“OUTLANDISH” plans to pull down Colchester’s iconic old Odeon cinema and build 55 apartments have been rejected.

Blumarble Property’s proposals would have seen the Crouch Street frontage of the former cinema demolished then rebuilt, with the flats, two new retail units and a basement car park created.

However, following objections from Historic England and the Theatres’ Trust, councillors threw out the plans for the building, which is locally listed.

Robert Pomery, representing the applicant at a planning committee meeting, said Blumarble had already spent £2.5million to purchase and look after the building.

“The site is a problem for the applicant, but it is also a problem for the town,” he said.

“It has been vacant for some 19 years which is testament to the challenges it presents us all.”

He added: “The scheme is not perfect, but sadly perfect is not viable.”

Mr Pomery said Blumarble was “open to offers” for the site, however, in six years of ownership no “credible offer or solution” had come forward.

He said: “If an alternative use were viable the applicant would have pursued it.

"A refusal now will not see the site restored for an indefinite period.”

The old Odeon was designed by architect Cecil Massey in the 1930s and used to be a theatre before reopening as a cinema.

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Committee member Mike Lilley said it felt like “deja vu” as many previous failed regeneration schemes had already come and gone.

“This building has been in Colchester for an awful long time and it means an awful lot to the people of Colchester,” he said.

“We all went to the pictures there and saw our first films there.

“When they bought this it was on the understanding the façade on the front would be retained no matter what and I would like to see that happen.

“This application does not come anywhere near what I would like to see.”

Councillor Chris Pearson said the size of the planned apartment block behind the frontage was not suitable for the town centre conservation area.


“I wouldn’t agree to this outlandish expansion of the size,” he said.

“If we are going to agree to this we might as well start building skyscrapers in the town centre because - this is close to that.”

He added: “I question whether this is desperation saloon for the owners.”

Councillors unanimously voted to turn down the proposals.

Following the decision, Matt Ellis, of Blurmarble, said: "I am disappointed in the decision and hopefully something can be done in the future with the building."