A POLICE cordon was set up in Grays town centre over fears a piece of metal made loose by strong winds battering the State cinema could come crashing down on pedestrians.

The authorities acted quickly to close off George Street as a sheet of corrugated metal near the top of the old building's iconic tower flapped loose during Friday night's strongest winds.

Gusts of up to 65mph were reported in Grays on Friday night.

The cordon was put up early on Saturday to ensure no one could walk near the building before it was repaired.

Metal panels above the building's front door were also loose, according to eyewitnesses.

A spokesperson for Thurrok Council said on Twitter: "We're working with our partners Essex Police on wind damaged State Cinema."

The Grays landmark, built in 1937, is in a state of disrepair after derelict for years.

Damage caused to the State by the strong winds led to residents calling once again for something to be done about the building, sooner rather than later.

Terrijayne Butler ‏said on Twitter: "Something needs to be done with that building now, its just falling apart."

Various campaigns in recent years have fought for the former cinema to be brought back into use.

The latest calls were for the O2 to take on the George Street building and turn into an entertainment centre, similar to the venues it runs in Brixton and Islington.

Thurrock Gazette: damage at the state cinema

Damage to the State cinema's tower. [Pic: Rob Lay]

On hearing about the latest fears over the building's structure as the winds hit the borough, campaigner Jackie Roles told the Gazette: "I did have a petition, which collected hundreds of signatures then I submitted to the council regarding getting this place open, as so many people talk about it and I know the council say it would be so expensive to get up and running.

"I keep hoping it will open its doors. We all need local entertainment and a venue to be used, on a bigger scale for live entertainment, plus everything else that entertainment can bring."

Polly Billington, Labour's parliamentary candidate for the 2015 election said: "The state of the state cinema shames us all. I know the council are working hard to find a solution that will result in it being brought back into use for the whole community. That is what we desperately need. It now risks becoming a safety hazard.

"The cinema should be the pride of our town and the neglect that has resulted in the damage over the weekend must end."

Thurrock Gazette: damage to the state cinema

Damage to the silver panels - which were also reported to be loose