MULTI-MILLION pound plans to convert an historic cinema into apartments have been given the green light.

The scheme for the dilapidated old Odeon cinema, in Crouch Street, Colchester, was given the initial go-ahead last night by a council planning committee.

Exact details on what contributions developer Blumarble Property will make to the town in return for planning permission still need to be ironed out.

The £10million proposals will see the front of the building, including the street-facing facade, converted into 11 apartments while the main auditorium will demolished to make space for a new building which will house 35 more flats.

Two existing shops either side of the eyesore will also be renovated as part of the £10 million proposals.

Conservative Brian Jarvis welcomed the plans as “imaginative” and said it is “exactly what is needed in the area of Crouch Street”.

He added: “The building is looking sadder and sadder as the years go by.”

Chris Pearson (Lab) added: “There is a lot to commend in this.

“The building has been an eyesore for way too long and the way in which the design incorporates the facade should be welcomed.”

Lib Dem Nick Cope said: “It looks worse and worse everyday.”

Conservative Jackie McClean welcomed the plans but warned the owners not to bring “another 15 years of nothing”.

She added: “We have to be very careful we get the right building for the right place.”

Planning consultant, Robert Pomery, acting for Blumarble Property said: “One of the mains difficulties is the site has heritage as a locally listed building

“Commercial viability has taken some time. We have achieved that now - but probably only just.

“Despite the difficulties, the applicant promises to work closely to enhance the appearance of the conservation area.”

He added: “It will significantly enhance the vitality of the street scene in this part of the town centre.”

At the moment, none of the planned homes will be classed as “affordable” because there is no “new building” taking place.

Planning officer Alistair Day told the committee it is unlikely the development will make a 20 per cent profit - a standard benchmark after which a developer must make a contribution to the area.

A more thorough investigation into what the developer could provide will take place once sale prices are settled upon. A comment is also expected from the Theatres Trust, which must be consulted when an historic theatre is being demolished.