PLANS to turn a former New Forest cinema into flats are edging closer, while campaigners admit that "not a lot is happening" with their efforts.

Ringwood's old Regal Cinema building, which has stood empty for about 15 years, has been the centre of restoration campaigns and fundraising efforts since 2014.

Campaigning was spurred on by reports that the building was to become the site of luxury flats.

Despite no formal applications being made, the Daily Echo has learnt that there are plans in place for 33 flats as well as ground floor retail/restaurant space to be constructed at the site.

Bournemouth Echo: The former Regal Cinema building stands empty on Ringwood high streetThe former Regal Cinema building stands empty on Ringwood high street

A spokesperson from Evans & Traves LLP, architect and town planner for the proposed redevelopment acting on behalf of developers Brownseabuild, said: “Through our continued discussions with the District Council the scheme has evolved from the description of development that you currently have and now consists of flats, houses and flexible commercial spaces.

“Discussions are ongoing and so the design is still being developed.

“We will be carrying out a public consultation exercise on the September 8 and 9 to gauge the views of the local community on our current direction of travel with the design scheme.”

Details of the public consultation are being finalised.

In 2020, a community interest company was being formed in a bid to buy and restore the 153-year-old building.

Working alongside the Ringwood Regal group, the company received pledges of more than £260,000 from supporters. Initial estimates suggested it would cost the group £2m to acquire the cinema, plus £2.5m to restore the building and a further £500,000 to make it operational.

However, just over a year later, a prominent campaigner has said that campaign efforts suffered from a lack of investment and issues stemming from the pandemic.

At the time, organisers said that all the share money raised would be refunded if the attempt to buy the building failed. Months later in December 2020, shares began to be refunded via a local solicitor’s service.

Chairman of the Ringwood Regal action group Mike Tuck said: “Unfortunately, we haven’t got anywhere near the money we needed. As far as we’re concerned, we’re still anxious to save the cinema but, to be honest, there is not a lot happening.

Bournemouth Echo: Mike Tuck, chairman of Save the Regal Cinema in Ringwood campaignMike Tuck, chairman of Save the Regal Cinema in Ringwood campaign

“If developers do make it into flats, it would be the end for us. They don’t see the cinema being a money maker, and money is of course all they’re interested in.

“We think the people of Ringwood would rather have a theatre and cinema complex. We’d certainly be disappointed, our 600-seat theatre and cinema plans are all drawn up. We know what we want to do but you must be realistic.”

The protected building was constructed in 1868 as a corn exchange. The Regal Cinema opened its doors in 1914 but ceased to be a full-time cinema in 1959, later becoming a live music venue which staged concerts by Status Quo, The Troggs and others.

Its other uses have included a nightclub and a shopping arcade with an Italian restaurant in the basement.