Stowmarket’s Regal theatre and cinema one step closer to £2.5m development grant and loan from Mid Suffolk District Council

The Regal Theatre is set for a million-pound revamp to get two new screens. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The Regal Theatre is set for a million-pound revamp to get two new screens. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Councillors are being asked to approve a £1.56m grant and £1m loan for Stowmarket Town Council to cover the scheme.

The Regal theatre and cinema in Stowmarket is in line for a huge £2.5m redevelopment, pending council approval next week.

The Mid Suffolk District Council cabinet are expected to agree a £1.56m grant in addition to a £1m loan for Stowmarket Town Council to fund the scheme, which council papers claim could increase attendance by up to 45,000.

The substantial grant, submitted for approval by the Mid Suffolk Development Committe, will fund two additional cinema screens of 87 and 57 seats, support the creation of 10-20 new jobs, and upgrade the main auditorium and renovate the foyer - with an expctected completion date of May 2020.

The development is also predicted to increase visitor spends within the Stowmarket area of between £500,000-£1m.

If the money is agreed, planning permission could be sought as early as this July.

The £1m loan is predicted to cost the town council just under £50,000 per year in repayment and interest, and a reduced number of parking spaces as part of the scheme may cost the district council up to £7,500 per year.

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In addition to the loan, Stowmarket Town Council has committed £400,000 towards the project from their reserves.

A feasibility study conducted by the council in June 2016 considered financial, economic, social returns on investment and concluded the overall economic and social benefits for providing the investment outweigh the costs.

A ‘Vision For Prosperity’ (VFP) consultation held in October 2017 provided an opportunity for residents of Stowmarket to share their views about how the town should move forward.

The school children from Stowmarket High School who helped to prepare the event materials noted that the cinema is one of Stowmarket’s best features/assets, but that Stowmarket’s best is not up to the standard of newer cinemas such as those in Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds.

The council paper states: “The regeneration of the Regal Theatre will provide direct benefits to Stowmarket through creation of additional permanent jobs, increased visitor numbers and temporary employment as a result of the construction project. An improved cinema and theatre offer will increase investment confidence and is therefore likely to attract further investment to the town.”