Matlock cinema plans hit the rocks

editorial image

Plans to bring a new cinema to Matlock have hit a snag. 

Derbyshire Dales District Council is looking to build a community hub, complete with a cinema room, on the site of the town’s former bus station and Market Hall on Bakewell Road.

But speaking at a council meeting on Thursday, head of regeneration and policy Steve Capes admitted it was proving tricky to make the scheme financially viable. 

Mr Capes said significant costs were involved and that an operator was still to be lined up. 

He said it is likely any operator would want the proposed building to come fitted-out and ready for use – something that would involve more council investment.

The project to regenerate the Bakewell Road site started a decade ago, with the adoption of the Matlock Town Centre Supplementary Planning Document in 2008.

In 2012, the authority appointed Henry Davidson Developments as a partner for the site to help bring in businesses.

By 2014, the firm had brought forward proposals for a 38,000 sq ft food store – now occupied by an M&S Foodstore – with five retail units, six apartments and 273 car parking spaces.

In the same year Matlock Community Vision was set up – it comprises members of the town and district councils, the civic association, town traders, Highfields School Sixth Form, and more.

In June last year, the district council gave the group £10,000 to draw up a feasibility study for the site, including the Market Hall and former bus station.

The group hired Aspinall Verdi Ltd to conduct the survey, which published its results in March.

Aspinall found that “there is apparent demand for a small one or two screen cinema in Matlock”.

It drew up four options for the site, with varying amounts of floorspace.

The most expensive option would cost £4.4 million, with the least expensive costing £2.8 million.

Alongside this, running costs would range from £148,283 to £223,651.

District council officers wrote in a report: “This indicates that for all options there is insufficient financial viability to be able to cover the running costs.

“However for each of four options identified, no account was taken of the significant capital costs needed to secure the redevelopment of the site.

The district council asked its own commercial advisor, Thomas Lister Ltd, to look into the site.

It found: “Whilst there is some interest from the smaller cinema operators, without significant capital investment in redevelopment of the site it was unlikely that such an operation would be financially viable in the short to medium term.”

The firm said that building a residential care home or houses would more likely to be financially viable, but would be heavily restricted by planning policies in the town centre.

An application for a block of 48 retirement apartments in the town centre next to the football club was rejected in October due to its perceived impact on the area.

Thomas Lister also stated that the Derbyshire CCGs wish to improve medical facilities in the town but that this would require a partnership with one or both of the existing surgeries within Matlock.

District council officers summarised: “The evidence from the two recent studies suggests that despite involvement from the community in bringing forward proposals, only development with higher values which include residential use is immediately commercially viable on the land solely within the ownership of the district council.

“Longer term returns along with economic led community benefits could be gained from a cinema type development in the market hall area – but only where this includes some food and beverage offer – and capital costs for such a development would not be capable of being recouped in the short term.

“Whilst ‘community use’ is unviable, a use attractive to the community (such as a cinema) could be viable in the long term but only with food/beverage units included.”