ALMOST 1,000 people have signed an online petition calling for a cinema to be built on the outskirts of Bishop Auckland after a council recommended the scheme be rejected.

As previously reported in the Northern Echo, Durham County Council’s planning officers fear the proposed six-screen cinema with shops, restaurants and other leisure facilities at St Helen Auckland would severely damage trade in the nearby town centre.

But more than 5,500 people have joined a Facebook group calling for a cinema to be built in the town with 945 signing a new petition called Save Bishop Auckland Cinema.

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The council’s planning committee will decide on the plans at their meeting on Tuesday, April 1, at County Hall in Durham.

Many cinema supporters said the town centre is already suffering but the development would bring jobs and visitors into the area.

One supporter, Damien Johnson, said: “The town centre is dead anyway, nothing but pound shops and pigeons.

“If anything this is what Bishop needs to bring the money in.”

But other people said the cinema should be built in the town centre itself rather than one and a half miles away in St Helen Auckland.

Michael Stainthorpe said: “The town needs a cinema but have it in the town to attract people to it rather than going no further than St Helens.”

In their statement to the council, developers Prestige Car Direct Properties said a proposal to replace the current town centre bus station with a cinema was too complicated, while retailers were not interested in the proposed development of vacant land at North Bondgate.

Online supporter Mark green said the Bondgate site was too small to accommodate a six screen cinema.

He said: “Do people want to settle for a quaint one or two screen cinema? I don’t.”

The applicants said the scheme would create more than 100 jobs and they would work with the council to ensure local people are employed there.

Objectors said they welcomed the proposed cinema but were opposed to the shops element saying it would drag further trade and businesses out of the town centre.

The meeting will start at 2pm in the council chamber.