Source : 25/03/2000 Northampton Chronicle and Echo
MP Tony Clarke has called for a strict agenda to be imposed to ensure Northampton's former Cannon Cinema does not remain derelict following its sale to the Nether Heyford-based Jesus Army.
The MP for Northampton South has made the plea after a deal running into hundreds of thousands of pounds was struck between the religious sect and the cinema's former owners, Times Square Entertainment Limited.
The battle to turn the venue in the heart of Northampton into a day centre and place of worship was eventually won yesterday when the deal was signed.
Mr Clarke said: 'Now the question of ownership has been resolved, I hope there will be a strict timetable for the restoration.'
'Most people's real concern is that a prominent building in the town centre remains derelict and underused.'
Members of the Jesus Army said the mammoth task to transform the cinema should be underway by the end of the year.
While final plans for the multi-million pound conversion have yet to be finalised, blueprints are expected to be submitted to the borough council by the end of next month.
The transformation of the grade two listed building, which has been empty since 1995, is expected to take up to 12 months.
John Campbell, the Jesus Army's director of communications, said: 'We really feel that the building will add to the social provision of Northampton.'
'We will be providing advice on a whole range of matters, from family problems and debt to homelessness, and directing people to other organisation as well as helping ourselves.'
The borough council had refused to grant planning permission amid fears of the traffic which religious services would attract.
But in January Environment Secretary John Prescott overturned the decision after the Jesus Army launched an appeal.
The sect has taken on the 99-year lease of the art-deco building and will have to renew the lease after it expires in 2033.
A borough council spokeswoman claimed it could take up to eight weeks after an application was received before the Jesus Army could begin alterations.