Work delayed on St Neots cinema as building too close to homes

The new cinema building as seen from East Street

The new cinema building as seen from East Street - Credit: Archant

WORK on the £7million cinema and restaurant project in St Neots has been delayed after the new buildings were found to be closer to neighbouring homes than agreed.

People living next to the site complained to Huntingdonshire District Council after becoming concerned that the structure was too high. Subsequent investigations also revealed it was too close to adjacent properties in East Street.

HDC planning enforcement officers raised the matter with the developer Turnstone.

It has submitted a planning application for amended plans this week and neighbours have been consulted.

Margaret Cooke, of East Street, who was horrified at the size of the framework when it started going up, said: “It’s nearly a yard closer to homes than it should be. A neighbour was convinced it was too high and I kept thinking it was not right.

“Then we discovered it was closer than it should be and it has escalated from there.”

Mrs Cooke, 65, said she had always maintained the cinema was the right idea for St Neots but in the wrong place.

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“I genuinely don’t know how these plans got passed,” she added. “This is not the right place for it. It’s like trying to squeeze a gallon, not a quart, into a pint pot.

“There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be moved elsewhere, to somewhere more sensible. You cannot have something like this affecting so many people’s lives every day.”

Turnstone wants HDC to agree to changing the position of two of the units and the cinema.

A design statement describes the problem as “positional inaccuracies” and blames surveying discrepancies, not being able to use Lidl’s car park for scaffolding and issues with how the build was set out.

It admits the cinema would be up to 14.5cm, nearly six inches, taller than agreed and up to 88cm, nearly 3ft, closer to East Street.

Turnstone’s managing director Chris Goldsmith said: “It’s a minor error in the original site survey and to the naked eye, you wouldn’t notice any difference.

“We have re-sequenced some of the work which will inevitably lead to a minor delay

“In the meantime, we are continuing work on the site, at risk. It’s a very unfortunate position to be in.”

HDC’s development management panel will make the decision on whether the buildings can stay or be moved.

It meets monthly but a date for considering the cinema application is yet to be confirmed.