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How Preston’s city centre cinema battle played out

Posted on - 1st May, 2016 - 5:23pm | Author - | Posted in - Business, News, Preston City Centre, Preston Council, Redevelopment
Markets v Fishergate, not quite Batman v Superman...

Markets v Fishergate, not quite Batman v Superman…

In the space of six hours on Tuesday a rather different plot had been woven in the story of Preston’s search for a city centre cinema.

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We began the week with two schemes very much in contention and an investment totaling £90m in our city centre, now just one is left standing and £40m of revamp to a major shopping centre stands mothballed.

Rewind to Thursday 21 April the first piece of the jigsaw about why Fishergate’s cinema plan began to unravel can be seen.

John Lewis were linked with a move to the Capitol Centre, a vague statement was neither confirmation nor denial of their proposal to move into what would become the Vue cinema site if the cinema chain relocated to the city centre.

Fishergate had hailed the cinema chain as anchoring the redevelopment for the former TJ Hughes store.

On Sunday 24 April we then reported how the city council’s planning department was recommending to reject the Fishergate scheme – saying it was ‘premature’ and raising issues with traffic congestion in the area by the railway station and Fishergate car park.

This matched with what had been indicated in February, when a report was posted revealing early stage discussions between planning officers and Fishergate.

Still, the Fishergate development at this stage was very much on and the planning committee were facing pressure to go against the officer’s recommendation as Benson Elliot, the parent company of Fishergate, revealed they had commission an independent firm to undertake a survey which showed the city centre could support three, not just two, major cinemas.

Tuesday (April 26) morning arrived and Muse Developments – who are behind the Preston City Council Markets plan – announced they had formally submitted the planning application for the major cinema and restaurant scheme as part of the Markets redevelopment.

New artist impressions showing how the cinema may look

New artist impressions showing how the cinema may look

Nothing unusual there, although politically an important point they had lodged it ahead of the planning committee which was due to take place on Thursday 28 April.

Then the bombshell. Vue Cinemas released a statement to the Lancashire Evening Post saying they would be staying at the Capitol Centre.

Everyone did a double-take. The major cinema group had no intention of leaving its current base and where did this leave the Fishergate scheme?

An hour later and it became clear. The city council confirmed to Blog Preston the £40m scheme for Fishergate had been withdrawn and would not be heard at Thursday’s planning committee.

A hasty statement from the Fishergate centre said they would be retreating to re-think their plans, but it’s hard to see a cinema being a central part of any future.

Inside how Preston's new look Indoor Market may be presented

Inside how Preston’s new look Indoor Market may be presented

On Friday morning the city council released more details about its market proposals and it appears from hearing how Preston could support three city centre cinemas we’re now more than likely to just end up with one.

36 per cent of Blog Preston readers in a poll about the cinema in the city had backed both schemes, they will be left feeling disappointed that this city just wasn’t big enough for the both of them.

What do you think of the cinema decisions? Let us know in the comments below

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