'We cannot have another decade of decline' - reaction to derelict cinema fire
PUBLISHED: 16:16 27 November 2018 | UPDATED: 16:16 27 November 2018
A devastating fire in a derelict Colchester building approved for development could hold back the town's potential regeneration, it has been said.
Firefighters were called to the derelict Crouch Street cinema building around 8pm after reports of smoke coming from inside.
Crews had to use breathing apparatus to enter the building and extinguish the fire when they found the first floor entirely full of smoke.
The fire was located on the lower floor and firefighters had to cut away at the floorboards to extinguish hotspots, eventually stopping the blaze and leaving the scene at 2am.
Ward councillor Darius Laws said: “I feel terrible for the traders on the street because this building will continue to be an eyesore.
“There is nothing left behind that front in terms of architecture - there’s holes in the floors and ceilings, it’s riddled with pigeons and the stench was awful.
“Colchester town centre is on the cusp of turning from a rough diamond to a jewel, we cannot have another decade of decline.”
The building had been purchased by Billericay-based Blumarble Property with the intention of turning the old Odeon building, empty since 2002, into flats with retail space on the ground floor.
This also deals a blow to the newly-formed Business Improvement District (BID) in Colchester, which is working to bring more people to Colchester to support traders in the town centre.
Mr Laws added: “I was inside the building a couple of years ago to assess the condition myself.
“The developers were running me through what they intended to do and what, if any, of the original features they could retain.
“I was glad to see planning permission approved for its development into retail space and flats - I’m not opposed to more people living in the town centre, as long as the public service provision is there.
“When the building is in such a bad way that it affects the whole area, something has to be done.
“It’s why I’ve been pressing the council to put the pressure on owners of derelict buildings to tidy up their properties.”
The cause of the fire is unknown. An investigation will take place.
The owners of the building have been approached for comment.
No-one was injured as a result of the fire.