AN arts and events centre will be demolished and turned into a new community centre as part of regeneration plans to refurbish old venues.

Rochford Council plans to flatten the Mill Hall arts and events centre as part of the district’s regeneration plans to update buildings and create new flats.

A council report has revealed the venue, on Bellingham Lane in Rayleigh, will make way for a new community centre.

But fears have been raised if a definite replacement has been lined up.

James Newport, Liberal Democrat councillor for Downhall and Rawreth, questioned if it would go ahead, and said the cinema, lost to the town in 1973, never returned.

He said: “We’ve lost the cinema on the high street before and it was never replaced. I’m sceptical on whether these new facilities will be built.

“What if the costs are too high, will the new facilities not be built?”

The scheme is aimed at “enhancing community facilities while “reducing future costs.”

The Civic Suite in Rayleigh will be re-purposed for flats, and the current council offices on South Street, Rochford, will also be redeveloped for flats.

The council offices will move to the Freight House in Rochford.

Cheryl Roe, deputy leader of Rochford Council, insisted the arts and leisure centre will be replaced, adding: “Mill Hall is dire, it’s not fit for purpose.

“When we knew about the plans, I had pretty frank conversations with officers about making sure residents get what they need.”

At a meeting on Tuesday night, the council agreed to go ahead with a partnership formed with developers gbpartnerships.

Mr Newport added: “They’re moving the council offices out of town.

“They haven’t consulted with residents about this or listed any of the finances behind it. What are they hiding?”

Alastair Gourlay, director at gbpartnerships, said: “We are delighted to be working with Rochford District Council as their development partner.

“Together, we will deliver a lasting legacy for the district and create sustainable change, whilst boosting local employment at a particularly critical time.”

The leader of Rochford Council, Simon Wooton, said: “The project will be a vital lifeline to the Rochford district as we move beyond this pandemic, providing a boost to our economy through much-needed regeneration and employment opportunities, as well as better community facilities for our residents to enjoy in the years to come.

“The next steps will be to formally sign the contract.

“We will then be able to actively engage with our stakeholders, including local residents, businesses and community groups, as the various schemes come forward.”