The Odeon-run cinema with an IMAX screen now has a clear run after Hawksworth Securities, the backers of a rival £100 million cinema-led development at the derelict North Westgate site, lost a legal challenge to overturn Peterborough City Council’s planning approval for the Queensgate scheme.
Peter Breach, chairman of Hawksworth, said an appeal would not be made after it failed in its High Court bid, but he admitted that it will now take a lot of effort to get the North Westgate scheme - which includes a four star hotel, homes, restaurants and shops - off the ground.
“The truth is it’s starting from scratch. It will not be deliverable instantly. It will take a lot of work and determination and imagination,” he said.
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Mr Breach said he was disappointed by the High Court ruling but was not giving up on the redevelopment.
He added: “I think everyone believes a cinema in Queensgate makes the deliverability of North Westgate in any lesser format very difficult.
“We will continue to strive to deliver something worthy of Peterborough.
“Central government has said very recently that it wants to move office functions out of central London and Peterborough has been mentioned.
“It would be a great shame if we had to lose the landscaping and public realm that we had proposed. The skill will be combining a mix of uses to make it an attractive part of the city and not an office ghetto.”
Mr Breach was speaking following a council planning committee meeting this afternoon (Tuesday, July 26) where a second application for a Queensgate cinema-led development was passed.
The proposals were exactly the same as those which had previously been approved by the committee.
However, with uncertainty over which way the High Court would rule, the application had been put in to counter some of the legal arguments put forward by Hawksworth as to why the council’s approval for the Queensgate development should be overturned.
Hawksworth claimed that the council failed to determine whether the granting of planning permission for the Queensgate scheme would render the North Westgate scheme unviable.
To counter that, the council scheme included a comparative analysis of the viability of both schemes.
Speaking at the meeting Paddy Bingham, a managing director at Invesco, which owns Queensgate, said: “Since we bought Queensgate in 2014 we have considered very carefully how to enhance the centre, not only for our customers but for Peterborough to make sure we can compete better with Leicester and Cambridge.
“The recent referendum does not in a way change our position. There’s some uncertainty in the wider economy and we need to put the funding in place with the key tenants now.”
Mr Bingham said John Lewis was backing the Queensgate development, and that the success of North Westgate will be increasingly viable as footfall increases in the city centre.
Speaking earlier in the meeting, Mr Breach, referring to North Westgate, said: “There are few sites in Britain that central in that state.
“Is this hugely profitable? No it’s not. Is it profitable? Yes. Is it deliverable? Yes.
“What is more, in recent days we have received a financial proposal from a large property organisation. And we are anticipating a second one from an international investor.”
He said his plans, which have already been approved by the council, but require a cinema to be viable, would greatly improve the public realm and significantly improve the council revenue.
Planning committee member Councillor Stuart Martin said: “Queensgate is important to Peterborough, it does attract an awful lot of people to the city. It’s looking jaded. It does require more than a facelift.
“Similarly, North Westgate really does need development. It’s a rather sad area of the city. I would be really upset if approving the Queensgate application would jeopardise North Westgate.”
Councillor Peter Hiller said he had concerns over the viability of the North Westgate scheme, but that he was pleased to back the Queensgate proposals.
He said: “I think it’s an excellent scheme for Queensgate and the city as a whole. I personally look forward to the new development taking place and I’m sure it will be a great draw for the people in our great city and visitors coming in.”
Cllr Hiller also made reference to comments in September 2015 from Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson where he criticised the committee’s decision to approve the first Queensgate application.
Mr Jackson had said: “I’m exceptionally disappointed by the decision. I thought there was a strong case by an experienced barrister to reject the application and put in a new one.”
Speaking today, Cllr Hiller said: “I’m very pleased that the council won its legal challenge and that a number of people were proven wrong, including the MP.”
Stewart Jackson responded saying: “I sought consistently throughout this sorry saga to bring both sides together to avoid conflict and legal wrangles but it proved impossible.
“I always wanted both parties to work together to improve the city centre.
“I’m surprised that Cllr Hiller apparently disregards the major strategic objective of regenerating the North Westgate area in the heart of Peterborough, something that the City Council regrettably have done nothing to advance.
“What Cllr Hiller knows about planning law you could write on a postage stamp.”