The last obstacle to the demolition of a Grade II listed cinema has been removed.

Despite a determined fight from conservation groups, Brighton and Hove City Council’s planning committee voted in favour of knocking down the Astoria in Gloucester Place, Brighton, in September.

Developers were granted approval to replace the 1930s art deco venue – which has been vacant since 1997 – with a media hub.

But before any work could start, the demolition of the historic building needed the sign-off from Communities Secretary Eric Pickles as it was on the listed building register.

The local authority has now confirmed Mr Pickles does not oppose the proposals to tear it down so, providing section 106 planning payments to the local authority can be agreed, work can begin in the coming months.

Last resort

Councillor Phelim MacCafferty, chairman of the council’s planning committee, said: “Now that the government has had the opportunity to review the decision, we will be able to progress the Section 106 agreement and issue the formal decision for the Astoria development.

“We must stress that a decision to demolish a listed building is only ever taken as a last resort.

“The council explored other options with the applicants, but sadly it was not viable to restore the building which is in a poor state and has been empty since 1997.

“This was a view backed up by both English Heritage and the city’s Conservation Advisory Group.”

Owner and businessman Mike Holland was granted approval to build a six-storey office development with space for 170 jobs.

It will also include a café and meetings rooms for community use on the ground floor with a courtyard garden and roof terrace.

Developers said it would have required about £3.5 million to repair the former cinema, which was more recently used as a bingo hall.

Steve Peake, who put forward rival plans to convert the building into a community venture, said: “If it’s going to be sat vacant for a few years, then that’s time we could have used to draw up our plans to redevelop it.”

Squatters Peter Crowhurst, of the North Laine Community Association, said: “We approved of the development as we did not feel as if there was a viable alternative.

“While it remains empty there is always a danger of it being squatted and we would much rather a site be in use with good architecture.”

The Argus tried to contact Mr Holland yesterday but did not receive a response.

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