A DESIGNER is calling on Oswestry residents and council chiefs to give their backing to a new £500,000 performance venue in the town.
Craig Marston, owner of Ke-design in Salop Road, has urged the council to support The Regal Project Group in their plans to convert the former Regal Cinema into a multi-purpose theatre, arts and performance venue claiming it could kick start revitalisation of the town.
Mr Marston, who has worked on urban regeneration projects in Leeds, London and Hong Kong, said the Leg Street venue could be just what Oswestry needs.
“The Regal Project is a fantastic idea,” he said.
“Oswestry is in need of urban regeneration and a project like this would help kick start the revitalisation.
“The Government recognises cultural centres are important hubs of social interaction as well as providers of local jobs, and town centres should be a destination for socialising, culture, health, wellbeing, creativity and learning,” he added.
As the second biggest town in Shropshire, he believes Oswestry is missing out on facilities like this which contribute to the economy at a time when the town’s nightlife is continuing to decline with residents travelling to smaller towns in the county for “cultured entertainment”, taking their money with them.
The 39-year-old, who moved back to his home town of Oswestry four years ago to set up an architectural design studio, said the town is in need of investment to make it a more attractive place to live and to attract businesses and entertainment for residents and tourists.
He added: “The former Regal Cinema is a landmark building in the town and it’s possibly the only building in Oswestry that can lend itself to accommodate a cultural centre in a perfect location in the town centre with a car park adjacent.
“Local restaurants and bars will benefit and not just at night-time – the general economy would benefit with Saturday matinee performances and screenings as well as workshops in the week,” he predicted
The building closed in 1994 and is currently leased to the YMCA as a charity shop.
l Hope Church, in Laburnum Drive, is also interested in turning the former cinema into a 300-seater auditorium for meetings.
Mr Marston suggested Oswestry Town Council buy the building with the “windfall from the sale of the Smithfield” before deciding on the best proposal which would most benefit the town’s economy, “rather than leave it to who purchases it to decide on Oswestry’s fate”.
“It would be a shame should Oswestry miss out on an opportunity for the community and all of its residents,” he concluded.