Demolition work has begun on a historic city cinema, despite the building being deemed “of special architectural interest” by Historic Environment Scotland (HES).

The former Mecca/Vogue cinema on Balmore Road in the Possilpark area of Glasgow was designed by James McKissack, one of Scotland's most prolific cinema architects.

Opening in August of 1933, it was the first large purpose-built cinema constructed by Smith and Welsh to serve Glasgow's municipal housing estates. 

It originally seated 1,620 and was intended to serve the new Glasgow Corporation housing estate being developed at High Possil and Parkhouse in the wake of the Wheatley Housing Act of 1924. 

READ MORE: Mark Smith: They’ve started tearing down this Glasgow cinema. Why did we let them?

The building ceased to trade as a cinema and in April 1968 was converted to a commercial bingo hall.

The bingo hall closed in the 1990s and the auditorium has not been in use since this date, although the entrance section of the ground floor was used as a retail premises.

In June last year, a proposal to list the building was submitted by campaigners to HES in a bid to save it from demolition, with Glasgow MSP Paul Sweeney joining calls to save the building.

Despite HES informing Glasgow City Council about the proposal in July, an application for a warrant to demolish the building was validated in November and then granted by the council in December. 

After visiting the site on January 4, HES concluded that the building met the criteria of ‘special architectural or historic interest’ in being both “a rare survival of a 1930s cinema which retains its architecturally distinctive character to the main elevation”  and “a notable example of the work of architect James McKissack, a foremost Scottish cinema designer of the earlier 20th century”.

The Herald: Demolition work has begun on the former cinemaDemolition work has begun on the former cinema

In its assessment, HES also noted that the cinema is “an architectural landmark in the streetscape and its wider setting in Possilpark” and is of “social historical significance for the association with town planning, leisure, and industry in the early 20th century”. 

HES said it considers the building to be of ‘category C’ importance - defined as “buildings of special architectural or historic interest which are representative examples of a period, style or type”.

However, following the visit last week, HES confirmed on Friday (January 12) that it would not list the building because of the ‘advanced stage’ of development proposals, which it become aware of during the course of its assessment.

A spokesperson for Historic Environment Scotland told The Herald: “We were asked to consider the listing of this former cinema.  

“We have carried out an assessment and determined that the building is of special architectural or historic interest, but in line with our policy, we would not list the building at this time given the advanced development proposals.”