A ROW has blown up over plans to increase the size of a cinema complex which is a key part of a £25m scheme for a North Yorkshire town where Europe’s largest military base is located amid fears it will erode trade in the surrounding area.
About 140 people and businesses have written to Richmondshire District Council raising concerns that a revised application to increase the size of a multi-screen cinema could harm a smaller cinema in neighbouring Richmond.
Last year permission was given for developers to build a five-screen cinema at Catterick Garrison as part of a scheme which developers have said will bring 700 jobs to the region. But now Lingfield and the Secretary of State for Defence want permission to build a seven-screen cinema and increase the number of seats from 640 to 848.
Objectors are concerned about the impact on the existing cinema at The Station, in Richmond, which also has a restaurant and smalls shops.
Philip Wicks, chairman of the Richmond and Lower Swaledale Business Association, said it was broadly supportive of a five-screen cinema but say increasing its size “now represents a significant threat” to the future of The Station Cinema.
He added: “There is no doubt that The Station Cinema is a substantial driver of footfall, without which the other businesses would suffer and be put under threat themselves.”
Other objectors include the Richmond and District Civic Society, which has written to the council’s planning committee to warn: “We feel this is an attack on the cultural heritage of the Richmond Station complex.
“The introduction of a seven-screen cinema at Catterick Garrison will totally undermine all the activities which take place at Richmond Station.”
The project will transform the former sports ground in Gough Road, which is currently owned by the Ministry of Defence.
Once completed, it will include shops, a cinema, cafés, restaurants and bars and a 60-bed hotel with 400 car parking spaces.
Officers are recommending members of Richmondshire District Council’s planning committee back the proposals when they meet today and give officers permission to give the plans the go-ahead, providing conditions are met. A report to councillors says: “It has long been acknowledged that there is a significant amount of expenditure that is being lost from Richmondshire’s economy to the surrounding centres of Darlington, Northallerton and elsewhere.”
It says the developers envisage there is enough capacity for the increase in cinema seats but officers say the developers have offered some financial support to The Station to mitigate the impact but this has so far been rejected.
In a letter to the committee Propix UK Limited, operators of the Station Cinema, says a seven-screen cinema is too large.
It says it is not afraid of competition and understands a cinema at the garrison would be a positive step for the town but it should be a reasonable size and not allowed to dominate the area.
Catterick Garrison is the largest British Army garrison in Europe with a population of around 18,000.
Lingfield Securities signed an agreement in 2010 with the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, the MoD’s property and services provider, to carry out proposals for the site’s development.
The siting of the garrison was first recommended by Robert Baden-Powell, who founded the scouting movement in 1908 while he was based at the Army barracks, which at that time were located in Richmond Castle.