Former ABC cinema on Kirkgate will make way for new homes and shops

ABC cinema plans by Neil Bowen.
ABC cinema plans by Neil Bowen.

A cinema that has been closed for more than 15 years will be knocked down to make way for homes and shops, if planning permission is granted.

Developers PS & S Ltd will submit an application for eight flats, six houses and two shops at the former ABC Cinema, on Kirkgate, next week.

ABC cinema plans by Neil Bowen.

ABC cinema plans by Neil Bowen.

It is much smaller than a previous scheme approved by Wakefield Council in 2009, which would have seen 119 flats, eight shops and a rooftop garden built at the site.

Neil Bowen Architects Ltd said the front of the building had been designed to represent a film strip, as a tribute to the site’s heritage.

And director Neil Bowen said the current plan was more viable.

He said: “The previous proposals were very ambitious, but owing to the change in the property market were not economically viable.

“This scheme, while still forming an important landmark, has changed the emphasis to a smaller-scale development.

“We’re very pleased to bring forward this scheme, which we hope will be a catalyst for the regeneration of this part of Kirkgate.”

Wakefield Council, which is currently drawing up a ‘masterplan’ for a wider regeneration of the Kirkgate area, said it welcomed plans to develop the former picture house.

Coun Denise Jeffery, cabinet member for regeneration and economic growth, said: “We have identified the Kirkgate area for long-term regeneration, which includes the cinema, and we are already progressing these plans. We look forward to the cinema plans being submitted.”

Wakefield Civic Society said it was pleased to see new plans to develop the site and had been frustrated by a lack of progress since the last scheme was approved.

President Kevin Trickett said the society welcomed attempts to reflect some of the art deco design of the cinema building, but said the new plans lacked a curved facade which is a feature of the existing cinema and was part of the previous scheme.

He added: “The society will reserve its final judgement on the scheme until we see the detailed plans in due course.”

•The cinema was opened in 1935 as the Regal.

•It became the ABC in the 1960s, later becoming the Cannon, and in addition to showing blockbuster movies also played host to productions by the West Riding Amateur Operatic Society.

•It closed in 1997.