The planning appeal into the future of Trowbridge’s derelict Bowyer’s factory site came to a close this afternoon.
Developer Prorsus is looking to overturn Wiltshire Council’s decision, made in June 2012, to reject plans for an eight-screen Cineworld, a Morrisons store, six restaurants and a pub to be built on the derelict site – in a project worth £46m.
At the end of the three-day hearing, held at Trowbridge Civic Centre, planning inspector David Nicholson heard closing submissions from legal teams who represent Prorsus, Wiltshire Council and Legal & General.
The latter operates the £17m St Stephens Place Leisure Park which homes a seven-screen Odeon cinema with the council and Legal & General both arguing that a new cinema in Trowbridge would be hugely detrimental to the existing complex – which opened in November.
Robert Walton QC, representing Legal & General, said: “Odeon would be at the margins of viability here (if Cineworld opens) and the risk of closure remains real.”
Although, Paul Tucker QC, representing Prorsus, dismissed these concerns believing that both sites would give Trowbridge a major economic boost.
He also highlighted Odeon’s decision to sign up to 25-year lease at St Stephens 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.
“There is not and never has been a reason to withhold consent (for approving Prorsus’ plans),” Mr Tucker said.
“The level of public support in this case has been startling.”
During the planning appeal, many residents of the town have come to the Civic Centre to offer their backing to the plans for the disused factory site with some making submissions, in favour of the cinema proposals, to the planning inspector.
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.
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, representing Wiltshire Council, told Mr Nicholson that him rejecting Prorsus’ cinema proposal would be of benefit to Trowbridge as the town would still get regeneration at the Bowyers site with an alternative leisure resource offering variety to residents.
“The appellant’s development is an edge of centre site and will withdraw custom from St Stephens Place and have an adverse affect on future investment in the town centre,” Mr Sauvain said.
“This is a positive rejection as another scheme will still go ahead and get built.”
Before this afternoon’s session, Mr Nicholson visited the Bowyers site, to get a scale of the plans proposed for the land.
The result of the inquiry is expected in a few weeks' time.