A DECISION to close Wallingford's Regal Centre for the foreseeable future has shocked community groups using it and left them looking for new homes.

On Monday town councillors decided the building, a former cinema dating back to 1934, should be closed.

In June the town's popular annual blues and beer festival had to be cancelled due to safety fears over faulty fire doors at the centre, which have not yet been replaced, and councillors decide to close the building as costs of repairs escalated.

Town councillor Lee Upcraft said the decision to close the centre off St Martin's Street was not taken lightly.

He said: "We are conscious it is a much-loved community facility and we have already found new homes for some community groups."

Mr Upcraft added that town councillors expected to meet next week to consider the building's long-term future.

Wendy Tobitt, organiser of Wallingford Local Producers Market, said the decision has had a 'catastrophic' effect on the market, which runs on Saturdays.

She said: "This Saturday we are trading in the Market Place, and next Saturday, our 10th birthday, we would have been in the Regal, but currently we’re homeless

"After 10 years of trading successfully in Wallingford the only market selling locally-produced food, organic vegetables and beautiful crafts is suddenly without anywhere to trade indoors.

"We need to find somewhere new and a lot of other groups are in the same position."

Tony Quinn and wife Lucy Quinn, from Wallingford, said about 40 regulars at the town's table tennis club have been left without a base after 37 years at the Regal Centre.

She said: "We are totally shocked – we played there on Monday and then got a phone call from the town council the next day saying the centre was closing for safety reasons.

"We hope we will be able to go back to the Regal Centre and lots of other groups will be thinking the same."

Mr Upcraft added that the building, which council acquired in 1975, was in need of 'serious remedial works,' including to both the fire detection and heating systems.

He said: "The council must also consider the ever increasing financial demands of maintaining the building and to understand how to balance spending of limited funds in the best interests of the town.

"The safety of the users of the Regal is paramount in our thoughts and we consider it inappropriate to allow continued use of the building while we conduct the necessary studies.

"The council recognises that this is a much valued facility serving a range of leisure, community and market-trading activities and which brings wide ranging benefits to the town.

"We will be working to either re-open or replace the Regal as a matter of urgency and a working party has been established to look at all options."

Mr Upcraft added that residents would be consulted on the options for the centre in the coming months, including its possible demolition.

Groups which use the building are being invited to apply for grants to help them relocate.

In 2014 the then-mayor Bernard Stone said the centre was badly in need of repair and estimated that a revamp could cost as little as £300,000 or, if it was completely rebuilt following demolition, as much as £1.5m.