FAREHAM’S leader has vowed to take the fight to block a new nine-screen cinema in a neighbouring town right to the top.
The borough’s planning committee voted to object to the planning application for a multiplex in Whiteley at a meeting yesterday.
And a strong warning will now be sent to Winchester City Council, which is expected to decide on the 2,600sq m development in April.
Because the cinema is proposed to be built in the west of Whiteley it falls to Winchester to decide – Fareham can only register its disapproval.
Fareham council leader Cllr Sean Woodward said afterwards: ‘I have no problem with competition and I don’t object to a single shop or facility in Whiteley. It’s the sheer scale of the development that is frightening. Whiteley’s infrastructure will not be able to cope and it will suck in trade from other towns.
‘We are elected as councillors to protect the borough as well as our own wards.
‘If Winchester City Council doesn’t listen to our objection and reduce the scale of the cinema, we will take our case to the Secretary of State and getting him to look into it.’
‘We have got officers from Winchester telling us the Whiteley shopping centre development is only for people in Whiteley, but no-one is going to build a shopping centre half the size of Fareham for a population of just 6,000. To succeed Whiteley will have to draw in a vast number of people from outside – and that is my fear.’
Only two of the nine-member committee did not agree with the objection, Cllr Roger Price and Cllr Paul Whittle, whose ward covers Fareham town centre.
Cllr Whittle said: ‘I don’t have a problem with it. I think it is in keeping with what local people want and need. It’s only right that Whiteley, as a large community, should have similar good facilities.’
Reel Cinemas runs the five-screen cinema in Fareham. Its operations manager Muhammed Faisall said: ‘The more people who come to a destination such as Fareham the more interest it creates for all the businesses.
‘When people come to the cinema they use the bars, the restaurants, the shops.
‘As a business we welcome the competition because it gives us more energy to work hard, but all in all it is what will happen to all of the businesses. Decisions like this can affect more than just us.’