THE councillor in charge of County Durham’s leisure has given her backing to a cinema complex in Bishop Auckland.

Maria Plews, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for leisure, libraries and lifelong learning, visited the second day of a public consultation over the £40m plans at St Helen Auckland.

Land Planning Partnership held a two-day consultation at Bishop Auckland Football Club’s Heritage Park to gauge public reaction to the scheme.

They want to build a cinema, which would have between five and eight screens, up to nine shops, several restaurants and a bowling alley on 24 acres of wasteland next to the West Auckland bypass.

More than 150 people attended the consultation and Land Planning Partnership hope to submit the plans to Durham County Council’s planning department next Friday (December 14), with a view to starting work in the beginning of 2014.

Coun Plews said County Durham lacks cinema provision and that the development would draw people in from across the region.

She said: “I think it’s wonderful and will benefit the whole of the county, not Just Bishop Auckland.

“I firmly believe people will make it into a day trip and visit the town as well as the cinema.

“There’s not another development like this in the county.

“To have everything together is going to be really good.”

More than 4,700 people have joined a Facebook campaign calling for a cinema in Bishop Auckland and welcomed the news, although some still expressed concern that it would never happen.