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Benoy's future uncertain on 'ill-conceived' St Albans cinema scheme

Benoy's future on the controversial Brickett Road cinema scheme in St Albans has been thrown into doubt, after a second planning application was pulled at the last minute.

In a surprise move, Henry Davidson Developments withdrew the application last Wednesday - the day that St Albans City and District Council, owner of the site, was due to consider the £40 million cinema, restaurant and residential scheme.

The developer and the council are now planning a radical new approach to the scheme, said a Henry Davidson spokeswoman.

Benoy's plans - which include a seven-screen cinema, an underground car park and more than 170 flats - have come in for heavy criticism and have already been sent back to the drawing board once. It is now unclear whether Benoy will remain on the project.

Henry Davidson's spokeswoman said: 'We haven't considered that aspect at this stage. Having read the planning officer's report and seen comments from various local and heritage groups we feel it's only right to withdraw the application.

'We and the council have - been discussing an absolutely new way of delivering the scheme. The exact details of the way forward have yet to be finalised but immediate discussions are taking place to try to set the project back on course.'

The news comes days after CABE mauled the project, calling it 'ill-conceived' and urging St Albans District Council to re-think the brief ( CABE wades in to St Albans cinema row ). St Albans City and District Council has supported Henry Davidson's decision.

St Albans Civic Society trustees are so horrified by Benoy's scheme that they have commissioned Manser Medal-winning architect Cezary Bednarski to devise an alternative solution. Bednarski has proposed a two-screen extension atop an existing three-storey car park.

Cllr Robert Donald said: 'We welcome this as the right way forward and anticipate new engagement with community groups, English Heritage, CABE, Hertfordshire Architects and the Youth Council. We plan to invite them to become a reference group for any future development and will ask the Civic Society to share their alternative ideas with the project team.'

Benoy declined to comment.

by Clive Walker

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