Odeon cinema site goes up for sale

PUBLISHED: 18:37 18 December 2008 | UPDATED: 13:48 06 May 2010

The Rex at Berkhamsted -- movie fans want the former Odeon to be converted like this

The Rex at Berkhamsted -- movie fans want the former Odeon to be converted like this

A GLIMMER of hope has emerged for residents who have battled to save the Odeon cinema in St Albans from being turned into a block of flats. It follows news that Wattsdown Developments, which owns the 1930s Art Deco cinema in London Road, has put it up fo

A GLIMMER of hope has emerged for residents who have battled to save the Odeon cinema in St Albans from being turned into a block of flats.

It follows news that Wattsdown Developments, which owns the 1930s' Art Deco cinema in London Road, has put it up for sale with planning permission for 14 luxury flats.

With the economic downturn meaning that some homes projects around the district have already been mothballed, campaigners who want to see it returned to a cinema are pinning their hopes on local cinema entrepreneur James Hannaway.

Mr Hannaway, who restored the fortunes of The Rex cinema in Berkhamsted, has long been interested in it as a viable project.

He said this week: "It's been a long time coming but there might never be a better chance to save the building for a cinema.

"It's good to see something's actually moving. We are going to be looking at it seriously. But of course there is always the risk that some builder will come along prepared to landbank the site to ride out the downturn.

He added: "Having set The Rex up I now know exactly how to go about setting it up and have the track record to attract financial backing."

Marion Hammant, of St Albans Civic Society, said: "The Odeon is a landmark cinema -- possibly one of the most important 20th-century buildings in the city. It would be wonderful news if such a focus of nostalgic pleasure could be kept for our residents."

Steve Walker, managing director of Hall's commercial agent's, said: "The proposed building is of a very high-quality unique design with 12 of the 14 flats being arranged over two floors and the two penthouses being over 1,600 square feet. There will also be a glass atrium and spectacular views across the south side of St Albans.

"By the time the development is complete and the properties offered for sale, it is predicted that the market will be on the up again and properties of this type will be in high demand.

"If a cinema group is the highest bidder and have available funds, they can buy. The owners have never stopped them putting up a proposal but they never have."

Mr Hannaway and his advisers were due to meet Mr Walker at the London Road site today (Thursday) to inspect the cinema which has been closed since 1995.

Blob/Under a Section 106 planning agreement, Wattsdown or any homes developer would have had to pay thousands of pounds towards the cost of education provision, sustainable transport measures and sports and recreation facilities before they could even start building the flats.


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