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Source : 14/06/2004 Northampton Chronicle and Echo

The Jesus Army's long-awaited worship centre will be unveiled this autumn following a catalogue of delays and problems which have plagued the multi-million pound project.

The Jesus Centre will be opened at the end of October in the former Cannon Cinema, which is seen as one of the town's best examples of art deco architecture.

Elders from the controversial religious group, which is based in Nether Heyford, had initially predicted the conversion of the historic grade two listed building would be completed by the end of 2001.

However, a series of structural problems and strict planning regulations to preserve the art deco interior have seen the opening date pushed back by three years.

John Campbell, the Jesus Army's communications manager, said: 'It has taken a great deal of time and effort but we are very nearly there.'

'It is great news and we are now looking forward to October when we can finally open at last.'

The grand opening has been earmarked for Saturday, October 30, and will see Jesus Army members from across the country descend on Northampton to take part in the opening of only the second Jesus Centre in the country.

The redeveloped building will feature a 900-seat auditorium, cafe and education centre.

Work on the 4 million project finally began in October last year after cracks in the building's foundations and leaks in the roof delayed building work.

The Northamptonshire-based religious group, which is known for its members wearing pseudo-Army jackets, has faced criticism for actively recruiting members from the streets, many of whom are vulnerable.

Several of its members have been involved in a string of high-profile court cases, including allegations of sexual abuse.

But Mr Campbell said: 'Once we have got the building open to the public the hard work will start once again to try and make it a welcoming place for the people of Northampton to come to.'

'It has been a very long journey and we are sure it will be very rewarding.'

Once the centre is opened the group believes it will cost 400,000 a year to run.

The Cannon Cinema in Abington Square closed down in May 1995 and it was bought four years later by the Jesus Army.