THE acting leader of St Neots Town Council has claimed a cinema could be operating in the town within three years – and will not cost taxpayers a penny. At a council meeting last Wednesday, Cllr Derek Giles said: As a result of investigations and meeti
THE acting leader of St Neots Town Council has claimed a cinema could be operating in the town within three years - and will not cost taxpayers a penny.
At a council meeting last Wednesday, Cllr Derek Giles said: "As a result of investigations and meetings with various stakeholders I want to put the record firmly straight on various myths and misconceptions which have perhaps confused and worried our residents.
"As things stand today, we in the Lib Dem group are pleased to admit we were wrong. Before the elections, we thought this project would cost as much as £4million.
"It now looks likely that it will not, in fact, cost anything to the town or the Council Tax payer other than the fees and charges likely to result from bringing this project to fruition."
He said St Neots was large enough to support a four-screen cinema with up to 1,000 seats and said Peter Rowley's £1million would still be available to the town council in October 2008.
The remainder of this money - about £900,000 following charitable donations made by Mr Rowley - would be used to buy land in the town for a cinema operator, allowing it to build and maintain a cinema. The land would be leased to the operator, with the income either going to the town council or being distributed to worthy causes in the town.
A similar scheme operates on the land where the St Neots bowling alley is located. Sites being considered for a cinema include the old fire station site opposite Westgate, in Huntingdon Street, and the Tidy Tip site near to Lidl. Both are owned by Huntingdonshire district or the town council.
The town council has said at least three cinema operators had shown an interest in the town.
Cllr Giles said: "The only difficulty at the moment is locating a suitable site within the town centre. The site would only need to be approximately 1,000 square metres.
"All going well, a cinema could be up and running in the town in two to three years."
The council will set up an advisory committee of four Lib Dem and two Conservative councillors, and members of the public or people with expertise on the subject.
Cllr Paul Ursell said the Conservative group was behind a cinema but felt this process was flawd.
"Firstly, it's bureaucratic and long-winded. Secondly, the decision makers will still be the town council who do not have the expertise to manage a project of this nature.
"Thirdly, the council will need to engage consultants/advisers to assist them which will be a cost to the local taxpayer. We must remember that the town council set up a cinema working party over two years ago, which failed to deliver," he said.
The Conservatives want to support the work already under way of a joint project group, which they say is made up of experienced people and stakeholders.