Site: Westgate Hall
Type: Former Drill Hall
Owner: Canterbury City Council
Current Manager: Westgate Community Trust
Westgate Community Trust worked closely with Canterbury City Council to save the former drill hall from demolition and restore it to a community centre. A sub-lease was agreed between the council, the trust and Curzon Cinemas, which agreed allowed part of the site to be converted into an art house cinema. Westgate Hall and the adjoining Curzon cinema opened in October 2014.
Westgate Hall was built in 1913 by public subscription to function as a drill hall for the Territorial Army. In 1968, ownership of Westgate Hall transferred to Canterbury Council and it became a venue for conferences and community events. By 2010, the hall was in need of refurbishment and the council voted to demolish it to create space for a car park.
The council vote sparked outrage within the local community, which was presented on social media websites. The creation of the 'Save the Westgate Hall, Canterbury' Facebook page, which attracted over 1,000 followers, led to the formation of the Westgate Community Trust, a group of members of the public determined to save the hall from demolition and ensure that it would continued to be used as a community resource.
The trust approached Canterbury City Council and produced a preliminary business plan that persuaded the council to maintain the building until mid-2011. In July 2011, the council awarded the trust a 99-year lease for it to reopen Westgate Hall to the public as a financially viable community and leisure centre.
A sub-lease was agreed between the council, Westgate Community Trust and Curzon Cinemas and signed in 2014. In exchange for funding to cover the cost of refurbishing the drill hall, the trust agreed to sub-let the adjoining two-storey structure to Curzon Cinemas for conversion into a boutique cinema.
In February 2014, the Department for Communities and Local Government awarded Westgate Community Trust a £344,397 grant from the Community Assets fund. This grant, along with a busy fundraising programme organised by the trust and sponsorship from local businesses and residents, funded the refurbishment of Westgate Hall. The hall reopened to the public as a community cultural centre, along with the Curzon cinema, in October 2014.