Vue will not expand its Northampton town centre cinema unless Greyfriars multiplex is scrapped

Vue will not expand its Sol Central site while there are still plans for a multiplex cinema at Greyfriars.
Vue will not expand its Sol Central site while there are still plans for a multiplex cinema at Greyfriars.

A national cinema chain will not carry out a refurbishment at Northampton's Sol Central until the council holds off on building another multiplex down the road.

Vue has told the owners of the complex in Mare Fair, Palace Capital, that expanding its outlet at Sol Central would not be viable because of the multi-million development set to take place on the former bus station land.

The plans for the Greyfriars site feature a large multiplex cinema as part of a leisure hub.

The plans for the Greyfriars site feature a large multiplex cinema as part of a leisure hub.

Endurance Estates was selected by Northampton Borough Council to develop the four-acre site at Greyfriars, once home to the town's 1970s-built bus station.

The firm wants to create a leisure hub with a seven-screen cinema on the land, currently a mass of gravel, along with a 125-bed hotel and 345 student flats,

International chain The Light has been chosen to run the new cinema.

But chief executive of London-based Palace Capital, Neil Sinclair, said the threat of Greyfriars is putting all expansion plans at Sol Central on hold.

The plans for Greyfriars were released last year.

The plans for Greyfriars were released last year.

He said: "Vue was going to spend money on improving their site.

"But they have held off since the plan for Greyfriars was released a year ago.

"I would have done the same if I were them."

As part of Northampton Borough Council's planning for the Greyfriars land a survey was drawn up assessing whether the town had the capacity for a new cinema. It came back positively, though it did note that Vue and the Cineworld at Sixfields could lose up to 30 per cent in trade.

"This won't be attracting new people, into the town centre," said Mr Sinclair. "It will just be dividing the existing custom three ways."

Palace Capital bought Sol Central in June 2015 for £20.7 million and promised to invest heavily in revamping the 200,000 square ft site.

The company wants to expand into the former Gala Casino site, but Mr Sinclair said potential operators are holding off until more detail is released about the Greyfriars site.

"All we are saying to the council is change these plans," Mr Sinclair said.

"Help us to make our scheme successful and we will help to make your scheme successful.

"We want our sites to be complimentary.

"But - as it stands - we don't think yours works."

Councillor Danielle Stone, the Labour group leader and councillor for he Castle area, said: "Sol Central is a key part of the future success of the town centre and so the borough council must work in close partnership with stakeholders to achieve this.

"The owners of Sol Central and VUE are willing to invest for the long term and that will attract more businesses in there.

"The problem for Sol Central is the huge uncertainty surrounding the future of the Greyfriars site.

"At present the aspiration is to build a multi-screen cinema on there amongst a few other things.

"The reality is that VUE is very unlikely to commit to Sol Central if another multi-cinema complex is going to open up just around the corner.

"Personally I just don’t think there is capacity for two multi-screen cinema venues in the town centre with one at Sol Central and other at Greyfriars.

"The Greyfriars site should offer something different in terms of leisure rather chasing the same pound as Sol Central. I would like to see something on there that attracts families. At present the town centre doesn’t have enough family entertainment. A family can spend a day in Milton Keynes but only about an hour or so in Northampton town centre.

"A multi-screen cinema needs to be dropped from the Greyfriars site plans.”