Cinema plans finally get go-ahead

LONG-awaited plans to bring a multiplex cinema to an historic Suffolk town have received the final green light – despite some protesters describing the design of the building as "tawdry".

LONG-awaited plans to bring a multiplex cinema to an historic Suffolk town have received the final green light – despite some protesters describing the design of the building as "tawdry".

It is now hoped work on the new entertainment complex, on the Parkway in Bury St Edmunds, will begin next May, with early 2005 as a completion date.

Members of St Edmundsbury Borough Council's planning committee voted in favour of Cine-UK's proposal during a meeting yesterday, although many expressed concerns over the building's design.

Speaking on behalf of the Suffolk Preservation Society, Susan Tamlyn said: "We have no objection to the application in principle, but we do object to the cheap and tawdry design.

"The proposal offers the council the unique opportunity to acquire a distinct, high quality, 21st Century building, in line with planning policy which should give encouragement to modern architecture sympathetic to the townscape. We fear for the future of other buildings."

Christopher Frost, agent for Cine-UK, said the design of the multiplex had been amended after public concerns were raised regarding its "uninspired" frontage. He added that fears over possible noise disturbance to nearby homes were unfounded.

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"I am disappointed to hear we obviously have not convinced everybody that the design is appropriate," said Mr Frost. "We feel that the building itself is in context with its surroundings.

"Although there have been concerns about noise, we know our customers well, and can say there is not a great deal of disturbance associated with cinema use. People who have been sitting in the dark for a few hours watching a film simply just go home and go to bed when they leave.

"I would like to express on behalf of Cine-UK how much it is looking forward to bringing the scheme to Bury."

But Peter Stevens, councillor for the Cavendish ward, voiced concern the building may set a precedent for the eagerly-awaited Cattle Market redevelopment.

"This is a very important structure within Bury, and is part of the character of the town. I am worried this will give a pointer to our future treatment of the Cattle Market site," he said.

But Geoffrey Rushbrook, of the Kedington ward, described the cinema as a "wonderful feature" for the town.

He said: "This will attract young and old, and will enhance the facilities of Bury. People will no longer have to fight the traffic to get to Cambridge to see a film – they will come into town and spend their money here instead."

And Mike Ames, whose Abbeygate ward covers the development site, said: "We have deliberated over four or five years about this, and we would not be thanked by the majority of people we are supposed to represent if we dilly-dally any longer over this application.

"This will be a marvellous Christmas present for everyone in the borough and region."

The decision comes after years of wrangling. A previous multiplex cinema, planned for the same site, was scuppered after residents fought the planning committee's decision through the courts.

But members are hopeful the new scheme will continue without further delay, with council leader John Griffiths welcoming the move following the meeting.

"This is really good news for people throughout the borough," he said. "Many have contacted me to say how much they are looking forward to having the opportunity to enjoy such a facility, and I know this decision will be warmly welcomed.

"Those cinema-goers who drove to Ipswich or Cambridge will soon be able to come to Bury St Edmunds instead, which is excellent news for the prosperity of this borough."