and be able to generate enough income to sustain itself."

Kettering Council officers are now processing the ACV application and a decision is expected early next month.

Other venues in the borough previously given ACV status include The Fox Inn in Wilbarston and the libraries in Rothwell, Desborough and Burton Latimer.

Kettering Town FC fans twice unsuccessfully attempted to list their former Rockingham Road stadium as an ACV in 2016. It has since been demolished.

When 25 officers raided the bingo hall last month they found about 2,000 mature cannabis plants just weeks away from being harvested.

Covering almost every inch of the venue, the plants had the potential to grow drugs worth £2.8m.

The building opened as the Regal Cinema in 1936 and was Granada from 1948 to 1974, before closing as Gala Bingo in June 2018.

Its Art Deco frontage and original 2,000-seater auditorium is still mainly intact.