A CINEMA and theatre could become a reality in Ringwood if a multi-million pound plan for an arts centre gets the green light.

A project group led by Ringwood & District Community Association (Greyfriars) and the Ringwood Musical & Dramatic Society (RMDS) has submitted plans for a £4.5m arts centre, which would replace the dilapidated Greyfriars Activity Centre next to the library and Blynkbonnie car park.

The project, which has been under discussion for two-and-a-half years, would be independently-funded and would have a 250-seat theatre and cinema that doubles as a large community venue able to seat up to 200 people for social functions.

Also included in the plan is a north-facing room, providing the best light for art clubs, rooms for the judo club, a coffee shop, kitchen, a glass foyer and a bar.

Landscaping around the proposed centre would see the current car parking area between Greyfriars and Ringwood Library pedestrianised to form an attractive new “cultural campus” featuring seating areas and planting.

Project group chairman Mike Osborne said the Arts Centre would provide Ringwood with the one community space it has been lacking for years – a venue for large events.

“A town the size of Ringwood deserves a decent building where large groups can get together – be it for a real cinema experience, a proper theatrical or concert production, dinner dances, proms, exhibitions or live broadcasts of big sporting and cultural events,” he said.

“Ringwood already has a number of smaller halls and meeting rooms and these are well used by the community – so well used, in fact, that the project group believes there will no problem filling the smaller rooms that will also be a feature of the new building.”

Mr Osborne added: “There is still the hurdle of planning permission to overcome but the project group believes extensive consultation over the last two years will have satisfied the main concerns of the planning authority.

“Now a formal planning application has been lodged we hope the people of Ringwood will take a look at the proposal and get behind these ambitious plans for a building which can become the focus of the town’s social and cultural activities.”

RMDS chairman Julian Peckham said: “We have spent a lot of time looking at the fine detail of the feasibility of this project and have left no stone unturned to ensure it can be built and run on a secure financial footing.”

Mr Peckham said the project group took advice from experts in the fields of surveying, construction and financial planning of other large and successful buildings and community projects.

Mr Peckham added: “Funding to build the arts centre will come entirely from voluntary donations, from charitable trusts and grants rather than a levy. A financial recession might seem like a difficult time to be raising huge sums of money, but we are confident the cash is out there and it can be done.”

The building has been designed by Ringwood architects Brennan Williams Lester.

A public meeting is being held in the Greyfriars Activities Centre on Thursday, December 13 from 10.30am until 12.45pm and will feature a video presentation of the proposed scheme at 11am. An exhibition of the proposals will be at Greyfriars daily from December 14-21.