A NEW multi-screen cinema planned as a key part of the regeneration of Fort Kinnaird is set to be knocked back by the city council over fears it could harm other shopping centres in the Capital.
The Newcraighall shopping centre had applied to create a seven-screen multiplex as part of a major expansion aimed at helping the shopping complex rival the likes of Ocean Terminal in Leith.
It would have seen a revival of a cinema on the site of the city’s first multiplex, the UCI, which was demolished in 2008, and helped to draw in the crowds to the edge-of-town site.
But those ambitions have now been dealt a major blow after council officials recommended the proposals be refused at a meeting next Wednesday.
A Fort Kinnaird spokeswoman said developers were “very surprised” at the recommendation of refusal after 15 months of working with the council on the project.
And there were concerns that a refusal could limit the competition among cinemas in the Capital.
The application had admitted that 90 per cent of the cinema’s business was expected to be drawn from customers of existing venues in the Capital, and both Ocean Terminal owner Resolution and the Omni Centre at the top of Leith Walk voiced opposition to the expansion. British Land, the manager of Fort Kinnaird, has applied to build extra retail space and restaurants after being granted council permission to expand the site in April last year.
An agreement has already been signed with Debenhams to create a 60,000sq ft store at the retail park in Edinburgh’s east.
Odeon had been tipped to run the multiplex, with TGI Fridays also in negotiations to fill one of the new restaurant outlets.
The development would have filled the gap-site where a cinema and bowling alley once stood, but refusal of the 1246-seat cinema complex could threaten the expansion’s future.
Outside seating, a children’s play area and a major new crossing on Newcraighall Road are part of the overall plans.
Craigmillar Community Council secretary Terry Tweed said he would be speaking up at the council’s development management sub-committee next week in favour of the cinema.
He said the city’s first multiplex had run from the same site until being closed and demolished in 2008, adding: “I’m told if they build at Fort Kinnaird park, the nearest cinema south of there will be Newcastle. It’s not as though you’re putting anyone else’s nose out of joint there.
“It’ll be serving the whole of Musselburgh, Prestonpans, you name it. We’re at opposite ends of the city [to Ocean Terminal] and people that don’t go to the cinema at the moment because it is too far and too much trouble will be likely to go.”
A Fort Kinnaird spokeswoman said: “This 25,000sq ft cinema replaces the previous 54,000sq ft cinema. The structure plan recognises Newcraighall/The Jewel, which includes Fort Kinnaird, as providing shopping and leisure facilities for the south-east of the city.
“The local plan provides for future development at Fort Kinnaird focusing on reconfiguration, which improves environmental quality and internal circulation. The proposed cinema is consistent with the provisions of both plans. We will now go forward to a planning hearing to convince councillors of the merits of our proposal, which has the support of both Craigmillar Community Council and Portobello Community Council.
“The cinema operator will be announced shortly and its construction is being funded by the landowners. The shared visits between the cinema and the retail at Fort Kinnaird will underpin existing jobs on the park and create another 50 jobs.”
A council report said there was no shortage of cinemas in the area and that a Fort Kinnaird multiplex would harm the vitality of existing centres, including Ocean Terminal and Wester Hailes.
British Land’s submission has stated only ten per cent of cinema business will be “new”, with the remaining customers diverted from the Capital’s other three biggest multiplexes.
Essential Edinburgh chief executive Andy Neal: “Our members are concerned they are unfairly penalised when it comes to expensive parking in the city centre compared with the free parking out-of-town shopping centres can offer.”
A planning expert said it was not unusual for new, large-scale retail applications to be rejected on such grounds, but was unable to cite any recent cases in the Capital.
Robin Holder, planning agent for Resolution, said Debenhams and the multiplex cinema were the two key anchors sustaining Ocean Terminal, meaning any extra competition was likely to harm the Leith docks complex.
He said: “In difficult economic times where Ocean Terminal is already struggling with the closure of a few units, this could create a cycle of decline which might not be retrievable.
“What Fort Kinnaird effectively want to achieve is to become a town centre, a one-stop shop. That might be quite attractive to the people who live around Fort Kinnaird, but the council have got to consider the impact on the city as a whole.”
Film critic Jon Melville said an extra cinema complex may create extra competition, but questioned whether Edinburgh needed another multiplex.
He said: “I’m not entirely sure there’s as much choice as we would like, even when it comes to multiplexes.”
Core blimey, is that Apple?
EXCITEMENT is building in the Capital over the possible launch of an Apple store on Princes Street.
Rumours that the former Burger King site at the East End was to be taken over by the company have been rife in the Capital for months, but Apple itself has remained tight-lipped, even refusing to comment when ads for jobs in Edinburgh went up on its website last November.
However, plans submitted to the city council have strengthened claims the firm, which already has a store in Glasgow and another in Aberdeen, is set to go for a Scottish hat-trick. The blueprints, submitted by MPA Architects who designed the London Apple shop, bear great similarity to existing stores.
A spokeswoman for Apple said: “We have not announced a store at this location.”
THE BIGGER PICTURE
WHEN it first opened its doors in 1988, the UCI Cinema at Fort Kinnaird was something new for the city.
The 12-screen complex at Newcraighall caused an outcry about its possible impact on smaller venues, but was a sign of things to come.
It played host to several major screenings over two decades, including a Gala premiere of Back to the Future III in 1990, which attracted actress Mary Steenburgen and the famous DeLorean car.
It also hosted the world premiere of Trainspotting – and author Irvine Welsh treated Hibs legend Gordon Hunter to a special screening ahead of the film going on general release. And as well as packing in the crowds for big-budget blockbusters, the cinema screened the world premieres of British films the Full Monty and Gregory’s Two Girls, the long-awaited sequel to Gregory’s Girl.
Odeon took over the running of the cinema in September 2005, but business became tough for the venue with the arrival of other multiplexes in the Capital.
Cinema bosses would later blame intense competition from rivals for the decision to close the multiplex in 2007, at the same time as the neighbouring ten-pin bowling alley and two long-running restaurants – Frankie and Benny’s and Chiquito – also shut. The closure helped clear the way for a £30 million revamp of Fort Kinnaird.