HUNTINGDONSHIRE District Council has given the go-ahead for a six-screen cinema to be built in St Neots.

Councillors voted by a majority of 12 to one in favour of the development at a meeting of the Development Planning Panel on Monday night (December 19).

The decision means the district's largest town will boast a multiplex cinema complex with live-performance facility on the site of the former fire station, recycling centre and recreation ground in Huntingdon Street.

The Turnstone Estates project, which includes four restaurants, three apartments, a car park, play area, public plaza and thoroughfare, is due for completion by Easter 2013.

Mayor of St Neots, Councillor Barry Chapman, who has played a pivotal role in campaigning for the £8million project, told The Hunts Post: "I am so very pleased for the people of St Neots. They are finally going to have the facility they deserve.

"In these tough economic times an £8million investment is pretty unheard of.

"It's been a long and tenacious struggle, but we've got there now."

Four St Neots town councillors spoke at the Pathfinder House meeting.

Cllrs David Harty, Roger Harrison and Barry Chapman all supported the development, with Cllr Bob Farrer speaking out against, saying the complex was too big for the site and there would be an increase in traffic in an already-congested town centre.

This view was supported by long time cinema protester Margaret Cooke who, after addressing the panel, told The Hunts Post: "The majority of St Neots residents are still unsure of what this building will bring.

"I believe the council have given permission for a white elephant, but I hope for the sake of the people of the town I am wrong."

However councillors maintained the benefits of having a cinema in the town centre far-outweighed the disadvantages.

Cllr David Harty told The Hunts Post: "Last nights decision was an important one.

"The regeneration of this large site will help to generate a lot of interest in St Neots and attract more people to the town which can only be a good thing."

Chairman of the Development Management Panel, Cllr Doug Dew, said: "I'm aware it has been a long held community aspiration for St Neots to enhance the viability of its town centre, particularly with regard to further developing the vibrancy of its night time economy.

"I consider that this development could make a real difference to the economic well-being of the town centre, as it will enable the community's leisure spending, which currently drains away from the town, to be more readily retained within St Neots.

Land owner, Peter Rowley, who donated £1million towards the project, told The Hunts Post: "I am delighted to hear that HDC have voted in favour of a cinema complex for St. Neots.

"I hope it will include a live theatre."