Cinema consultant John Sullivan believes Trowbridge would sustain its current Odeon and a new Cineworld on the former Bowyers site, with both likely to turn a profit.
Mr Sullivan, head of consulting at dcinex, informed planning inspector David Nicholson, overseeing the Trowbridge Civic Centre hearing, that if the eight-screen Cineworld was to open, he estimated it would probably take 55 per cent trade between the two companies with Odeon having the remaining 45 per cent.
The proceedings, which began on Tuesday, are taking place because developer Prorsus is looking to overturn Wiltshire Council’s decision, made in June 2012, to reject plans for a Cineworld, a Morrisons store, six restaurants and a pub to be built on the derelict site – in a project worth £46m.
During the opening day’s session, Gillian Jones, a town planner with Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners, stated that within a 20-minute drive Trowbridge’s potential catchment area was 164,074 people, with that being spread thinly between two multiplexes.
Mr Sullivan believed the figure was 211,679 people, including those who are within a 20-minute rail journey also, and he said that figure is likely to increase with new houses expected to be built around Trowbridge in the coming years.
“I think there’s capacity for both to break even, and potential for profit,” Mr Sullivan said.
“Odeon haven’t built a cinema big enough for the catchment area.”
Stephen Sauvain QC, representing Wiltshire Council, and Robert Walton QC, representing Legal & General, developers of the £17m St Stephens Place Leisure Park, which opened in November and houses the Odeon cinema, have called for Mr Nicholson to uphold the council’s decision.
They believe a Cineworld at the Bowyers site will have a hugely detrimental effect on the town’s existing cinema.
Mr Sullivan argued that there should be enough trade for both as he anticipated cinema goers would make at least four trips annually to Trowbridge to watch a film rather than the average 2.7 trips suggested by Mrs Jones.
He cited examples of cinemas in the south west, including Yeovil and Swindon, which enjoy over five visits from individual customers per year.
“I would say that 2.7 trips is a very conservative number,” he said.
“I maintain that if you take the 20 minute drive time around any 21st Century cinema the attendance rate of four visits per year is not unusual.”
Mr Nicholson went on a visit of the derelict Bowyers site this afternoon with Mr Sauvain, Mr Walton and Prorsus’ legal representative Paul Tucker QC expected to give their closing summaries later today as the planning appeal draws to a close.
When Wiltshire Council rejected plans for the Bowyers scheme, in 2012, around 400 supporters of the Bowers regeneration scheme marched through Trowbridge, from the site to County Hall, in protest at the decision.
During the planning appeal, many residents of the town have attended to offer their backing to the plans for the disused factory site with some making submissions, in favour of the cinema plan, to the planning inspector.
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.
Despite this, the company has decided to pursue their earlier plans.
The inquiry continues.