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Plans for St Helen Auckland cinema complex being recommended for refusal
PLANS for a cinema complex on the outskirts of Bishop Auckland are being recommended for refusal due to fears it would further damage the town centre.
Durham County Council’s planning committee will determine the outline application for a six-screen cinema with shops, restaurants and other leisure facilities on a former tip and brickyard at their meeting next week.
Prestige Car Direct Properties and Land Planning Partnership want to build the complex on wasteland at Fieldon Bridge in St Helen Auckland behind the Tindale Crossing pub and Premier Inn.
Senior planning officer Henry Jones is recommending councillors reject the plans due to fears the shops in the new development would draw further trade out of Bishop Auckland town centre about a mile and a half away.
It is the same argument planning officers used when they recommended a new shopping centre at St Helen Auckland be refused in 2011.
But councillors overruled their officers on that occasion and the second phase of the shopping centre is due to open soon.
Sam Zair, Durham County Councillor for Bishop Auckland town centre, has previously led a campaign against the St Helen Auckland developments and said he would welcome the cinema aspect of the complex but was opposed to further shops.
Rob Yorke, county councillor for West Auckland, said the complex will benefit the whole Bishop Auckland area by attracting visitors from across the region.
A spokesman for the applicant said the complex would create more than 100 jobs and the company has pledged to give £300,000 to fund business advisors with a view to boosting the town centre.
A cinema was approved as part of the development, which saw the creation of Sainsbury’s and the new stadium for Bishop Auckland FC at St Helen Auckland in 2009, but a lack of funds let to the multiplex being axed.
The applicant behind the Fieldon Bridge scheme confirmed they have had interest from cinema operators and would build the movie theatre and restaurants as part of the first phase with shops to follow later.
Mr Jones said businesses are already leaving the town centre due to the St Helen Auckland shops.
He said further developments in the outskirts would “have significant adverse impacts upon the viability and vitality of Bishop Auckland town centre”.
The committee will meet at 2pm at County Hall in Durham on Tuesday, April 1.
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