District council said to be in line to buy cinema complex

The Rowley Arts Centre complex in St Neots. Picture: ARCHANT

The Rowley Arts Centre complex in St Neots. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

St Neots’ cinema complex is up for sale with an asking price in excess of £7.25 million - and Huntingdonshire District Council is believed to be close to completing a deal to buy it.

The Rowley Arts Centre - which comprises the Cineworld cinema, restaurants and a gym - is “under offer” according to the specialist property firm Fawcett Mead.

The site, which is also known as St Neots Leisure Park, brings in rent of more than £525,000 a year, the sales document for the centre said.

Members of the council’s cabinet discussed the leisure park behind closed doors at a meeting last week.

Council leader, Councillor Graham Bull declined to comment on the subject matter of the meeting, but said the authority was seeking to boost its commercial investment locally.

“We are looking to make a major investment in St Neots which shows our commitment to the town,” he said.

The complex, which opened four years ago after a long campaign to provide the town with a cinema, was developed by Turnstone Estates.

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It stands on land which is owned by the district and town councils and is leased on a peppercorn rent.

The Rowley Arts Centre is named after St Neots Lord of the Manor Peter Rowley, a US-based businessman, author and playwright, who offered to put £1m in to the project at a very early stage.

In addition to the six-screen cinema, the complex includes a Pizza Express, Frankie and Bennys, Prezzo, Gainz Fitness and Britannia Parking.

The tenants are all said in the sales brochure to be on long leases, with 79 per cent of the income secured for more than 10 years.

The brochure says the leisure park is strategically located in the town centre of St Neots, described as an “affluent and thriving market town” which provided 17 per cent of Huntingdonshire’s growth between 2001 and 2011.

Work started on the long-awaited cinema at the end of 2012, but the project ran into early problems when it was discovered that the building had been constructed in slightly the wrong place on the site and parts had to be rebuilt, causing an eight month delay and adding around £1million to the cost of the project.

Earlier this month the Hunts Post told how a new indoor swimming pool on an adjacent site could be open before the end of the year.