PERMISSION to convert an iconic Westbourne cinema building into a gym and offices has been refused.

Last month Currentasset Ltd submitted plans that it said would “revitalise” the Grand and the surrounding area.

But BCP Council has rejected them saying “no convincing argument” had been put forward to justify the redevelopment of the building.

“As it stands the scheme is deemed harmful in terms of prejudice to highway safety and the special interest of the heritage asset,” planning officer Ruth Povey said in a report.

“Further, it has not been evidenced that the loss of the existing use is justified or that it wouldn’t be at detriment to neighbouring residential amenity.”

Built as a cinema in 1922, the building was converted for use as a bingo hall in 1977 continuing to be used as such until it was sold by Simon Bartlam in January 2018.

He said visitor numbers had fallen to about a quarter of their peak and that the business was no longer viable.

Discussions were previously held about the possibility of converting the building into a JD Wetherspoon pub.

Following this it was sold to Currentasset before it submitted its application to convert it into a gym and coffee below office space created on a new mezzanine.

“The building’s vacancy has had a negative effect on the shops and businesses that are integrated within the cinema and wider Westbourne centre," a statement submitted on its behalf said.

“The proposals will contribute positively to the range of services on offer and would enhance the character and environmental quality of the centre.”

But the application has been refused by the council due to concerns about a lack of parking provision and the loss of the community facility

“It is acknowledged that there would be a benefit to swiftly getting this listed former cinema back into use and the building once again having the opportunity to contribute to the function and vitality of the district centre,” the report by Ms Povey added.

“However, in balance there is not a convincing argument that the proposed use is a positive step, bearing in mind the loss of the existing use to the local community and concerns over impacts such as parking and unsympathetic alterations.”