Published Thursday 19 July 2018 at 16:43
Plans for a Blackburn Town Centre cinema complex were debated last night at a special meeting.
The call-in committee scrutinised the plans and addressed concerns raised by six councillors.
It means work can now start on the site to build the £6.5m building and the £3.5m undercroft carpark and public realm works.
The work will mean the complex links through to the Northgate and King George’s Hall area of town, hopefully spring-boarding further organic regeneration.
Concerns were raised over the impact it would have on the out of town Vue cinema and nearby restaurants.
Independent evidence was heard, showing that cinemas can co-exist in towns like Blackburn, highlighting examples such as nearby Bolton.
The meeting heard that industry figures show people visit the cinema on average three times a year and indicated that within a 20 minute drive time there was a population of 182,526 giving a potential target audience of over 578k.
It was also noted that the population figures excluded the borough’s new housing developments and subsequent population increase – there’s nearly 10,000 new homes planned for the borough over the next eight years and 15,000 students attending neighbouring Blackburn College.
Cllr Phil Riley, Executive Member for Regeneration, said:
This is about regeneration of the area. Regeneration is about momentum. The moment you stand still, there’s a danger you go backwards and somebody else is doing something, look at investment in towns like Burnley and Chorley.
The Government expect Council’s to be self-sufficient which isn’t easy for small towns like Blackburn and Darwen. Without regeneration and generating income, being able to support front line services becomes much harder to do.
The cinema development is one of a set of regeneration developments in this area of town. We have taken into consideration all of the concerns raised; we ultimately want the best for our borough.
Cllr Riley added:
We want to reassure people that the lease is secured against Reel who are a very strong trading company which has been monitored by independent financial experts for some time. The building remains the Council’s meaning we will retain control of the premises and land over the long term, reducing risk to the public purse.
Concerns about the free car park for patrons were also addressed.
Cllr Phil Riley told the committee that the nearby Feilden Street Carpark currently operates at 85% capacity. Cinema goers would be able to take advantage of those available spaces. He said the carpark currently closes at 8pm but if there was a need to open it later, the Council would seek to do so.
He told the committee that people were originally sceptical of having a town centre hotel which is now regularly fully booked and become a success story for the town. He said the cinema complex would be the next step in the town’s wider regeneration narrative.
Did you know?
- The cinema complex will include a bar, coffee shop, and a dessert bar/restaurant
- People are going to the cinema more and more – there were 170.6 million cinema attendances in the UK in 2017. Box office revenues were up by 2.5% from the year before – to £1.277billion.
- There were a list of 13 options for the Council to consider, including student accommodation, a car park, residential home for older people, college building, retail, gym, restaurants and bars. The cinema option scored highest for value for money and benefit cost ratios.
- The British Film Institute (BFI) noted in 2017 that the North West has one of the lowest numbers of specialised screens in the UK at just 4.3% compared to the South East at 12.7%
- The new carpark will provide much-needed new spaces for customers from all over Pennine Lancashire. It will also allow the existing Barton Street car park to be brought forward as another development opportunity in the future.