Published: 09:00, 15 September 2016
Proposals to expand Ashford's Cineworld site with the addition of an IMAX screen have been unanimously approved by councillors.
The site at Eureka Park, just off of Junction 9 of the M20 will be the new home to the IMAX screen, as well as three extra screens in the existing Cineworld cinema and two new restaurants.
The building will stand twice as tall as the existing cinema to accommodate the IMAX screen.
The application was approved last night by Ashford Borough Council's planning committee.
Andrew Pepler, from Indigo Planning representing Land Securities, said: "The proposal represents a great opportunity for Ashford as a whole.
"Currently the nearest IMAX screens are in London and Bluewater so it's a good opportunity here.
"We believe it will compliment the plans for the town centre and Elwick Place.
"The proposals will also help to create and maintain jobs within the borough."
Plans have already been approved for the £75 million regeneration of the Elwick Place site in the town centre with a new six-screen 'boutique' cinema.
It will be opened under their Picturehouse brand, along with a new hotel and restaurants on the site. It could be built by March 2018.
Cllr Powell, ABC's lead member for finance said: "An IMAX cinema will improve the park's offering and to some extent futureproof it.
"While Eureka Park's restaurants are generally family friendly, the plan is to ensure that there is a more sophisticated mix of restaurants at Elwick Place with a greater emphasis on fine dining.
"However, we must try to ensure that an expansion at Eureka Park does not impinge on our plans at Elwick Place."
Cllr Graham Galpin, ABC portfolio holder for town centre said: "I am comfortable that there is a market for two cinemas.
"The differentiation is an important factor and the sequential test is only satisfied if we complete or have begun substantial work on the Elwick Road site before anything is done in Eureka Park."
Surveys on parking showed that during peak times, capacity at Eureka Park did not exceed 70%.
Although the site will increase its parking spaces from from 907 to 930, additional signs and changes to the layout are said to help ease the flow of cars arriving at the park on the basis that the park is multipurpose and customers may do multiple activities .
Concerns were raised during the meeting regarding the accessibility to the site for those using public transport, to which councillors responded that they hope the site will benefit from improved transport links around the town with a new Stagecoach bus hopper service set to be provided in the near future.
IMAX screens are larger and more curved than traditional cinema screens. The picture is clearer and the sound is of a higher quality.