PROPOSALS for a multi-million-pound redevelopment project for a historic Ringwood building have been showcased to members of the public ahead of submitting formal application.

A public consultation to discuss the future of the former Ringwood Regal cinema building (2 Market Place), as well as the surrounding area, was held at the Gateway building in the town centre – less than 50 metres from the proposed site.

Architecture and town planning service Evans & Traves presented residents with computer imagery and blueprints, detailing their plans to transform 2 Market Place, 1-7 Meeting House Lane and 11-13 Meeting House Lane.

Plans would see a mixture of 33 studio, one and two-bedroom flats built as well as ground floor space open for retail usage.

Chartered town planner Carol Evans welcomed residents alongside James Webb of Forum Heritage Services. Mr Webb said: “We’ve been doing the heritage background for the site and have been supporting the Evans & Traves team.

“The historic building of the site is an important driver in terms of the look, feel and scale of the plans and I think that we’ve got the right combination in place.

“We were very conscious to keep the façade of the building’s original outward appearance and that’s the key to how we’ve been driving the scheme.

“2 Market Place is not a listed building, but it is of great local interest in terms of conservation, history and has some protection in that sense. Developers and the local authorities are all in agreement that the integrity of the building should be kept – there’s no question about that.

“Generally, the reaction has been very positive and people are keen to see the reinstatement of the old town hall building to its former glory.”

Mayor of Ringwood Tony Ring also attended the open-door meeting. He said: “I speak, not just on behalf of me, but for the planning committee and say that we more than welcome the thinking that has gone into these design proposals.

“We have had an opportunity to make our feelings known on a couple of issues that we believe should be addressed before final permissions are given and we’ve got a more than adequate response from the designers that they’re taking on board what we, and the public, think.

“There must be commercial considerations but I’m pretty sure I can say that on behalf of the community, though there is the caveat that you can’t please everyone, having this area redeveloped is welcomed and would benefit the town.”

Town historian and Ringwood Society committee member Mary Baldwin said: “I personally love the architect plans for 2 Market Place, however, am maybe not so keen on the plans for 1-7 Meeting House Lane. The large windows don’t fit with the traditional aesthetic as it is a conservation area after all. We’re not against new designs, but to me the 1-7 plans don’t fit in with the surrounding areas.”

Resident Mark Field said: “I think the plans are great. I know a lot of people wanted a cinema or something like that, myself included, but the issue is that it doesn’t seem financially viable. The site has been empty for so long now, I’m just glad to see some serious sounding plans that may change that.”

Sue, an Ashley Heath resident who works in Ringwood, said: “I don’t understand how the old cinema building was even allowed to get into such a wreck and ruin in the first place.

“While I’m happy the building will be renovated, I do think that there needs to be more than just flats. Now that West Street has been shut off, I worry that the high street will die a death. People won’t pass through the area as much so we need to have something retail based on the site in order to drive people into the high street.”

Residents also bridged concerns of car park access for residents who would live in the new developments, about which Carol Evans said that they would discuss with the authorities.

Following the meeting, Mr Webb added: “From now, our plans are to review the feedback that we get at these consultation meetings, make any amendments and then before Christmas we will submit a planning application.”

Planners hope that determination from authorities will be given by the end of 2022.