Old Odeon building is sound, says cinema man

PUBLISHED: 10:53 01 January 2009 | UPDATED: 13:48 06 May 2010

Despite its desolate look, the Odeon building is sound

Despite its desolate look, the Odeon building is sound

THE FINAL reel in the future of the former Odeon cinema in St Albans has yet to be run as a would-be saviour waits in the wings. Cinema entrepreneur James Hannaway, who restored the fortunes of The Rex in Berkhamsted, visited the London Road Odeon site

THE FINAL reel in the future of the former Odeon cinema in St Albans has yet to be run as a would-be "saviour" waits in the wings.

Cinema entrepreneur James Hannaway, who restored the fortunes of The Rex in Berkhamsted, visited the London Road Odeon site before Christmas with his advisers after the property came back on the market.

Wattsdown Developments, which owns the 1930s' art deco former cinema, has put it up for sale with planning permission for 14 luxury flats.

With the economic downturn meaning that some housing developments around the district have already been mothballed, campaigners who want to see it returned to a cinema are pinning their hopes on Mr Hannaway.

He said this week: "The good news is that the fabric of the building is rock solid. The gutters and walls need some attention but the roof is good and there's no damp or structural damage.

"But I don't want to raise people's hopes that this will be plain sailing as everything hinges on the price. If we can agree a price we are seriously interested."

Mr Hannaway and his team were due to revisit the cinema on Monday for a more thorough inspection.

Wattsdown, which has owned the site for more than seven years, has got planning permission to demolish the cinema and put up flats on the site.

That could make the site potentially more expensive if the development company could afford to sit on it for a while longer.

However if housing is put there, 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.

Steve Walker, managing director of Hall's which is marketing the Odeon site, said: "The value attached to the site through having planning consent for flats will remain. Should the cinema idea prove to be unsuccessful they could always revert to the flats proposal in the future - something that might give an investor comfort.

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