Town council backs amendments to St Neots cinema development

Aerial view of new cinema building in St Neots

Aerial view of new cinema building in St Neots - Credit: Archant

ST NEOTS Town Council has backed the amended plans for the new cinema complex – but will have to wait more than a fortnight to find out if they have been approved.

At a meeting on Wednesday (April 24), the council’s planning committee stressed that it was disappointed with the developer of the £7million Rowley Arts Centre, Turnstone Estate, after it started building the structure closer to nearby homes than allowed by its current planning permission.

The council described the error – the building is 88cm (almost 3ft) closer to properties in East Street than allowed – as “embarrassing” and suggested Turnstone should face sanctions and provide a detailed letter of explanation about the error.

But it was felt the amended plans, which would allow Turnstone to carry on erecting the leisure complex in its current location in Huntingdon Road, should be allowed as a cinema was still wanted by the town.

The final decision will be taken by Huntingdonshire District Council’s development management committee on Monday, May 20. However, HDC said that it cannot approve amended plans and impose sanctions – it’s one or the other.

Margaret Cooke, who lives in East Street and addressed the town council planning meeting, said: “I think the developers just thought that nobody would notice but when you have an elephant near you and it moves a yard closer – you know about it.”

Mrs Cooke, 65, told The Hunts Post she was under the impression that if sanctions were to be placed on the developer, it would be a fine. But added that this would be too little too late.

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“If they’re going to get fined why doesn’t that money pay for the cost of moving it,” she said. “Fining the developers now would just be a case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.”

Town clerk Ed Reilly, who wrote a formal letter to HDC following the planning meeting, said that sanctions in this case would mean HDC making it clear to Turnstone that St Neots Town Council was disappointed with what had happened.

Mr Reilly said: “The councillors really wanted HDC to let the developer know that it was not acceptable. They all said that they were disappointed in what had happened and some felt it was embarrassing but they made the point that they didn’t feel that it altered the position that much and that the cinema was still wanted by the majority in the town.”

Mayor of St Neots Councillor Barry Chapman said that the situation was being blown out of proportion.

Cllr Chapman said: “The people I have spoken to about it have said that on a development this size you are sure to have something that’s not right. This is termed as a minor amendment.”

The complex, which is being built by Britannia Construction, will be about 32,000 sq ft in size and will house a six screen Cineworld cinema and four restaurants, including a Frankie & Benny’s and Pizza Express.

The development is being built on land that was once occupied by a fire station and waste recycling centre.