A CONTROVERSIAL 12-screen Cineworld which could be built near to the A12 would have no significant impact on Colchester town centre, an expert report states.

Colchester Council bosses hope to build the state-of-the-art 3,083-seater IMAX at the Northern Gateway site, off United Way.

But the council had been accused of double standards after refusing a similar development - with more shop space - at the Tollgate Village, in Stanway.

In a fresh report on the plans, completed by Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners, it states although proposed development would have “some impact on the evening economy in Colchester town centre” it is “unlikely the development will harm the retail function of the town centre during normal trading hours [and] is unlikely to be significant in the context of the vitality and viability of the town centre as a whole”.

It adds: “On balance we do not believe that impact on the town centre is a sustainable reason for refusal.”

But the report does say the proposals would impact specifically on both the 1,257-seat Odeon, in Head Street, and Curzon, which is due to open in Queen Street next year, but both would still be expected to perform above the national average.

The study shows the Odeon currently caters for 68 per cent of cinema goers in Colchester and north east Essex. Some 32 per cent of viewers go elsewhere.

If the Cineworld was to be built, the experts say some or all of those trips - mostly from north Colchester to Ipswich Cineworld and from south Colchester to Braintree Cineworld - would instead be in Colchester.

In total, the report states the proposed Colchester Cineworld could trade at 20 per cent above the national average and could attract 469,200 trips per year by 2021 while the Odeon - which is currently “trading healthily” at double the national average - could bring in up to 709,194 trips.

That number, though, could be cut by almost 40 per cent if the Cineworld goes ahead.

Figures for the Curzon show 120,750 trips could be made in 2021 but that figure could be cut by 28 per cent, to 86,662, as a result of the Cineworld.

If the 12-screen cinema goes ahead, alongside the Curzon, the report states there will ultimately be an over-supply of about 200 seats in the town.

Council bosses also want to build a number of restaurants and leisure units and an 80-bed hotel.