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Source : 24/03/2000 Northampton Chronicle and Echo

The Jesus Army has bought the former Canon cinema in Northampton's town centre.

In a deal running into hundreds of thousands of pounds, the Christian sect today won a battle to transform the former cinema into a day centre and place of worship in the heart of Northampton.

John Campbell, the Jesus Army's director of communication, admitted a rival bid to turn the building into a pub and restaurant spurred on the religious organisation to secure the deal.

He said: 'We really feel that the building will add to the social provision in Northampton.'

'We will be providing advice on a whole range of matters, from family problems and debt to homelessness, and directing people to other organisations as well as helping ourselves.'

The exact plans for the cinema's conversion have yet to be finalised, although blueprints will be presented to the borough council by the end of next month.

Work on the multi-million pound transformation would begin by the end of the year and is expected to take up to 12 months.

The central auditorium will be used for religious services, holding up to 1,500 people.

The borough council had previously refused to grant planning permission amid fears of the traffic the services would attract.

But in January the Government overturned the decision after the Jesus Army launched an appeal.

The sect has taken on the 99-year-lease of the art-deco grade two listed building and will have to renew the lease after it expires in 2033.

According to Brendan Bruder, agent for former owners Times Square Entertainment Limited, contracts were exchanged several weeks ago but the deal was only secured today.