PLANS to build a £10m art-house cinema and leisure complex in the middle of a Yorkshire spa town have been given the go-ahead by councillors.
The scheme, put forward by developer 4Urban, would see the former Beales department store in Harrogate demolished and a five-screen cinema, plus bars and restaurants, built in its place.
The plans for the building on Albert Street/Station Parade, on the fringe of the town centre’s core shopping streets, were unanimously supported by Harrogate Council’s planning committee.
Paul Lancaster, managing director of Harrogate-based 4Urban, said: “We are delighted that the planning committee has approved our plans.
“This will enable us to deliver a high quality scheme that will include an art house cinema and high quality restaurants and bars – all new to Harrogate - in an accessible and attractive leisure hub that will add significantly to the vitality of the town centre.”
Demolition of the 1950s former Co-operative building is scheduled to begin in mid January with the aim of completing the building by late 2015.
Nine units, which have consent for bars, restaurants, retail or office space, will be created.
4Urban estimates that once completed the redevelopment, which will be built using local stone to blend in with its surrounding buildings, will create up to 200 new jobs.
Harrogate Civic Society, which has no objection to the demolition of the current building, had initially raised concerns about the scale of the new development and the prospect of losing retail space to bars and restaurants.
Since then, the height of the building has been reduced by 1.5 metres and the top floor of the building has been set back to make it less imposing.
4Urban, which acquired the building from Anglia Regional Co-operative in 2009, said it had initially actively marketed the site for retail use for three years without success, including approaching a number of national department store retailers.
Speaking to the Yorkshire Post, Mr Lancaster said: “We have always been open-minded about potential uses of the building.
“We couldn’t get enough concession support for another department store so we went back to the market in January 2013 with the idea of breaking it up into smaller units and the interest we got was from an art-house boutique cinema operator and the leisure market.”
The name of the operator remains confidential for now. The developer has also signed up four of the nine units within the building to restaurant chains, the names of which are also currently confidential.
Mr Lancaster said: “We want to create something that is going to raise the bar for Harrogate and create something that is completely different.
“There’s no point in us developing something that replicates what is already there. We are trying to make this a point of difference.
“The restaurants we have got are new to Harrogate. They are up-and-coming names which are expanding outside the M25.”
The council’s planning officer believes the proposals will enhance the vitality and viability of the town centre and positively contribute to the local economy.
“The site offers an opportunity to provide a vibrant mix of uses that will contribute towards the long term vitality and viability of the centre,” he said.
“The development’s leisure focus could also have associated benefits for the wider town in prolonging activity in this location into the evening.”
Mr Lancaster added: “This is a very important development for us as a Harrogate company and we want every aspect of it to be right.”