Plans to build new cinema on site of the old cinema

Abergavenny Arms

Proposals for the redevelopment of Tunbridge Wells’ old cinema site are due to be submitted in the coming weeks after a deal to build a new hotel on the corner plot collapsed last month.

It is the latest episode in an ongoing saga which has seen numerous proposals for the site fall thorough since the former ABC cinema was forced to close just over 15 years ago.

But now developer Ed Bellhouse, of Bellhouse Joseph, claims to have the financial backing and architectural plans for a scheme combining retail, restaurants, office space and a small amount of residential accommodation.

It is also said to include a three-screen cinema, which would be situated on a part of the site not currently affected by a covenant banning the development of any further screens.

The covenant was placed on much of the old site by the Odeon after it bought and closed the ABC in order to lock out rivals to its Knights Park multiplex in December 2000.

The troubled site has had a complex history, changing hands several times, but has been owned by the Carlyle Group since 2011 after the firm bought the plot for £9.9million.

Since October, Carlyle has been in discussions with Bellhouse Joseph, who wish to purchase the site having worked with Carlyle on numerous unsuccessful projects in the past.

A spokesman for Bellhouse Joseph said: “Ed Bellhouse knows the site well, having been involved with it since 2011 as part of a joint venture with Carlyle Group.

“His proposals are at an advanced stage and he has a number of key tenants lined up.”

Adam Architecture has been commissioned to draw up plans for the scheme, which the spokesman said have since been shared with the planning officers at the borough council.

“Ed Bellhouse is therefore in a position to submit a planning application quickly,” he added.

Speaking of his determination to see the project through, Mr Bellhouse said: “I remain committed to the old cinema site and believe we now have a high quality proposal that is financially viable, attractive to tenants and will be welcomed by the people of Tunbridge Wells.”

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