CINEMA WARS: North Bay vs North Street

Plans for cinema complex in North Street submitted by the Shaw family
Plans for cinema complex in North Street submitted by the Shaw family

How people vote in the forthcoming borough election could ultimately decide where Scarborough’s long-awaited multiplex cinema is built.

Following last week’s shock decision of Scarborough Council’s planning committee to reject plans for a seven-screen cinema on the former Atlantis site, a row has broken out over where the best spot for the attraction might be.

Drop Folder News. Pic Kevin Allen.'North Street Car Park.'072741

Drop Folder News. Pic Kevin Allen.'North Street Car Park.'072741

Seven of the 13 councillors felt the cinema had to be in the town centre.

The town’s Labour party and its prospective parliamentary candidate Ian McInnes have put their support behind a cinema on the North Street car park, which has had planning permission since 2008.

Robert Goodwill, the Conservative candidate and incumbent MP, and its local party group are still supporting the plans by water park developer Benchmark Leisure for the North Bay.

Whichever party gains an overall majority on the borough council after May 8 could have a major impact on which cinema is delivered.

Labour Cllr Steve Siddons, one of those who voted down the North Bay plans, said the site opposite Peasholm was the wrong 

He called for the council-owned car park to be put on the market immediately.

He added: “There have been plans for a cinema in the town centre for years on the North Street car park and Scarborough Council has been dragging its heels about selling this prime site and failing to give the residents of this town the facilities they deserve.”

As the council owns the car park it would have to be put out to open tender and could not be sold directly to one interested party.

In response Cllr Derek Bastiman, leader of the Conservative group, said it was not giving up on the North Bay.

He said: “It is important that Scarborough gets a multiplex cinema.

“It is an amenity for which the residents and tourism industry in the resort have been pressing for a long time.”

“We are considering a number of sites including the North Bay.

“We want a site which will be cost effective and one which will be deliverable for an operator.”

Benchmark told The Scarborough News it is weighing up its options before deciding whether to appeal the planning committee’s decision.

As the councillors went against their officers’ advice of approving the plans the council would be liable to pay Benchmark’s costs if it was successful in overturning the decision.

Alex Duce, development director of the company, warned that the refusal could scare away the interested cinema chains.

He said: “We are very disappointed with planning committee’s decision to refuse our application for a multiplex cinema and associated development on the former Atlantis site at Peasholm Gap.

“Efforts to bring a multiplex cinema to Scarborough have been frustrated for many years by the difficulty in securing operator interest. We now have a range of operators interested and actively negotiating to bring forward the proposals on the former Atlantis site.

“The town centre sites do not meet operators’ criteria and do not have a realistic chance of securing a cinema development. This is a true reflection of the market which is borne out by the longstanding failure of the promoters of the North Street development to bring that site forward despite having first secured planning permission in 2008.

“We still believe strongly that the former Atlantis site is a unique opportunity for Scarborough to secure a multiplex cinema. The current interest in the town cannot be sustained indefinitely and we will therefore be looking carefully at our options to move forward with the project.”

One of the chains that had been in discussion about the North Bay site claims that North Street was not a viable location.

Phil Dove, regional manager of The Light Cinemas, which has picture houses in New Brighton and Cambridge, told The Scarborough News:

“We are disappointed in the outcome of Benchmark’s recent planning application as we have been negotiating for some years to deliver a cinema of excellence to Scarborough.”

“We have reviewed several other sites in the town centre over the past 10 years and in our opinion this is the only site that would be able to deliver a destination of excellence similar to that of our award winning development at Marine Point on New Brighton seafront.”

In contrast Nikolas Shaw, who owns the Opera House Casino and is the man behind the North Street application, said he was delighted and called on the council to support his vision.

He said: “We’re really pleased with the Council’s decision as we’ve always felt that the town centre is the best place for a multiplex cinema.

“Scarborough Borough Council granted us planning permission for a development on North Street car park back in 2008, but never did anything about releasing the site, which they own, for development.

“Our hands have been tied.

“Hopefully the powers-that-be will now have a re-think and decide to work with us and give the people of Scarborough the cinema that they’ve wanted for years.”

After The Scarborough News broke the council’s decision to refuse the North Bay plans our social media pages were inundated with people reacting to the news.

Opinion was divided on whether the correct decision had been taken and now it appears that how those people vote when the enter the polling station a fortnight today could have lasting implications on how the town will look in years to come.