AFTER a decade of debate and negotiations, St Neots could finally have a cinema by 2013.

Plans for the £8million six-screen leisure complex on 2.7 acres of land to the east of Huntingdon Street where submitted to Huntingdonshire District Council by Chelmsford-based developers Turnstone Estates on Thursday (August 11).

And to add to the boost for St Neots night-time economy, plans were also submitted to bring town centre pub, the Wrestlers, back to life and provide a new community space (see Page 3w).

While is has been a long time coming, the submission of the planning application for a cinema in St Neots is a major step for the development which, when finsihed, could include a restaurant village, live-performance facility, tree-lined pedestrian walkways and play area on the former waste-recycling and fire-station site.

Chris Goldsmith, managing director at Turnstone Estates, said: "This development fulfils the need for a premier leisure facility in St Neots. We are confident it will provide an excellent addition which can be enjoyed by all ages."

Not everyone is pleased with the size and location of the development, but Turnstone said it had revised its original plans following complaints from residents of East Street, whose properties are adjacent the site. Concerns include increased noise, loss of light and lowering of property values.

However, Margaret Cooke, who lives in East Street, is not happy with the revised plans, which include a reduction in the height and bulk of the cinema building, and the down-sizing of the car parking area by 25 per cent to enable some recreation land to be retained.

Mrs Cooke, 63, said: "No one is denying that St Neots needs a cinema but to build one 60ft away from people's homes is madness. The traffic's absolutely horrendous at the best of times but there's going to be four or five times as much when the cinema's built."

"There's got to be a more suitable place."

As well as down-sizing parts of the development, Turnstones has incorporated a life performance section into its plans. The third cinema screen will have up to 30 removable seats, allowing performers to use the area in front of the screen as a stage.

Lord of the Manor, Peter Rowley, who has given £1m towards the project, told The Hunts Post: "I hope the planning department, the planning committee and the entire council of the Huntingdonshire District Council act quickly. For decades the people of St Neots have wanted leisure facilities of their own - mainly films, but also theatre.

"There has of course been some theatre, but it's always been on a floating basis for the Players and other groups, depending on where the companies could rent at the time.

"No longer will people have to drive or take a bus half an hour or longer to Huntingdon, Bedford or Cambridge. Particularly for the young, it will be a welcome and healthy form of entertainment."

Long-time campaigner for the cinema, St Neots Mayor Councillor Barry Chapman added: "This scheme recognises the significant expansion of St Neots over recent and coming years and would create employment opportunities, provide accessible entertainment without transport and assist the regeneration of the town."

Restaurant chains Prezzo, Pizza Express, Frankie and Bennies and Nandos are already lined up for the restaurant village, and Turnstones expects the project to be completed by early 2013, subject to planning approval.