It's THE END for Odeon cinema saga

PUBLISHED: 15:09 10 June 2008 | UPDATED: 13:22 06 May 2010

The disintegrating art deco facade of the old Odeon

The disintegrating art deco facade of the old Odeon

THE END was finally flashed up on screen on Monday as the site of the city s last cinema was given the go-ahead to become a flats scheme. After years of planning applications and appeals, developer Wattsdown was finally given permission to demolish the ol

THE END was finally flashed up on screen on Monday as the site of the city's last cinema was given the go-ahead to become a flats scheme.

After years of planning applications and appeals, developer Wattsdown was finally given permission to demolish the old Odeon cinema in London Road, St Albans, and build 14 flats on the site.

The decision to end the saga of the art-deco building which has been empty for years and has fallen into disrepair was agreed by a small majority of councillors at a meeting of the district council's plans central committee.

But campaigners against the scheme, who maintained there was still a chance that the building could be saved as an independent cinema and was a part of the city's history, were still fighting their corner to the last.

Peter Trevelyan of St Albans Civic Society spoke against the application which attracted 33 letters of objection making a number of points including the loss of an art-deco building and part of the city's heritage together with the need for a cinema for the younger generation.

But in turn there were a number of letters in support of the scheme, most from local residents who felt that the design was better than the crumbling facade at the moment and a cinema on the site would cause them problems.

Previous applications from Wattsdown had been for larger housing developments on the site with the most recent for 20 flats turned down by a planning inspector a year ago because he felt it would harm the St Albans Conservation Area.

At an earlier planning appeal, an inspector had ruled that there were no grounds to refuse the demolition of the building even though the facade was locally listed.

St Albans planning officers recommended approval of the latest scheme on Monday. They felt it overcame previous reasons for refusal and would not affect the character and appearance of the Conservation Area, would not take away privacy from adjoining owners and it provided sufficient parking spaces.

Wattsdown will have to pay thousands of pounds towards the cost of education facilities, sustainable transport measures and sports and recreation facilities before it can start work.

Committee member, Cllr Jack Pia, said after the meeting that there had been a covenant on the building preventing it becoming a cinema again. He maintained that the council would never have succeeded in compulsorily purchasing it for several reasons including the fact that they owned a city-centre site earmarked for a cinema and the original Odeon car park had been sold off.

He added: "A lot of people saw it as a blight. It blighted the entrance to the town and it could never have been a cinema again because it was in the wrong place.

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