Developers Prorsus, who are hoping to build a £46m cinema complex on the former Bowyers site, believe a new Cineworld and Trowbridge’s current Odeon could both survive in the town.
A four-day planning appeal is currently taking place at Trowbridge Civic Centre with Prorsus looking to overturn Wiltshire Council’s decision, in June 2012, to reject plans for an eight-screen cinema, a Morrisons store, six restaurants and a pub to be built on the derelict site.
The proceedings began yesterday with planning inspector David Nicholson hearing claims from Wiltshire Council and St Stephens Place Leisure Park developer, Legal & General, that the site’s seven-screen Odeon, would severely suffer financially if Cineworld opened in Trowbridge with it potentially closing down.
Although, Prorsus’ legal team argued against that point today.
“We have two major operators who know what they are doing and are happy to compete against each other,” said Paul Tucker QC, representing Prorsus.
“Look at the glass as being half-full with Cineworld and Odeon bringing trade to the town. Isn’t that a great thing for Trowbridge?”
The £17m St Stephens Place Leisure Park opened in November and homes Odeon, Nando’s, Prezzo and Premier Inn.
A Frankie & Benny’s is due to open next month with three other restaurants units still empty.
Alban Henderson, GL Hearn planning associate director, referencing a report from Savills property agent, argued that restaurateurs are reluctant to commit to St Stephens Place before knowing the outcome of the Bowyers planning appeal with the report also suggesting that Trowbridge couldn’t sustain the total number of eateries at both sites combined.
“I wouldn’t say it (St Stephens Place) is a successful scheme in forms of occupation and its ongoing success is reliant on the units being occupied,” he said.
“I think the restaurateurs are hedging their bets.”
At the start of today’s proceedings, Mr Nicholson was shown a video of 400 supporters of the Bowers regeneration scheme marching through Trowbridge, from the site to County Hall, after it was rejected in 2012.
To further show support for the scheme, known as Innox Riverside, residents and interested parties, in attendance at the Civic Centre today, took up an opportunity to give their views on the plans.
Mike Baxter, who lives in the town and is a former cinema operator, said: “There was a 400-person march in support of Innox Riverside and thousands signed a petition. I’ve spoken to many people in Trowbridge over the past few weeks and that support hasn’t gone away.”
Edwina Abrook, who lives in Hilperton, said: “This can be for the people of the town and beyond. This scheme will make Trowbridge an attractive place to visit so please do something special for the people.”
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 the council.
Despite this, the company has decided to pursue their earlier plans.
The inquiry continues.