Plans by CNM Estates to renovate the old Gala bingo hall have been unanimously approved by councillors.

The vote, at last night's development control meeting, followed long months of negotiations between the developers, Kingston Council officers and groups including English Heritage.

Once refurbished, the iconic Richmond Road building will boast new flats, offices, a cinema, restaurant and a dance studio.

The parties will now work on the fine details of the design.

CNM Estates chairman Wahid Samady said after the vote: "We now look forward to the next step of delivering it.

"Naturally with buildings of this complexity there has to be detailed design.

"[We will] continue to consult with English Heritage and various other bodies, whose input has been valuable."

But theatre consultant Roger Fox, who objected to the plans alongside the Cinema Theatres Association (CTA), raised concerns about the viability of the proposed restaurant and other plans.

He said: "There is a fair chance that they will be white elephants."

And Peter Wild, of the CTA, said: "It is entirely possible to restore and use this cinema as a single space."

By contrast, councillors were glad something was finally being done with the former Regal cinema.

Councillor Vicki Harris said: "Nothing has been done with it for far too long.

"It is very important to me as I've been in Kingston all my life, and it has fond memories for me."

Coun Hugh Scantlebury said: "It's a carbuncle at the moment. It was vandalised by the previous owner.

"I think it's time that the building was brought back into some viability."