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The proposed cinema for Sittingbourne town centre

The proposed cinema for Sittingbourne town centre

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Swale Borough Council to invest £28m in Sittingbourne's regeneration scheme

The proposed cinema for Sittingbourne town centre

The proposed cinema for Sittingbourne town centre

Swale Borough Council is planning to invest up to £28 million on the Spirit of Sittingbourne regeneration project, in one of their biggest ever commercial deals.

The deal would result in the council owning the majority of the new buildings planned and receiving rental income of an estimated £2.1 million a year from a multiplex cinema, four restaurants, a hotel and three retail units.

The council’s plan was unveiled this week by Tory cabinet member for finance Cllr Duncan Dewar-Whalley who said it was the start of the authority’s strategy to become self-sufficient in terms of funding.

In March, it was agreed the council could borrow up to £30 million so it could take advantage of any investment opportunities.

A chance to invest in Sittingbourne's regeneration came up over the summer when the Spirit of Sittingbourne consortium were due to approach potential investors for funding, and the council offered to step in instead.

"We suddenly realised we could get ourselves more involved with the project," Cllr Dewar-Whalley said. "The door suddenly opened. This could be a kick-start for our strategy of becoming self sufficient."

The Spirit of Sittingbourne project is running behind schedule, as planning permission is yet to be signed off despite being agreed by the council's planning committee last March.

As well as buying the leisure and retail buildings, the council is also planning to spend £2.2 million on changes to the road layout and £500,000 on demolishing the former Princes Street depot.

Occupiers lined up for the development so far include The Light Experience to operate the cinema, Travelodge for the hotel, and Wildwood and Pizza Express are to fill two of the four restaurant units. A Costa drive-through, Home Bargains and Iceland's Food Warehouse are due to occupy the new units planned for the Princes Street depot off Eurolink Way.

Opposition groups have accused the Conservatives of taking a big risk with public funds due to concerns about the viability of the project.

The proposal to borrow up to £28 million is due to go before the council's Cabinet on Wednesday, November 9.

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