A deal to secure an operator for a new multi-screen cinema has been delayed and will not be sealed until the new year.
That was the message from Kathryn Carr, Swale council’s regeneration director, who was giving an update on the £46m redevelopment of Sittingbourne town centre.
Speaking at a Sittingbourne Local Engagement Forum, she said the eagerly-awaited plans were progressing well but the cinema deal, widely expected to have been wrapped up before Christmas, was still being negotiated.
She said: “I cannot give a date. It’s a complex legal agreement. It will be finalised in the next few weeks.”
The seven-screen cinema is deemed as crucial to the entire plan for the town and will act as a catalyst for the rest of the development, including a multi-storey car park, new homes and shops and a new public square in front of the railway station.
Cllr James Hunt (Con), who represents The Meads, said the delay caused problems because people had been told to expect to know more by December.
He said: “This is the big problem we have got, knowing what’s happening and letting residents know what’s happening.”
Richard Palmer, a parish councillor in Newington, said it was feasible, given the cinema operator had signed only a heads of terms agreement, effectively confirming its interest, that it could walk away at any moment.
He asked: “What’s plan B?”
“I do not need a plan B,” replied Ms Carr, who refused to be drawn on a precise timescale.
“I am confident we will get this over the line. I have done this kind of work before.
“All parties involved want to do it. It’s just about working together to make it happen.”
Meanwhile, Ms Carr, who took over as regeneration director in October, said the market, held on The Forum car park where the cinema is planned to be built, would move to the High Street resulting in changes for traffic and bus services.
"I do not need a plan B. I am confident we will get this over the line. I have done this kind of work before" - Kathryn Carr, regeneration director
Cllr Mike Dendor (Con), of Kemsley ward, suggested it might be wise for the council to explain to people what would replace high street buses.
When asked about the buses no longer using the road and being replaced with a proposed “transport hub”, Ms Carr said detailed design work was being finalised.
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