Trying to solve a £1m problem

ST Neots £1million benefactor was given a tour of the Priory Centre, with a view to turning the hall into a part-time cinema. The Mayor of St Neots, Councillor Paul Ursell, and the town clerk, Phillip Devonald, held a meeting with Peter Rowley and his wi

ST Neots' £1million benefactor was given a tour of the Priory Centre, with a view to turning the hall into a part-time cinema.

The Mayor of St Neots, Councillor Paul Ursell, and the town clerk, Phillip Devonald, held a meeting with Peter Rowley and his wife, Terez, followed by a walk around the Priory Centre, last Thursday.

During the meeting, Mr Rowley, who lives in New York and holds the ancient title of St Neots Lord of the Manor, announced he would make no restrictions on his cash gift but indicted he favoured a cinema.

He said: "A movie theatre would be a good thing for St Neots as people who live in the town won't have to drive to the other side of Huntingdon or to Bedford to watch a film."

But the "small gift" - as it was described by Mr Rowley - seems to be proving a bit of a headache for the town council which wants to make sure the money is used in the most viable way.

Cllr Ursell said: "The people in the town seem to want a purpose-built cinema and are less in favour of a part-time cinema in the Priory Centre."

Most Read

Even Mr Rowley seemed to have initial concerns, highlighting the fact that his gift alone would not be enough to provide a cinema.

"The money I will be giving is just a catalyst and not enough to pay for the whole cinema," He said. "I think you need to persuade Huntingdonshire District Council to back the cinema proposal and see if they can provide any funding for it."

On a more promising note, Cllr Ursell said there was a possibility of building a cinema on land in St Neots, and Mr Devonald felt that the idea was still worth pursuing.

Mr Devonald said: "From our research, five out of six cinema companies said they would like to come to St Neots. If businesses are prepared to come to the town then the idea is worth pursuing.

"St Neots could offer something different, a town centre cinema experience, and I think it could work because of the value of the site."

Other ideas discussed included using some of the money for a youth centre, which was dismissed by Mr Rowley, and a new outdoor swimming pool, which was favoured by Mrs Rowley but not her husband.

After the meeting, Cllr Ursell said: "I think the meeting was very useful. We now need to go forward to identify some viable projects for the town. What we don't want to do is rush in and produce something that is a white elephant.

"We want something that is going to be long-lasting and sustainable."

The issue will be discussed at the next meeting of the full town council on January 31 at the Priory Centre at 7pm. A public meeting is planned for the spring.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter