BASILDON Council has put plans on ice to spend more than £600,000 working up proposals for new town centre leisure facilities, including a cinema.
It says it won’t spend money on the East Square project until it is clear whether the Eastgate Centre will open a nine-screen cinema on its top tier.
The decision follows criticism from opposition councillors, who have claimed the council’s £1billion Basildon masterplan to revive the town centre was in chaos.
Last month the Echo reported Eastgate Centre owner Infrared was in “advanced talks” about opening a cinema in its top tier.
The council has previously said it wanted to bring a cinema to East Square as part of a £30million leisure zone.
Tory council leader Phil Turner said: “There is no risk of there being two cinemas in the town centre. Although it was given approval at cabinet, this money will not be spent on a cinema until we know Infrared’s intentions.
“We will not go down that route while it is unknown.”
Mr Turner said, with the huge Empire multiplex well established on the Festival Leisure Park, there would be no point in having two cinemas in the town centre.
He added: “The chief executive is writing to the owner of the Eastgate Centre to see how advanced plans are for a cinema there.
“There are processes in place to review the plan and we are yet to see the outcome. Perhaps there could even be a theatre in the Eastgate Centre.”
However, Linda Allport- Hodge, Ukip councillor for Nethermayne, suggested it was time the whole masterplan, which would bring 3,000 homes, plus new shops, and “night-time economy” businesses into the town centre, went back to the drawing board.
She asked: “Can we assume the masterplan is now shelved until common sense can be applied and plans to move Basildon College to the market site and for a cinema in East Square are now redundant, if the owner of the Eastgate Centre has similar proposals.
“Two cinemas in Basildon, including one at Festival Leisure, was questionable, but three is ridiculous.
“If Infrared confirms it wants a cinema at Eastgate, then there has been a fundamental change and the masterplan should go back to the drawing board as a matter or urgency.”