Fight to keep historic cinema threatened with being pulled down

The plans would see the old Colchester Odeon bulldozed

The plans would see the old Colchester Odeon bulldozed - Credit: Google Street View

Campaigners are battling to prevent a former Colchester cinema from being demolished and replaced with 55 new apartments.

They say the old Odeon is of "historic importance" and say it would be wrong to bulldoze it, while the new development could cause traffic problems in the area.

The building - designed by Cecil Masey in 1931 - closed as a cinema in about 2002 when Odeon Cinema built a new multiplex cinema in Head Street and has remained vacant since that time.

Councillor Mark Goacher, who called in the decision on the multi-million pound development, said:  “This is major site in Crouch Street Colchester.

"The proposal to demolish the entire building contradicts previous guarantees that the facade would be retained.

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"This is a building of historic importance visually and parts of it are [locally] listed. Also, the proposal for a block of flats would alter the residential density of the street by a large amount with implications for traffic congestion and parking."

Historic England and the Theatres Trust has also both objected to the total demolition of the cinema.

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In a report to the planning committee on Thursday, August 19, planning officer Alistair Day recommends the plans from Blumarble Property Management Limited be refused.

The company wants to build 55 flats with one, two and three beds, basement parking, and two shop units.

Mr Day said the main issues are the impact the proposed development would have on the character and appearance of Colchester Conservation Area and nearby listed buildings; the effect on occupiers of nearby buildings; the impact of the proposed development on highway and pedestrian safety and the free flow of traffic; and whether the lack of financial contribution would result in a development that is unacceptable.

Blumarble said the public benefits would include removing an eyesore and source of antisocial behaviour from Crouch Street, bringing economic benefit and vitality to the area, and helping to boost the housing supply.

Mr Day said: "The application is for a housing led scheme and the delivery of housing would constitute a public benefit; however in this instance there is a question mark around the deliverability of the scheme due to the lack of viability."

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