Community cinema project back on track after shock council decision

A COMMUNITY cinema project is back on track after a bid to install plastic windows in Royston Town Hall beat the odds.

The proposal was recommended to be declined by officers at North Herts District Council but councillors okayed the proposal by a majority of one - with the panel split 5-4 in favour.

Royston Town Council will put in the 12 UPVC windows as a cost-cutting way to dampen sound.

The �130,000 refurbishment of the town hall, which was scheduled to be finished by next month, had been put on hold for a number of months over the planning row.

Work can now continue but the completion has been pushed back to an unknown date in 2012.

Council leader, Robert Smith, said: “It was a close call but we are all delighted so we crack on again with getting the cinema moving.”

A view the town’s mayor, Robert Inwood, shares.

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He told The Crow: “It’s good news that it is going through - now lets get the cinema project going forward.”

Several Royston councillors sit on the planning control panel and Cllrs Fiona Hill, Bill Davidson and Tony Hunter all declared a prejudicial interest, addressed the committee and then left the room for the period of the debate.

Which only take place because it was called in after being recommended to be declined and slammed by district council officers.

Who criticised the use of a synthetic material in a conservation area, stating: “The replacement windows would fail to conserve the building’s character and would not preserve or enhance the character of appearance of Royston Conservation Area.

“In addition there is concern that harm would be caused by installing windows of a markedly different design to the first floor only, thus, eroding the appearance of the host building and harming the appearance of the conservation area.”

But it was decided that the overall benefit to the local community overpowered any negative impact on the town.

Cllr Tom Brindley, NHDC’s portfolio holder for planning, transport and enterprise, said: “NHDC’s Planning Control Committee reviewed the specific planning guidance and considered the desire of the town council to make more effective use of the town hall for the wider benefit of the local community.

“After giving the report thorough consideration, it was my observation that the Committee decided, on balance, any change to the building and Conservation Area caused by the installation of the UPVC windows was outweighed by the benefit to Royston of bringing the building back into use as a community asset.”

The cinema project is a shared project between business partnership Royston First and the Town Council.

It was announced last year the cinema would have state-of-the-art audio equipment and 3D capability.