A FORMER art deco cinema is to accommodate one of the region’s largest soft play facilities - together with a theatre and restaurant.

The Majestic, an iconic 1930s building in Darlington will reopen this summer following an extensive refurbishment and restoration.

After much speculation, plans for the future of the former art deco cinema have now been unveiled.

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The ground floor of the much-loved Bondgate venue will accommodate Bing Bong Soft Play, which will boast one of the largest soft play structures in the North-East.

There are also plans to pay homage to the building’s past by transforming the upper floors into a live performance theatre and restaurant by 2015.

Project director Sharon Branch confirmed that the building had been initially purchased in order to house the soft play facility.

Plans to extend the project to incorporate a live entertainment venue came about following public interest and further research into the building’s history, according to Ms Branch.

Keen to stress the tasteful nature of the development, she said: “The project came about after talking to friends about a lack of soft play facilities in the town centre.

“A lot of families don’t have cars and there was a need for a town centre location.

“The size of this building is ideal as it gives us the space and ceiling height we need.”

She added: “The soft play is a private business venture at the end of the day but when we saw the historic value and potential of the building and the feeling from local people, we started looking at what else we could do.

“We are tastefully restoring the building, not just ripping everything out of it and the development will be in keeping with the building.

“While this is not a community venture, we do want to consider what local people are saying and will try to keep the history that is there.”

Ms Branch said a “considerable” investment meant that plans to create the upstairs theatre did not depend on the success of the soft play.

The plans have been met with support from members of ‘The Majestic, the future’ Facebook group, which has followed the project since work began.

Member Leanne Round said: “That’s great news for the town, it’s lovely to see some development in the town for children and adults alike.”

Paul Freeman said: “This is fantastic news and of huge benefit to both the town and the local community.”