A CITY centre cinema has threatened a legal challenge against plans for a rival venue, in a move that could cause further delays to York’s Community Stadium.

Agents for Reel in Blossom Street say it might have to close if councillors approve enlarged plans for a multiplex beside the proposed stadium at Monks Cross.

They have urged City of York Council to deem the application by developers Wrenbridge Sport York Ltd 'invalid' and say Reel could challenge its validity in the courts if the planning committee makes a decision on it next week.

York Press:

Graeme Cockerill and Gemma Carlton (manager) outside Reel Cinema in Blossom Street. Picture: Frank Dwyer

But Wrenbridge has warned that any further delays in the planning process at this stage could have a knock on impact on the timescales for the development. The much-delayed stadium is currently scheduled for completion in time for York City to start playing there in September 2018.

Wrenbridge wants permission for a much bigger cinema than was approved by the council last May. They want to increase its height, increase the number of seats from 2,000 to 2,400 and add an extra screen, taking the total to 13. They say the changes are needed to meet the requirements of a specific cinema operator.

York Press:

The new cinema is planned as part of the York Community Stadium 

It describes them as 'minor design amendments' to meet operator requirements but Reel's agents say the proposals could not reasonably be described as “minor” as they involve more than 4,000 square metres of additional floorspace, which they say would warrant a full retail impact assessment under the National Planning Policy Framework.

"The impact of this on existing in-centre operations such as our client’s facility in the city centre will be significant and the consequent trade diversion of a scale that would seriously threaten the continued viability of that facility," they say.

"This is clearly an impact that both local and national planning policy is designed to avoid and we would respectfully submit therefore the application proposals are contrary to development plan policy."

York Press:

Reel, in Blossom Street

Agents for another York cinema, Vue at Clifton Moor, have also objected to the proposals, saying they would increase the impact on the ongoing viability of Vue, Reel and City Screen.

"While Vue would most likely invest in its facilities in the face of such commercial competition from the new facility, the resulting potential closure of either of the smaller city centre facilities would further diminish the relative attraction of the city centre as compared to that of Monks Cross."

A City Screen spokesman said it had not objected and he felt the new cinema would have a much greater impact on York's other out of town cinema than on City Screen.

Wrenbridge Sport director Richard Arnold said: “Naturally, we would have concerns that, should there be any further delays to the planning process at this stage, this could have a knock on impact on the development timescales."

He said: “Given the nature of the design amendments, composition of uses and the fact that the layout of the scheme is largely unchanged, the minor amendments proposed would not result in a material change to the approved scheme. Therefore, it is appropriate to secure these alterations through a s73 application."

He said the majority of the increased floorspace would provide more circulation space and improved facilities for disabled users.

"We are aware of the objections submitted by competitor cinema operators and it is for the council to determine the application considering all of the information provided," he added.

An internal council memorandum to the committee by Rachel Macefield, of Planning and Environmental Management, says there is no evidence to suggest there will be a material diversion of trade from either City Screen or Reel, and "it is not considered that the proposal would have a significant adverse impact on these facilities."

York Press:

The Odeon in Blossom Street opened on n February 1, 1937. A stream of expensive cars delivered VIP guests to its doors, among them a Viscount and Viscountess, and the chain's founder, Oscar Deutsch.

All 1,484 seats were sold within 90 minutes of the box office opening, and the first person in the queue to buy a ticket was presented with a bottle of champagne by the cinema's management.

The first films shown were The Man Who Could Work Miracles, starring Roland Young, and They Met In A Taxi, starring Fay Wray and Chester Morris.

Odeon closed the Grade II-listed complex in August 2006, despite 13,000 readers backing a Press campaign calling for it to be saved. The closure followed a planning wrangle about the original Odeon sign on the wall of the art deco building.

It reopened as a Reel cinema following a major refurbishment in 2009, after having lain empty and increasingly derelict for almost three years.

The cinema's reopening was hailed by political and tourism chiefs as a massive show of faith in the city.

Kailash Suri, the multi-millionaire boss of the independent cinema chain Reel Cinema, said it was his personal decision to press ahead with the restoration of the picturehouse to its former glory, despite some people telling him he was “barking” and would lose a lot of money.