PLANS to regenerate the former Odeon cinema in Westover Road as an arts centre have been welcomed by the public.

Bournemouth Civic Society has been working with design architects Aedas on the scheme and have now released the first visuals of the revamped theatre with its original name, The Regent.

Key features of the scheme include a new roof-top bar and restaurant.

Members of the public have welcomed the scheme, saying how great it is to see a proposal which doesn’t include flats.

The 1929 building was left empty in February after Odeon opened a multiplex at the new BH2 leisure complex.

It was bought by Libra Homes, along with the ABC, for a total of £6.15million.

The developers hope to turn the Odeon building into a mixture of flats and shops, but have so far had two planning applications to demolish the building for 10- and 14-storey tower blocks refused by Bournemouth Council.

James Weir, the society’s heritage and conservation officer, said: “We are developing a scheme which not only respects the historic fabric of this locally listed, but nationally significant, building, but also its purpose – a place of culture and entertainment for Bournemouth.”

“This scheme provides a broad range of amenities with relatively few major structural changes.

“We have already secured an offer of some funding and are now pursuing further sources.”

The plans would see the groundfloor auditorium, remembered by many as ‘Gaumont 2’, continue as a live performance space for small to medium scale theatre, using and updating the existing theatrical facilities.

The upper auditorium, the last surviving purpose-built 1960s Cinerama screen in the UK, would continue to show films with a focus on classic, art-house, independent and world cinema.

Currently there is a legal covenant by Odeon which states that there will be no re-use of the existing site by a cinema operator.

But Mr Weir has said that the society would seek to resolve the covenant issue with Odeon as it is a “limited amount of cinema use proposed”. Retail units are proposed in the space of the former shops either side of the entrance. and space at the rear for commercial space.

And there are plans to turn the old manager’s flat on the top floor into one or two holiday apartments.

The society is currently aiming to raise £25,000 for a viability study.

Julian Middleton, executive director of Aedas, said: “The Regent is uniquely placed. A community-driven project that aligns with the wider cultural aspirations of Bournemouth. The venue is an attractive, and substantial, built resource.”