Donor reduces £1m of cinema funding

THE £1million windfall promised to St Neots has dwindled by £150,000 as the town s benefactor finds other good causes ready to spend the money. The reduction was revealed at a St Neots Town Council meeting last Wednesday. Donations made to charities earli

THE £1million windfall promised to St Neots has dwindled by £150,000 as the town's benefactor finds other good causes ready to spend the money.

The reduction was revealed at a St Neots Town Council meeting last Wednesday.

Donations made to charities earlier in the year by Peter Rowley have been deducted from the town's £1million gift, which the council had hoped to put towards bringing a cinema to the town.

Town mayor, Councillor Bob Eaton, made the announcement after getting the news via e-mail.


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"The amount now stands at £848,000 after a number of donations were made to charity," he said.

Mr Rowley told The Hunts Post yesterday (Tuesday) via e-mail from New York that "the figure would actually come to about £900,000, including interest, by October 22 2008".

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He added: "I gave £70,000 each to Mencap and the St Neots Voluntary Welfare Association, £7,000 to the Roman Catholic Church in St Neots and £5,000 to the Church of England Church of St Mary.

"I continue to hope a multi-screen cinema with one adaptable to theatre will be built in or around the town."

The reallocation of £152,000 is a blow for the town council's ambitions.

Cllr Derek Giles said the reduction "was not going to help". He added: "We were under the understanding that we had £1million for a project in the town. Having less is not going to make our job any easier. A cinema is a business and as a town council all we can do is help, support and encourage that business to come to the town and make sure it is not going to be a drain on the taxpayers."

However, he told the meeting cinema operators were showing interest.

Cllr Barry Chapman said it was time for a different approach.

"The task has proved too tough for the town council so I want to get a project team going. If we can get support from HDC and Mr Rowley, then I think we stand a fighting chance of doing this," he said.

Cllr Paul Ursell added: "If we are not careful, we are going to miss the boat and Mr Rowley is going to go away and St Neots will not get a cinema."

The plan is to bring together all stakeholders to work on the cinema project, including Mr Rowley, a project manager, the town centre management initiative, local groups and HDC.

"The project must have people who will not just talk the talk, but walk the walk," added Cllr Chapman.

He will head the project team and believes a detailed requirement analysis could be ready by August 31, a solutions definition by September 30, and a project design by November 30.

He added: "Granted the odds are not in favour of it, but if we don't get anything started soon then we will stand no chance of getting one in the town and if we do not use this money for a cinema we risk losing it."

To kickstart the project, Cllr Chapman has asked the town council to pay £4,500 for a report by the Anthony Williams Consultancy.

A decision on what to do next will be discussed on Wednesday, September 5, at the Priory Centre, St Neots, at 7.15pm.

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