Aberdeen city centre’s Covid recovery has received a blockbuster boost with the council approving plans for a new cinema to lure more people into town.
The Bon Accord Centre has suffered the loss of several big name retailers since lockdown restrictions began to take their toll on profit margins.
The Disney store, Topshop, Dorothy Perkins, Warehouse, River Island and Laura Ashley have all closed since last March.
The most devastating blow of all came this summer with the confirmation that John Lewis would not reopen.
Lights, camera, action!
In January, the shopping centre put forward plans to try and secure a brighter future by transforming the old Laura Ashley unit into a new cinema.
Council planners have now rubber-stamped plans for the four-screen cinema in the upper floor of the mall.
Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said the decision was “very welcome” at a time when serious effort is going into breathing new life into the centre.
He said: “There has been a real challenge to the high street but to have these ambitious plans approved is certainly very much appreciated.”
He added that the Bon Accord Centre moving from purely retail to a wider mixed-use facility would help to attract more people to the city, encourage them to stay longer and make use of other facilities in the area.
A courtyard area and entrance to the cinema and the shopping centre will be formed leading out to Drum’s Lane.
Could this be a sign of happier times to come?
Mr Watson also hopes that the “exciting” development will help to encourage new names to Aberdeen – following the recent announcement that toy store Hamleys will be opening at Union Square.
He said: “There has been a loss of some big names which has caused some pain but we must keep looking and ask people what they want of their city centres and provide a wider offering.”
Bon Accord Centre manager Craig Stevenson said: “We are pleased to see our planning application for a new cinema development at the centre move to the next stage.
“The plans for the cinema will be a fantastic part of our ongoing plan to repurpose vacant retail space and continue to deliver a retail and leisure destination in the heart of the city.”
Prior to approval, the plan received three objections with one arguing that the new development would have an impact on the nearby Belmont Filmhouse.
However planners said that the small cinema would be “unlikely to have a significant detrimental impact” on takings at the nearby independent venue.