DEVELOPER Prorsus has thanked the people of Trow-bridge for their continuing backing of plans for a £46m cinema complex on the former Bowyers factory site.
Angus Horner, the company’s managing director, said he had been overwhelmed by the number of people who attended a three-day planning appeal, held at Trowbridge Civic Centre last week.
The hearing, overseen by planning inspector David Nicholson, saw Prorsus fighting to overturn a Wiltshire Council decision – made in June 2012 – to reject plans for an eight-screen Cineworld, a Morrisons supermarket, six restaurants and a pub to be built on the derelict site.
Mr Horner said: “It was heartening to see such large numbers still taking such a strong interest in Trow-bridge’s and their shared futures, while also actually contributing so impressively and effectively to the debate in the room.”
When Wiltshire Council rejected the proposals for the disused Bowyers pork pie factory regeneration, an estimated 400 supporters of the plan marched through the town, from the site to County Hall, in protest.
During their closing statements at last week’s appeal hearing, legal teams representing Wiltshire Council and Legal and General called upon Mr Nicholson to uphold the rejection of the scheme.
The latter operates the new £17m St Stephen’s Place Leisure Park, which has a seven-screen Odeon cinema.
The council and Legal and General both argued that a new cinema in Trowbridge would be hugely detrimental to the existing complex, which opened in November.
Robert Walton QC, representing Legal and General, said: “Odeon would be at the margins of viability here [if a Cineworld opened] and the risk of closure remains real.”
However, Paul Tucker QC, representing Prorsus, dismissed the concerns, maintaining that both sites would give Trowbridge a major economic boost.
He highlighted Odeon’s decision to sign up to a 25-year lease at St Stephen’s Place, despite knowing that a potential cinema scheme was planned for the Bowyers site, as a sign that the company would be unlikely to pull out the town.
In February 2013, Prorsus saw plans for a “reserve” application – which substituted the cinema for an unspecified leisure facility and added a petrol station – accepted by Wiltshire Council.
Stephen Sauvain QC, for Wiltshire Council, said: “The appellant’s development is an edge-of-centre site and will withdraw custom from St Stephen’s Place and have an adverse affect on future investment in the town centre.
“This is a positive rejection, as another scheme will still go ahead and get built.”
The outcome of the appeal is expected to be announced in a few weeks’ time.