PLANS for a 230-seat cinema at Chester’s former Odeon cinema will be included in an application likely to be submitted to the city council early in the new year.
Jason Brook, chief executive of South Yorkshire-based The Brook Group, said the scheme, which could even be lodged before Christmas, would be a multi-purpose leisure destination with restaurants, bars and a “niche” arts use.
Mr Brook said the dual purpose arts area could be used for either a cinema or as a performance area.
He said: “I think it’s likely we will put a cinema element in there as part of the scheme and that will form a part of the planning application.”
Mr Brook said the cinema aspect had already been marketed but no operators had shown any interest in locating within the Grade II listed art deco building.
There have been rumours Brook might be willing to sell the building to a pub company, ING – the finance house behind the stalled Northgate Development – or even the city council which is seeking arts venues to fill the void left by the closure of the Gateway Theatre. But Mr Brook insisted: “We would not sell it.”
There have been legal issues with the project concerning rights of access to the rear of the property.
Mr Brook said clarification was being sought from the city council and ING to see how the planned bus station might impact on what Brook wants to do at the cinema.
Mr Brook denied being frustrated with slow progress at the site because his company had “got plenty on at the minute”.
City MP Christine Russell would like the city council to buy the building from Brook and convert it into a multi-purpose arts centre which would fit in with the notion of a cultural quarter in that area of the city centre. She is unimpressed with Brook’s plans, mainly because there is only provision for a one screen cinema which she does not consider viable.
And she has called for the council to use its powers under listed buildings legislation to get the site in better order given it is “looking so shabby” and “undermining the image of Chester”.
But Mr Brook hit back: “Christine has never brought forward anything other than criticised what we want to do.”
Last January there was bemusement after Brook submitted and then quickly withdrew plans which included a new cinema at the former Odeon. In a note to the council, Tony Barton of Donald Insall Associates Ltd, on behalf of Brook, said his clients had decided to withdraw the plans after they were leaked to the Press.