Plans for car park will finally spell end of Wakefield's ABC Cinema saga

The long-running saga of Wakefield’s derelict ABC cinema could finally be resolved with plans to bulldoze the site and transform the land into a car park.

By Nick Frame
Friday, 25th January 2019, 2:44 pm
Updated Friday, 25th January 2019, 2:55 pm
The former ABC Cinema on sun Lane, Wakefield.

The crumbling building on Kirkgate has stood empty since the late 1990s, has fallen in disrepair and become a magnet for vandals over the years.

There have been numerous attempts to sell the building, while planning applications to convert the building into homes have all failed to come to fruition.

A new planning application has now been submitted to Wakefield Council by PS and S Property Developers Ltd for demolition and turn the land into a temporary car park for six years in order for the owner to collect revenue due to a lack of potential buyers for the land.

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The former ABC Cinema on sun Lane, Wakefield.

The application describes the site as a ‘major eyesore’, adding: “In its current state, it is considered that the building inhibits the council’s aspirations for regeneration of this part of the town centre.

“Negotiations have been undertaken between the site owner and the council who seek demolition of the property.

“At this stage there is no party interested in the site.

“There is clearly little prospect of a purchaser coming forward – the land has been up for sale for many years.

The former ABC Cinema on sun Lane, Wakefield.

“It is considered that if the building is removed , that could clearly act as a catalyst for development proposals to come forward for the wider area.”

The site has been subject to two major planning applications over the years, first in 2007 when Blockbuster Entertainment applied to build 119 flats on site which was approved but never started.

In 2013 PS and S applied to build a mix of town houses, apartment and commercial units. Again, the plans were approved but never came to fruition.

But the latest plans have brought renewed hope, particularly to businesses surrounding the old cinema.

The former ABC Cinema on sun Lane, Wakefield.

Lorraine Damms, who works at Harry’s Fish & Chip Restaurant opposite the site, said: “We’ve been open 24 years and it’s been like that almost all of that time.

“It’s been full of pigeons and drunks, it’s just an absolute eyesore and getting rid of it and putting a car park there would help regenerate this end.

“It would at least bring people to this part of the city even if it’s just a car park.”

Attif Azai, who runs The Uniform Centre on Kirkgate added: “It definitely needs something doing to it but I don’t think it needs bulldozing, it needs turning into shops.

“It would be okay if the car park was free, but nothing is free.”

The Art Deco building was constructed for Associated British Cinemas (ABC) and opened as The Regal Cinema in December 1935.

It could seat almost 1,600 people. In 1962 it was renamed the ABC and then divided into three screens in the 70s.

In 1986 ABC were sold to The Cannon Group, but 10 years later Cineworld opened a multiplex in Wakefield and like many smaller cinemas, the ABC struggled to compete and it closed a year later.

A decision on the latest planning application will be decided at a later date.