Buttermarket cinema and leisure plan set for seal of approval from planners

The Buttermarket shopping centre , Ipswich.

The Buttermarket shopping centre , Ipswich. - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

Proposals for a multi-million pound conversion of the Buttermarket centre in the heart of Ipswich into a major new cinema and leisure-based mall are expected to be approved today.

New owner Regional and Capital has applied for permission for a major conversion of the building to create a 16-screen cinema, six new restaurants and new gym.

TK Maxx, Boots and New Look stores would remain in the centre, although they will be moved within the Buttermarket as part of the conversion.

The application is due to be heard by members of Ipswich council’s planning and development committee today.

The principle of creating a cinema in the centre was already granted two years ago when Vue cinemas were considering moving to the centre – and the officers’ recommendation to planners is to approve the application.

Council officials have welcomed the proposal, and it would be a major shock if members of the committee ignored their officers and senior councillors and turned down the application.

If it is approved, it is understood that work on the conversion of the centre would start within a few weeks and it should be fully open by Christmas 2016.

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A report being presented to the committee says that the cinema will have 2,398 seats across its 16 screens – Cineworld on Cardinal Park has 2,543 seats across its 11 screens.

Research by cinema specialists Dodona says that while Ipswich could sustain 11 cinema screens with 2,710 seats in 2010, demand for cinema is going up across the country.

It predicts that by 2026 Ipswich could sustain 4,470 seats across 18 screens. The cinema in the Buttermarket will have several small screens with as few as 66 seats allowing it to show more specialist films that are currently not given a chance on larger screens.

The report by council officers says the proposal would help to improve the vitality and the general choice on offer in the town centre and recommends its approval by officers.

The application has already been welcomed by senior members of the authority – and the Buttermarket’s redevelopment will be taking place at the same time as the town’s other shopping centre, Tower Ramparts is converted into Sailmakers.

Both developments are seen as crucial to the future viability of the town centre – and are included in the Ipswich Central vision to breath new life into the town.