A CLASSIC Portsmouth cinema building is set to become a new Sainsbury’s convenience store.
The much-loved Odeon in London Road, North End, closed in 2008 and has since been occupied by OJ’s Discounts.
Neighbours and local people have described it as looking shabby and neglected, but now the supermarket chain wants to give the distinctive Art Deco building a new lease of life.
It has submitted an application for an alcohol licence to Portsmouth City Council and plans to convert the front of the old cinema into a 280sq ft Sainsbury’s Local.
Councillors welcomed the news, saying it would contribute to a major redevelopment programme for North End, which is costing the council £800,000 and is aimed at getting more shoppers using London Road.
Ward councillor Leo Madden said he was delighted the chain wanted to move in and hoped other major retailers would follow its example.
He said: ‘It won’t be a big supermarket, it will be more like a convenience store.
‘We are very excited about it because it is great to see them moving in to give people in North End a bit of competition and Sainsbury’s is a very well-respected company.
‘I think the more competition the better. The problem has always been that it was the big four who dominated.
‘But more choice of where to shop helps drive down prices. I will be delighted if Sainsbury’s comes to North End.
‘I honestly can’t see it not happening.
‘There should be no barrier to it getting a liquor licence.’
Terry Brimacombe, 47, of Chichester Road, North End, said he thought it was about time the building received a facelift.
‘It has been a symbol of how run-down London Road has become,’ he said.
‘A once-great building reduced almost to the status of a pound shop, it was upsetting to see. This isn’t perfect, it would be wonderful to have it as a cinema again, but it is very welcome.’
Portsmouth historian Ron Brown said: ‘This typical Odeon cinema first opened in 1936 and greats such as Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers used to appear there. This proposal is better than what was there before, but I still worry all these supermarkets are causing the death of traditional high streets.’