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Canterbury City Council recommends Whitstable Harbour Board turns down plans for harbour cinema in South Quay Shed

By Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Plans for a new cinema in Whitstable Harbour are not being backed by Canterbury City Council.

The harbour's South Quay Shed is being developed by the city council, which owns the site.

It is being transformed into a mixed-use space for shopping, a restaurant or café, and a possible museum space for exhibition and education activities - with a design that will incorporate shipping containers.

Designs showing how the cinema could look. Picture: MEME Architects LLP (12171323)
Designs showing how the cinema could look. Picture: MEME Architects LLP (12171323)

Community group Cinema for Whitstable (CFW) has been campaigning for a cinema to be included as part of the plans.

Their proposal for a boutique cinema – dubbed the South Quay Picture Box – which they put forward alongside architects’s drawings showing how it might look gained strong support from the town’s Harbour Board and residents last year.

The council has previously said it would not be structurally feasible to build a “mainstream” cinema in the atrium of the building.

But CFW campaigner Chris Cornell said that a modest, 40-seat facility could fit within a unit comprising just three shipping containers - and could provide a boost to the whole South Quay Shed project.

Cllr Chris Cornell is among those who backed plans for a new cinema
Cllr Chris Cornell is among those who backed plans for a new cinema

However, a report set to be delivered to Whitstable Harbour Board at a meeting this Friday reveals the council is not backing plans for a cinema.

The authority says meetings have been held with cinema operators to look at the commercial viability of the project.

But this process has concluded that a cinema is not a viable proposition for the South Quay Shed site for a number of reasons.

These include there "not being enough headroom to accommodate the seating angle for a cinema using shipping containers".

A 15-year lease - to coincide with the design life of the shed - is also thought to be "restrictive" for operators, while the council says some major operators were also only interested if they could have the entire shed site.

An image showing how the South Quay Shed might look. Picture: Canterbury City Council (12171278)
An image showing how the South Quay Shed might look. Picture: Canterbury City Council (12171278)

The report therefore recommends to Whitstable Harbour Board members that a cinema is not incorporated into the South Quay Shed development.

The report at Friday's meeting will also give board members the latest on the development, - where external cladding has now been removed, and work is set to begin this week on a new flood defence partition wall and on the construction of the development's frontage.

Harbour Board chairman Cllr Pat Todd said: “Regular users of the harbour will have already noticed the changes that have taken place to the South Quay Shed. We’re pleased with the progress that is being made on this exciting project for Whitstable.

“The one outstanding issue has been the cinema, and Board members will be asked to now rule this out at the shed.”

Whitstable Harbour Board will meet at 3pm on Friday, in the Mallandain Room at Whitstable Castle. The public are welcome to attend.

Read more: All the latest news from Whitstable

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