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Ready To Roll

A MILLENNIUM curtain-call is expected for the town's long-awaited bowling alley and cinema complex, after its developer finally received government approval.

Secretary of State John Prescott has given permission for Citygrove Leisure Plc, which was not the highest bidder for the site, to develop the beleagured Anchor Street project.

East Herts District Council is expected to give outline planning permission shortly. The council's chief executive, Roger Bailey, hopes the huge £4m complex will open in about 12 months.

The complex-- just yards from the town's railway station -- will include a six-screen multiplex cinema, a ten pin bowling alley, health and fitness club and restaurant facilities.

The announcement has been met with jubilation from residents and council officials who are all eager to see the complex up-and-running after years of difficulties and false starts.

Cllr Bernard Engel, chairman of the council's working party which backed the development, said: "I'm absolutely delighted this developer has been given government approval. This is wonderful news for Bishop's Stortford.

"Now that the plans have been agreed in principle we can forge ahead with more detailed plans."

Also bowled over is Bishop's Stortford High School pupil Gareth Griffiths, the Citizen's spokesman for scores of youngsters eager to see a local cinema built on their doorstep.

The 13-year-old action and adventure movie fan, who petitioned in the pouring rain with his friends when the last deal was scuppered, said: "This is good news -- my friends will be pleased about it."

And he had the following message for the developer and the council: "Hurry up and get on with it, we've waited long enough. Don't let us down this time!"

The much-needed leisure facility has been dogged with bad luck from the beginning, culminating with the council terminating a contract with another leisure company in February after it failed to begin work on the complex.

Its fortunes turned around when East Herts District Council selected Citygrove Leisure plc in August after a painstaking four-month scrutinisation of 18 interested firms.

Government approval was needed because Citygrove was not the highest bidder for the land.

Roger Bailey, chief executive of East Herts District Council said: "We are delighted to have been given the go-ahead from the Secretary of State.

"We anticipate that the new development will be up-and-running in about 12 months time, just in time for the new millennium."

On Friday, a council spokewoman said Citygrove would shortly be submitting its more detailed plans to the council for scrutinisation.

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000.Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.

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