Economic reality’ makes cinema plan less than certain

THE ambition of establishing a cinema in St Neots may slowly be fading as the economic reality of delivering such a project dawns on some councillors. While the new Liberal Democrat leader of St Neots Town Council has suggested ambitious plans for the tow

THE ambition of establishing a cinema in St Neots may slowly be fading as the economic reality of delivering such a project dawns on some councillors.

While the new Liberal Democrat leader of St Neots Town Council has suggested ambitious plans for the town, his colleagues seem much less enthused.

Councillor Gordon Thorpe has outlined plans not only for a cinema, but also an outdoor swimming pool and a theatre-and-meeting room complex.

He believes the Lib Dems have identified a way of funding the plans - even without the £1million gift from Lord of the Manor, Peter Rowley.


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However, at a meeting last week, his colleagues were not falling into line behind him.

A feasibility report into a cinema, and ongoing talks with cinema operators, seems to have frightened a few councillors - and the town clerk.

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At a town council meeting on Wednesday, town clerk Philip Devonald said it was about time people faced up to the economic reality of such a project.

"This is the council's opportunity to review our position," he said. "I have to make it clear to new members and to the public that we have to deal with economic reality.

"We do not own land that can be used for a cinema, we do not have millions of pounds to build a cinema and we are not the planning authority."

He added: "The town is too small to sustain a cinema and as a public entity the idea of a cinema would not work and it is about time someone stood up and told the truth about that."

One councillor also let slip that an operator had estimated it would cost £5million to provide a cinema in the town. The information was contained in confidential papers.

Mr Devonald said councillors would eventually have to decide if they would ask Council Taxpayers to subside a cinema.

However, Mr Devonald did back-track slightly.

"The town council has an aspiration and a narrow window of opportunity so we are going to have to work hard to make it work," he said.

He also said that the businesses he had spoken to were interested only in the Priory Centre as a venue for a cinema.

Former mayor Cllr Paul Ursell raised concerns with this: "A few years ago a cinema was in the Priory Centre and it did not work. In fact it failed terribly."

Despite the bleak outlook, Cllr Thorpe said the council would continue to pursue the idea: "I am aware of continuing the momentum of proceeding with the idea of a cinema, and I do not think that doing nothing at this stage is an appropriate option.

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