Kettering bingo hall given special community status

The former bingo hall. Credit: A Holland
The former bingo hall. Credit: A Holland

The community will have the chance to match any offers for Kettering's former Gala bingo hall after it was listed as a valuable asset.

The empty High Street venue made headlines for the wrong reasons in June when police found a cannabis farm worth almost £3m.

The scale of the cannabis factory found there in June. Credit: David Jackson

The scale of the cannabis factory found there in June. Credit: David Jackson

That spurred a petition to bring it back to its glory days by Alison Holland, from the Kettering Town Centre Partnership, who later applied for it to be listed as an asset of community value (ACV).

And that application has since been accepted by Kettering Council. The status grants the community the chance to match any potential bidders if it went up for sale.

Alison said: "I'm thrilled the application I made on behalf of the Kettering Town Centre Partnership has been successful and the bingo hall has been formally recognised as being of great potential community value to the people of the town and surrounding area.

"We know many people in this town care about the building and would like to see it become a central hub for activities which could benefit the whole community and help Kettering to thrive."

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.

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 said: "Unfortunately we cannot buy it now as we don't have the money and it's not for sale anyway.

"But what this does mean is we are paving the way for a community-owned not-for-profit organisation to be able to step in and have a head start with time to raise the finance to purchase it, if it comes on the market.

"To succeed it would need to be able to generate its own income to make it viable and would need the support and involvement of many people."

When 25 officers raided the bingo hall in June 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.

Kettering Town Centre Partnership chairman Simon Cox added: “We are delighted that Kettering Council have recognised that the site formerly known as the Gala bingo hall in Kettering High Street has been listed as an asset of community value.”

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.