ST Neots dream of getting its own cinema looks set to take a step forward after Peter Rowley – the town s benefactor – offered to lease the land needed for the project. The Hunts Post has learnt that Lord of the Manor, Mr Rowley, who in 2006 pledged £1mil

ST Neots dream of getting its own cinema looks set to take a step forward after Peter Rowley - the town's benefactor - offered to lease the land needed for the project.

The Hunts Post has learnt that Lord of the Manor, Mr Rowley, who in 2006 pledged £1million to the town for a cinema, is prepared to help secure the former fire station site in Huntingdon Street.

He instructed his solicitor to write to Keith Philips, estates office for Huntingdonshire District Council, to make the offer.

The letter says Mr Rowley "would be interested in purchasing a lease on the land of the Huntingdon Street site in St Neots to enable it to be used as a cinema/theatre."

The solicitor also requests details of HDC's plans for this site."

St Neots Town Council has targeted the 1.5-acre site, which contains a soon-to-be-vacated recycling centre, as the perfect location for a town centre cinema.

Reel Cinemas is said to have shown an interest in developing the site in a multi-million pound project that would incorporate a cinema and three restaurants.

But the town council face competition for the land, with NHS Cambridgeshire eyeing it for the super-surgery which is to be built in the town.

Councillor Barry Chapman, chair of the town council's cinema group, said he hoped Mr Rowley's letter would help take the town's cinema dream forward.

"I am very pleased that Mr Rowley has declared his willingness to purchase the cinema site. This is in addition to approaches already made direct to HDC by the operators themselves," he said.

"At a meeting with Mr Rowley two weeks ago, it was clear he totally appreciates the importance of St Neots getting a cinema theatre and this move underlines the ongoing efforts which continue to be made. I hope that others will now follow his lead by also doing their best for St Neots."

HDC is currently working on a detailed design brief for the Huntingdon Street site, with the town council and NHS being asked to submit detailed proposals for planners.

The design brief is expected to be complete within eight weeks.

However, the process from then on could be slow. HDC cabinet member Cllr Andrew Hansard has said he cannot see anything happening on the site until at least March 2010.

Cllr Hansard told The Hunts Post HDC was still waiting for a firm offer from Mr Rowley or any other party interested in the site.

"[The letter] does not say we will give you X for the site. Until we receive a planning application or a firm offer there is not much we can do," he said. "We want to revitalise that area of the town and any formal application would be looked at very seriously.